Why We Need Title IX

“All men are born equally free.”  Salmon P. Chase

This is is an essay that  I wrote that a teacher of mine thought was really good.  It is a five-paragraph persuasive essay defending Title IX.  It is written from the viewpoint of a person with a very athletic sister and a tennis-loving mother.

Why We Need Title IX

Equal opportunity for both men and women has been a widely-debated issue in the past century.  It would be irresponsible to halt the ongoing progression toward complete gender equity.  Recently, there has been an uproar concerning the athletic portion of Title IX, with critics citing disadvantages toward men’s collegiate sports.  Title IX is the federal law that makes gender discrimination in federally-funded areas illegal.  However, repealing this important law would be a step backward and a mistake.  Title IX legislation must be maintained because it has already led to massive growth in women’s sports, it protects members of both genders, and it is still needed to bridge the remaining gender equality gap.

The institution of Title IX has led to a massive growth in the number of women playing competitive sports.  Between 1971 and 2001, the number of women playing NCAA sports more than quintupled from approximately 30,000 to about 160,000.  Over the same period of time, the number of women playing high schools sports increased twelve times over.  Between 1991 and 2006, the proportion of women playing in NCAA Division I sports increased from thirty-one to forty-five percent.  NCAA Divisions II and III saw boosts in female proportionality of nine and seven percent, respectively, during that same time frame.  Since then, there have been women’s professional leagues added in sports such as basketball, soccer, volleyball, softball, and bowling.  The number of women playing sports has increased dramatically since Title IX’s passing.

This landmark legislation protects members of both genders.  The exact wording of the legislation is, “No person in the United States, on the basis of sex, shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”  Many people argue that Title IX has led to the cutting of many men’s athletic programs, particularly Olympic sports.  This argument is invalid for two reasons.  First of all, some of these cuts have been made because of a misinterpretation of the law.  Many believe that Title IX says that the athletic scholarships provided by a specific school must either represent the gender proportion found at the institution or approach said proportion.  However, schools may use surveys to gauge student interest in carrying a specific sport.  Only if there is sufficient interest does the school have to sponsor the sport.  The second reason that the argument is invalid is that cutting of men’s sports simply to comply with Title IX is an ironic violation of the law; they are being denied the benefits of participating in their sport on the basis of sex, albeit indirectly.  It is unfortunate that schools often have constrained budgets, but they should be able to fit both men and women’s sports into the equation without eliminating the pre-existing activities.  It is possible to do this, perhaps with cuts to the football and women’s crew programs which both carry incredibly high scholarship totals to balance the total share.  As I have already mentioned, the quota system is misguided and not the supreme beginning and end of the discussion.   This legislation protects members of both genders.

Despite all the strides that Title IX has made, there is still work to be done.  Even in Division I, the section of the NCAA that has the highest women’s participation, only 45% of the athletes were women in 2006.  In 2001, women received only 35% of the operating budgets at NCAA schools.  Furthermore, men still receive 90% of all of the NCAA’s media coverage.  Even though professional women’s sport leagues have been started, many of them are unsuccessful because of economic mismanagement and/or overestimation of popular interest.  Even though they are being provided with some opportunities, there is also a lack of interest that can be tied to childhood experiences.  Marilyn McNeil, the female athletic director of Monmouth University, said in a 2001 article on sports giant ESPN’s website, “At our institution, we’ve got twenty-eight spots for baseball, and, maybe, forty guys who think they can play baseball.  I’ve got twenty to twenty-five women trying to get twenty-two softball spots.  Women tend to not get involved unless they think they can contribute.”  Even though Title IX does not require that the proportion of scholarships reflect the student population, this is its ultimate goal.  If it were to be rescinded at this juncture, it is very possible that the women’s participation rates will stagnate or regress, which is undesirable.  On the other hand, if women are given equal opportunities, or at least as equal as possible, it would bolster interest in women’s sports in both participants and customers.  Title IX’s job is by no means complete.

A future where Title IX will have been removed could be disastrous.  Over the past hundred years, we have made great strides in gradually introducing our society to gender equity.  Title IX does a great, if not perfect, job of reinforcing this and our newfound sociological ideals.  It needs to remain the law of the land for many reasons.  For one, it has already led to great advances in women’s sports participation rates at the college and high school levels.  For another, it protects members of both genders.  Finally, it still is needed to close the equality fissure that remains.  The world of college sports has evolved from being extremely androcentric to one that has a great number of women participating. Unfortunately, it is very possible that the removal of Title IX would either slow, stop, or possibly even cause college athletics to revert to its previous bias in some ways.  Why would anyone want that?

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