Un-Engendered Consequences

William “Lia” Thomas Is the Apotheosis of Title IX

The best thing about the 1986 movie Wildcats is the cheerleaders. The second-best thing is the evidence the movie provides that nothing new is actually new, or that all bad Western social innovations originate in Hollywood, or both.

The schtick of Wildcats is that Goldie Hawn (a female) takes a job as a high school football coach, predating the crowning achievement of the concept by 29 years. Similarly, the 1983 movie Quarterback Princess prophetically studied a girl playing on a high school football team, something increasingly practiced throughout the 80s and 90s. (Necessary Roughness [1991] followed the philosophy and narrowed in on the female kicker, also sort of realized 30 years later.)

Girls had already been playing on boys’ teams for a while in Little League, but the high-impact nature of football was a major degree of escalation. The next male-only sport to be breached had to be wrestling. Again, art led life, and the idea was widely disseminated among the young by Jerry Spinelli in his 1991 young adult novel There’s a Girl In My Hammerlock. Girls gradually demanded to wrestle in such numbers that girls’ high school wrestling teams have been somewhat normalized.

Title IX

Whether it’s normal for girls to wrestle is beside the point. And while it may seem better that the girls have their own teams now (for reasons of awkwardness, if nothing else), that’s not clear either. The reason for girls playing boys’ school and league sports is the same reason as that for the 1972 federal civil rights law Title IX: that’s not fair! Title IX forbids sex discrimination in federally funded school programs on the grounds that if one sex gender gets tax money for it, the other should too.

The unintended consequence of Title IX has been the diminishing or loss of any number of men’s sports, especially at the college level. If you have to give the same amount of money to both women’s and men’s wrestling programs, but not as many women want to wrestle and not as many fans want to watch them, the men’s program ends up holding a bill for more than its expenses. And at the professional level, a steady stream of complaints over pay discrepancies between male and female athletes never seems to occasion one question: is it the real purpose of pro sports teams to play sports, or to sell tickets and merchandise?

Coed Complications

But the effects of Title IX and virtue-signaling equal-pay policies are simply larger manifestations of what was already going on after girls started playing boys’ sports. A girl on the team means a boy got cut – or a group of boys getting one less share of coaching, practice, and playing time. And that’s assuming that her skills are roughly commensurate with theirs, so that she is not requiring extra time or exacting a cost on team effectiveness as a weaker player.

Moreover, anyone who has been to a middle or high school boys’ game/match/duel with a girl in the mix knows that it is not always the case that the female player is roughly commensurate with the guys. Some girls keep up fairly well. Others are on the team for reasons other than athletic ability and are a real liability to the boys’ success as a team and development as players.

Female players also force boys to negotiate weird social terrain as they get a feel for her behavior and limits. Boys are less equipped to “read” a girl than they are other boys. This is especially hard for opposing players, who don’t know another team’s girl and how hard it might be okay to hit her. It’s not something a guy should have to think about during a game.

Turnabout & Fair Play

One thing that hasn’t been seen until recently is boys playing on girls’ teams, for reasons that were very obvious until recently. A male competitor will blow the girls away. This has been amply demonstrated in a number of sports, and has created some very awkward situations.

Men beating women has been out of fashion for a long time in polite society, so we shouldn’t be entirely surprised that some athletic organizations are trying to factor this meme into their rules—to protect women’s opportunities, of course. The idea that women can’t hurt men because men are bigger, stronger, louder, and scarier is axiomatic, regardless of its accuracy. Male force takes the noticeable form of the clobber. That makes it easy to overlook the typical female use of force, the thousand cuts.

This is what female force looks like in men’s sports: U. S. Men’s National Team Soccer keeps its mouth shut over its pay cut; male college athletes lose their scholarships, or their sports entirely; decades’ worth of middle and high school boys’ teams have been a little weaker, thinner, and stingier to the boys who play on them. Who complains about this stuff, a wimp?

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. That great poet, the universe, has animated male-kind to deliver his clobber most recently and recognizably in the person of University of Pennsylvania swimmer WilLIAm Thomas. It’s obviously not fair to girls for “natal men” to clobber the competition in women’s sports. It should always have been just as obvious that girls carving out their own claims on boys’ sports was not fair to boys.

is coauthor of LadyLike (Concordia 2015). She has written for a variety of websites, magazines, and books. Her day job is housewife, church lady, and school mom. 

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