About a month ago, I was sitting through other students’ final oral presentations in one of my last classes of the semester, a political science senior research seminar about representational inequality. My peers’ presentation topics were as fascinating as they were varied, with subjects ranging from socioeconomic stratification in Brazil to malapportionment in the U.S. Senate to the Global Gag Rule’s exacerbation of global health inequities (full disclosure: that one was mine).
Everything was bumping along smoothly until the guy sitting next to me stood up and delivered one of the most blistering eviscerations of Title IX that I have ever heard. Needless to say, I was more than a little nonplussed. Arguing against Title IX seems an odd choice in a seminar about representational inequality, don’t cha’ think? After all, what does Title IX exist to correct? Can I get ‘representational inequality’ for 500?
The gist of his thesis seemed to be ‘Title IX Hurts Male Athletes,’ which he served up next to a heaping platter of ‘Ladies Don’t Like Sports Anyway’ and garnished with anecdotal evidence from interviews he conducted with male coaches and male Big Ten athletes. Lovely.
Look, I’m all about expressing opinions, and I fully support this guy’s right to do his research project on whatever he pleases. But as I looked around the classroom at the dumbfounded faces of my female peers, I was struck by the delicious irony of the entire situation. Here we were, in a class half comprised of women, at a Big Ten school whose women’s lacrosse team just won the NCAA championship for the seventh time in eight years. And now this guy starts lobbing a half-baked argument against the very policy that had made all of that possible? Not cool, bro.
In the surprisingly frank and refreshing class discussion that followed, we challenged many of the contentions made by our classmate, who eventually acknowledged that he hadn’t adequately supported his claims. Title IX does not require or encourage schools to cut men’s athletics. In fact, women still receive only about one-third of total athletic expenditures! I know, right?
Ultimately, however, what really struck me was the larger symbolic significance of the situation – a roomful of engaged, intelligent, and diverse women and men engaged in a fruitful academic debate over the very policy that made such a circumstance possible. What an appropriate reflection of the enormous progress that has been made since Title IX’s implementation 40 years ago.