Title IX has been in effect since 1972, the Williams sisters are at least as famous as their male counterparts, and suburban girls play almost as many sports as boys. But as an article in the Sunday New York Times reports, the war for gender equity in athletics is not yet won.
The article focuses on the Cougars, a girls’ basketball team from Middle School 61 in Brooklyn, New York, and also cites a 2007 study of children’s participation in sports conducted by Don Sabo, a college professor. As the article points out, many struggling school districts simply cannot afford to fund sports, meaning that socioeconomic class is arguably the greater issue at hand. However, gender stereotypes certainly exacerbate the problem:
Although boys in the city also have fewer opportunities in sports [than boys in suburban communities], other factors work in their favor. Lean athletic budgets leave a gap that is filled by a blend of volunteers and private groups that have traditionally served more boys than girls.
“The needs of boys just have always been, and to a large extent remain, the unspoken, often unrecognized priority,” Mr. Sabo said.
The Cougars are a perfect example: they face not only a lack of funding, but opposition from players’ parents, who often want the girls, but not their brothers or male cousins, to stay home and babysit or clean the house.
Government cannot control how a family views the role of a girl at home and in sports. However, there are surely some steps our society can take: federal funding to make athletic programs more accessible for city girls; nonprofits focused more on encouraging female athletic participation; better day care services for working mothers. Girls should not need to be born in a suburb to be able to live out the promise of Title IX.