Sunday, September 23, 2007

I almost got teary... the start of this article in which the author talks about his pre-Title IX mother watching the World Cup:
Mama Lopez watches a ton of sports from her wheelchair.
She loves Steve Nash and Edgerrin James, but there’s a special place in her heart for the U.S. women’s national soccer team.
See, her arthritic knees aren’t the first thing that’s kept her from running.
As a child of the late 1940s and the ’50s, she wanted to run track, play field hockey and other sports, but societal pressure at the time kept her off the field.

But the tears were kept at bay. Because as much as I sympathize with Ms. Lopez's situation, I have some issues with her son's coverage. Tobias Lopez writes a generally supportive article of the World Cup and women's sports. And Lopez does note the diversity of the US squad this year. This is something no one is talking about, which is surprising given how Americans like to point to sport as an arena of racial harmony and a model of this so-called color blind society. But it might be difficult to do this as we all watch the games in China with the stadium advertising that reads "Just say no to racism." Could create some cognitive dissonance for those folks who think racism in sports just doesn't exist.
Back to the article, though. Lopez mentions the crushing defeat of Argentina by Germany (11-0) referring to Argentina as a great soccer nation but one that needs to develop its women's team. Which made me wonder if you can really call them, or anyone, a great soccer nation if they have a formidable men's team but have not put the resources into a women's national team. It reminded me of the essay by historian Joan Kelly, "Did Women Have a Renaissance?" about how historians have constructed periods or eras of world history based solely on the lives of men. There may have been a Renaissance for men, but the conditions in which women lived could hardly be characterized as a rebirth. Can you be a great sports nation without great female athletes? I don't hear anyone calling the United States a great soccer nation despite the fact that we have the #1-ranked women's team in the world at the moment.
Lopez is correct in noting that US success has to be attributed, in part, to the opportunities afforded to this generation of players by Title IX. But he is entirely mistaken when he says: "Certainly Title IX isn’t perfect because in some cases it cost men’s wrestling or gymnastics teams their existence."
It seems I will have to write Mr. Lopez a note telling him that Title IX has not caused the demise of programs. That the majority of wrestling teams that have been cut went away in the 80s when Title IX was not being enforced. That athletic departments filtering more money into revenue-generating sports such as football and basketball have caused cuts to men's "minor" sports like gymnastics. That the Office of Civil Rights and the NCAA have both said--repeatedly--that enforcement at the expense of opportunities is not the intent nor the desired method of compliance.
And finally, that such misinformation about Title IX threatens future opportunities for girls and women. Does Lopez want his (hypothetical) daughter to have the same (lack of) experience that his mother faced?

1 comment:

Diane said...

When you write to Mr. Lopez about his inaccuracies regarding Title IX, I hope you will also set him straight--as you did in this post--about his gender bias, and his insistence that everything be measured according to a male reference point.