Following a judge's ruling that, for the purposes of gender equality, cheerleading is not a sport, several critics have come out against Title IX, arguing that it is no longer helping college athletics. Is Title IX ready for retirement?
First, we have Richard A. Epstein writing at Forbes about the "twisted logic of gender equity." For Epstein, the real problem with Title IX is how it's interpreted; instead of making all sports open to men and women, colleges must have equal numbers of male and female athletes in proportion to enrollment. This ends up with football, with their large teams, dominating men's sports, while women have a far greater number of activities to choose from. For example, at Quinnipiac, there are 13 sports programs for women versus only 7 for men.
But the real evil here is government interference:
In dealing with universities, however, the effect of anti-discrimination laws is almost always perverse. The color-blind requirements for race are utterly incompatible with the private demand for affirmative action programs. It took some fast-stepping by the Supreme Court to allow voluntary affirmative action programs, which have generally worked tolerably well without government policing. A similar willingness to allow voluntary action for intercollegiate sports also would have worked just fine. But the hugely coercive impact of Title IX requires every college to deviate from sound principles or internal governance to meet these inexorable government demands.
Though "perverse" hardly sounds like the right word, Epstein still manages to get his point across, which is that colleges are not catering to their students, but rather the U.S. government. Ultimately, Epstein would like to see Title IX retired so that colleges can do their own thing, and he seems relatively certain that they would do the right thing and fund men and women's programs equally.
Gregg Easterbook at ESPN has similar faith in women's athletics. He argues that Title IX is simply no longer necessary (plus he makes the point that cheerleading is a sport, which is an argument for another day). Easterbook also attacks the idea this is a "civil rights" issue:
Civil rights are serious, important national issues — whether a college offers volleyball or cheer is not a civil rights issue! Imagine telling marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., in 1965 that by 2010, "civil rights" would be privileged college kids complaining about sports schedules, while federal judges would say that a grandly named Office for Civil Rights should dictate which teams get to use a college gym.
When put like that, it doesn't sound like a serious issue. But when you phrase it a little differently - like, say, whether a college offers equal opportunities to male and female students - it carries a little more weight.
Both Easterbook and Epstein come from the point of view that Title IX does more harm than good - and often it harms the male athletes. This may occasionally be the case. However, I am just not buying the idea that women's sports are treated the same as men's sports - at the college level or the professional level (this report, on gender in televised sports, shows pretty handily that this is not the case). While there may be more chances for women to participate in college, women's sports in general are not taken nearly as seriously as men's. They don't get as much funding, media coverage, or respect. Considering this fact, its hard to believe that most colleges would continue encouraging women's athletics if Title IX were no longer in play. Men's sports are more popular - and more profitable. So without Title IX, who would go to bat for female athletes?