By Anna Bowden ’16
Title IX states that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Passed under the Education Amendments of 1972, the bill was intended to combat discrimination on the basis of sex in academics. No one foresaw the dramatic effects this legislation would have in athletics. Before Title IX, the primary sports for girls in high school were cheerleading and square-dancing. There were about 310,000 girls and women playing sports in America in 1972 – compared to the 3,373,000 today. ESPN reports there has been an increase of 1079 percent in the number of girls playing high school sports between 1972 and 2010, compared to a 22 percent increase for boys. It would be difficult to overstate the ways in which Title IX has increased opportunities for women in academics and athletics. However, the playing field is still not completely level. Title IX Info notes that female athletes at Division I-FBS schools receive just 28% of the total money spent on athletics, 31% of the recruiting dollars, and 42% of the athletic scholarship dollars. Forgetting these disparities, however, many men’s and women’s sports are just different. There are different rules and regulations for the same sport depending on gender. Take ice hockey, lacrosse or baseball and softball. After researching the differences among the games, I searched for a valid reason why these different rules are in place. I found none. Having separate rules and regulations for men’s sports and women’s sports is harmful, because it promotes the idea that men are more capable than women. Most of the differences I found concerned physical contact, suggesting that women are delicate. Take men’s ice hockey and women’s ice hockey as an example. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) provides online handbooks detailing the rules and regulations of collegiate sports. The men’s ice hockey handbook, section six, labelled “physical fouls,” states that “a legal body check is one in which a player checks an opponent who is in possession of the puck, by using the hip or body from the front or diagonally from the front or straight from the side.” Whereas the women’s ice hockey handbook provides that “body checking is not permitted in any area of the ice. Body checking occurs when a player’s intent is to gain possession of the puck by separating the puck carrier from the puck with a distinct and definable moment of impact.” I asked Brooke Heron ’16, a member of the women’s ice hockey team how she felt about checking. “I wish we could play the body more. Most of us grow up playing hockey on boy’s teams so we learned to play the sport physically. At the age of 12 most girls switch over from boy’s to girl’s hockey because that’s when boys start getting bigger, stronger and have more of an athletic advantage. It doesn’t make sense that the majority of us come from boy’s hockey – with checking – and don’t check in girl’s hockey. We lift too, you know? I love it when the referees let us play a physical game because that’s what we signed up for.” I also asked Jimmy Burt ’16, member of the men’s ice hockey team how he felt about changing the rules of the game. “I think women’s hockey should allow checking. The refs typically allow a fair amount of contact as it is, so it only makes sense to formally legalize body contact.” Title IX has drastically improved the lives of American women, but when push comes to shove there are still changes to be made.
By Anna Bowden ’16