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Invalidity of Title IX in Relation to Women’s Athletics

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Title IX – the best document for the progression of female athletics… more like the beginning of increased criticism, setbacks and discouragement for women in sports. Since Title IX, which states “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”, became law the opportunities for women have exponentially grown in numbers. However, behind the impressive increasing number of women athletes and teams remain the underlying challenges women face in terms of gaining equality within athletics. Initial issues of implementation have carried over to modern-day where Title IX continues to face problems. These inequalities originate with the uneven distribution of coverage within the media compared to male athletes and men’s sports. Aside from championship games and the Olympics, women continue to demand more coverage within their individual sports. Although the prominence of women’s teams has increased, especially at the collegiate level, women fail to dominate the coaching positions of these teams. Additionally, while reporting such sports, commentators tend to use gendered language to describe the activities performed by the athletes, denoting that they are female. The implication of Title IX has provided many benefits for women across the world, yet various issues surrounding women’s sports remain a problem today like the lack of media coverage, male dominated coaching positions and gendered language within reporting. These features, along with a couple more, may continue into the future, where women could be subject to face inequality despite Title IX implementation.

Title IX can be described as a document passed in 1972, in hopes of providing equal opportunities to both males and females in any educational program at a “federally funded institution”. An institution risks losing such federal funding if they are unable to or fail to comply to the regulations of Title IX. From the 1950s to the early 1970s, the Civil Rights and feminists movements dominated much of society, which had a great influence on the implementation of Title IX. This law extended significantly to sport, where women at the time remained exceptionally far behind their male counterparts in terms of participation and equalit. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) remained responsible for clarifying that Title IX should be applied to intercollegiate athletics, to which Congress eventually ratified. Since the initial implementation of the document, there has since been several extensions to ensure clarification and precision. Although several extensions and clarifications have been made over time regarding Title IX, there proved to be several issues that were present when initially enacted.

With the passage of Title IX in 1972, the presence of female athletes at the college level has skyrocketed compared to numbers prior to the law. There remains little debate over the increase of participation, as only 300,000 women engaged in collegiate athletics the year before Title IX and today over 3 million females enjoy the privilege to play sports at the college level. Title IX focused on encouraging school administrations to work toward gender equality in athletic spending and equality in opportunity for both males and females, resulting in increased participation and available scholarships for women at the collegiate level. However, several initial issues of implementation prevailed.

In terms of modern-day issues surrounding Title IX, we continue to see unequal coverage of men’s and women’s athletics, inequality amongst coaching positions and differences in how male and female sports are broadcasted. First, various studies have been performed on the topic of coverage for athletics, with statistics highlighting such inequality from the media. For example, 72.7% of the stories in college newspapers cover male athletes and events, with college television operations devoting 81.5% of their airtime to male sports stories and highlights. Although this specific study notes when female athletes were covered, the quality of coverage remained equal to that of men, there was no difference in the average number of words per story and the length of the broadcasts were equivalent among men and women. Regardless, a huge disparity remains prevalent in the quantity of coverage, indicating campus media falls into the same category on how they portray female athletics. Consequently, female athletes on college campuses receive less attention, receive fewer attendees at their games or events and often lower funding due to the lack of media coverage. With the little coverage women do receive within the media, the stories that arise about females are based on ‘sex-appropriate’ sports and fail to recognize more aggressive and ‘masculine’ sports played by women.

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Female athlete media coverage focuses little on the “athlete” and their achievements, but more on the individual’s appearance. Based on a study in 1988 performed on sport media coverage, women “are continually portrayed in ways that link them to oppressive stereotypes of women’s so-called frailty, sexuality, and limited physical capacity”. In this regard, female athletes prove to more often be portrayed off the court or field without a uniform on and in highly sexualized poses. Such sexualized media coverage directly correlates to gendered sports, with female ‘appropriate’ sports including ones such as figure skating, tennis and soccer. Mass media reflects gender expectations driven by societal beliefs and values. Therefore, the amount of coverage females receive often depends on the type of sport in which athletes compete in. This idea is highlighted throughout the study performed by Kane et al., television coverage analyzed throughout the 1992 Olympic Games shows women who participate in individual sports, many of which are considered ‘sex-appropriate’ sports, like gymnastics and tennis, were provided with more air time than females who participated in team sports, like volleyball or basketball. The stigma that surrounds gendered specific sports correlate to the ways in which the media chooses to cover such events, often choosing to undermine the significance of those sports perceived as ‘male dominated’. In response, women are often discouraged from the lack of media coverage, or often negative media coverage, and in term face stereotypes based on the sports they participate in.

Not only do women continue to face inequality based on media coverage, but also in terms of coaching, as male primarily dominated this occupation. Within both male and female sports, men primarily serve as the heads of teams, often coaching amongst a heavily dominated male staff. These trends fail to only be seen within more aggressive sports, both also sports that are deemed more ‘feminine,’ like gymnastics and figure skating, as male coaches remain prominent. Specifically, “the percentage of women coached by women has declined to an all-time low, even while Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in any education program or activity that receives federal dollars, has dramatically increased participation numbers for female athletes”. Pilon (2015) highlights how 90% of women’s college teams were coached by women in the year Title IX became law and by 2012 this number had dropped to 42.9%. This dramatic decrease in female coaches may be the result of males being drawn into increased money flowing into women’s sports and those looking to eventually ‘move up’ into coaching within male leagues. Additionally, these significant statistics continue to discourage women from entering coaching professions, which prove to be a male-dominated occupation. Not only do women’s sports teams fail to have primarily female coaches, but male sports teams contain even fewer female staff members.

Although both the lack of media coverage and the absence of female coaches remain two prominent factors that contribute to the ongoing inequalities women face within sports, gendered language within reporting also highlight such boundaries females encounter in sport. Both males and females experience gendered language, meaning specific words being used to enforce and denote an individual’s gender while participating in athletics. Both men’s and women’s sports are reported with different tones, adjectives and language overall. Specifically, reporters and commentators use more ‘dainty’ and ‘pretty’ terms when discussing women’s sports, yet use ‘tough’ and ‘aggressive’ words to describe the actions male athletes undergo. Research performed by Billings based on 66 regular season NCAA men’s and women’s basketball games examined language choices used by reporters to describe female and male athletes. For female athletes, some phrases used to describe women include, “just not ready for this kind of competition” and “necessity was the mother of invention for her”. Meanwhile, ‘Kryptonite’, ‘savior’ and ‘messiah’ were used to describe male athletes’ activity and performance. Women are often regarded as ‘motherly figures’, focusing on how their roles off the field remain more important than their achievements on the field. Meanwhile, powerful terms used to describe men reinforce their status both on and off the field.

The lack of media coverage, male dominated coaching positions and gendered language within reporting of women’s sports serve as crucial examples of how challenges remain present for women within athletics, regardless of the development of the document Title IX in 1972. Although the law has helped to enact numerous new girls and women’s programs and teams nationwide at the collegiate and professional level, there remain several areas that are unable to catch up with these dramatic increases in female opportunity in sport. With media coverage primarily focusing on male athletes, their achievements and performance, female athletes fall behind the spotlight and are rather depicted for their appearance and body type. Secondly, males prove to dominate coaching positions amongst both male and female athletic teams, with women continuously discouraged from entering coaching occupations. Lastly, gendered language used by reporters, like aggressive terms to describe males and dainty words to depict females, becomes a significant factor in sport by judging an individual based on other regards than athletic ability. Title IX has opened the doors for women in sports and has garnered much support for its positive impacts on athletics, yet the law fails to address all issues that women face within athletics due to gender. The discouragement and belittlement of female athletes will keep women’s sports where they stand today, yet strength, dedication and praise remain the necessary motives for forward progress in women’s athletics.

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Invalidity of Title IX in Relation to Women’s Athletics. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/invalidity-of-title-ix-in-relation-to-womens-athletics/
“Invalidity of Title IX in Relation to Women’s Athletics.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/invalidity-of-title-ix-in-relation-to-womens-athletics/
Invalidity of Title IX in Relation to Women’s Athletics. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/invalidity-of-title-ix-in-relation-to-womens-athletics/> [Accessed 1 Dec. 2022].
Invalidity of Title IX in Relation to Women’s Athletics [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 01 [cited 2022 Dec 1]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/invalidity-of-title-ix-in-relation-to-womens-athletics/
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