Thursday, January 19, 2006

Classism One: Title IX

One of the choruses of Right Wing Anti-Feminists' thirty-five year rendition of "I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl Who Married Dear Old Great-great-great Grandad" contains lyrics full of fear and loathing of Title IX, the act that give birth to Mia Hamm and the WNBA.

The Right's hatred of Title IX is almost certainly just another expression of their general hatred of anything that has happened over the last hundred and fifty years to give rights, privileges, opportunities, security, and hope to people who previously didn't have many or any of those---Civil Rights, the Labor Movement, Welfare, Social Security, the Women's movement---and lessened the power and prerogatives of people who were rich and overprivileged---the progressive income tax, workplace safety regulations, environmental protection laws, affirmative action.

But they seem to think they hate Title IX because they believe in fairness.

Title IX takes opportunities away from boys and young men, they protest. And that's unfair!

The usual line of reasoning goes like this:

Because Title IX requires schools that get federal money to offer as many sports scholarships to women as it does to men (I'm simplifying; it doesn't require exactly that.), schools have had to end some of their men's sports programs.

The critics of Title IX rarely suggest that another way to achieve parity would be not to shift funding around but simply increase it for women. But that would cost money, some of which, in the cases of public schools and state universities that exist on government funding, would have to be raised by increasing taxes, and being good "conservatives" they're not about to advocate that.

Besides, like I said, their object isn't fairness anyway. It's the opposite.

Now, it is true that some schools have gotten rid of or defunded some of their male sports---men's tennis teams, men's swimming teams, men's fencing teams, men's gymnastics, and in not a few cases men's baseball have all suffered.

But there are two men's sports programs that never suffer.

Football and basketball.

Can't touch those.

They bring in serious money.

Title IX isn't unfair to men. It's unfair to men whose athletic prowess is not a contingency of their height or muscle mass.

Which is to say that's it's not Title IX that's unfair; it's this country's obsession with football and basketball and winning that's unfair.

As it turns out, schools have cut or defunded plenty of women's sports too---women's tennis, women's fencing, women's gymnastics...

And they have poured the money saved into women's basketball and soccer and, in some of the more civilized areas of the country like upstate New York, lacrosse.

So an outcome of Title IX has been an unfairness to women whose athletic prowess does not reside in their height or ability to shrug off a body check.

I understand that it can be cheaper to maintain one big team sport in place of four or five little sports. Savings in transportation costs alone can be huge. If you have to get 40 student athletes to their next competition, it's better, cheaper, if they all have to be at the same place at the same time and can all ride the same bus.

But Division I colleges do not do anything on the cheap when it comes to their sports programs.

The big team sports are also where the money is. More paying customers will turn out to watch a women's basketball game than a men's fencing match.

The problem with Title IX is capitalism.

But you won't hear a "conservative" point that one out.

You will hear one claim that the problem with Title IX is that it's not just keeping men from playing sports at college; it's turning them away from college altogether.

That is, you'll hear one say it if you follow a link ManDrake of Daffodil Lane sent me to a post by the Carpetbagger.

The Carpetbagger has found and deconstructed a rant against Title IX by Phyllis Schlafly.

Schlafly is concerned that the elimination of the manlier of the manly sports is causing young men to give up on the idea of going to college. She says:

The Rose Bowl proved that public demand is for all-male sports, not female contests. Boys do not want to go to a college that eliminates the macho sports, and that is true even if the boy does not expect to compete himself.

I guess all those young men who want to get into Harvard and Yale want to because of those schools' powerhouse football programs.

Graduates of the University of Chicago can tell us how that school's elimination of its football team several generations ago has resulted in its turning into an all-girl's school.

Schlafly appears to be worried that Title IX is unfair not just to men who want to fence, swim, or play tennis. It's unfair to all those guys who want to go to college to sit on their duffs, drink beer, watch other, more talented and active men achieve, and then burp and high five each other while they incidentally, even accidentally, pick up a business degree.

Sadly, there are a lot of those, but since they can sit on their duffs and drink beer in front of the television as well as in an actual stadium, I doubt they much care if the teams they're watching wear their school's colors.

But Schlafly isn't as worried about them as much as she's worried about all the young women who will be denied the chance to marry those guys.

No sports means fewer guys on campus. Fewer guys means fewer potential mates for the women on campus. All these thousands of young women losing the opportunity to marry their sports obsessed, beer-drinking, fat-assed C student college sweethearts! A tragedy!

Ok, we long ago figured out that Schlafly is an obscenely-blatant hypocrite whose anti-Feminism has been a decades-long crusade to deny other women the chance of the sort of career, wealth, status, and freedom to live her life as she pleases that she's enjoyed.

But hypocrisy is her job.

She's a professional hypocrite whose service is to enable hypocrisy in others.

It doesn't matter that what she says is nonsensical, counter-factual, and fantastical---What schools are eliminating their football and basketball programs?---and even insulting to the people she claims to be championing---are there any guys who will be flattered by Schlafly's opinion of their reasons for going to college? She's not in the business of providing real arguments. She's in the business of providing strings of words that sound as if they might be real arguments that "conservatives" can deploy to distract other people, and distance themselves in their own minds, from their racism, classism, elitism, and just plain I Got Mine You Get Yoursism.

Schlafly's new argument is just more of the same, ridiculous on its face, hypocritical at its core, but it did inspire two very good comments on the Carpetbagger's post.

The first one is pertinent to the whole Boys are Flunking Life 101 issue. Whenever people, on either side of the question, discuss it, they often bring up the fact that there are now college campuses where two-thirds of the student population is female. Steve Israel's article in the Sunday Record mentions it as does this USA Today article linked to by Shakespeare's Sister a few weeks ago.

I haven't seen any lists showing which schools these are. If one of them's Bryn Mawr, I'm not interested.

But angry young man provides an interesting list...of 25 schools, good schools, where the student population is far more than 50 percent male, including some that are more than 66 per cent (or two thirds) male.

Probably won't surprise you that these are major engineering schools or schools with large and highly regarded engineering programs.

Topping the list is Pop Mannion's alma mater, RPI, a school that has one decent sports program. Hockey.

Somehow I doubt very many men are enrolling at RPI for the chance to watch a good hockey game.

Although that's definitely a perk.

Engineering, however, is still a male-dominated profession, so it's not surprising these schools are predominately male. But this raises the question: Are schools with larger female to male ratios schools that have major programs in fields that are traditionally female-dominated?

A school that, with all other things being equal, has a nursing program is going to have more women on campus than men.

What we are looking at here may be just a sign of something that we all know is true already. Young men can begin careers in blue collar fields without having to go to college, while young women who are beginning careers in pink collar and lower level white color fields on an economic par with their brothers' jobs as cops, plumbers, electricians, and auto mechanics need a degree.

(It's important to keep in mind that an awful lot of young men who don't go to college don't wind up as cops, plumbers, electricians, and auto mechanics, jobs that can take you into the middle class. They wind up on factory floors, on loading docks, and on non-unionized road crews. There are plenty for whom the only tool they will handle is a broom or a shovel or a grapple. So it's not to be supposed that we don't have to worry about young men who don't go to college because they'll all end up as skilled craftsmen and technicians. And a good high school education is necessary for boys who want to go into those skilled jobs, and high school is where a great many boys are having trouble.)

The other interesting comment is from Davis X. Machina, a high school teacher, who makes two vital points:

There have to be serious economic & cultural disincentives tending to keep young white men on the margins going to college.

The good ones still go — but the 'maybe I should go' cadre has certainly been somewhat priced out, and maybe a little driven off by the 'real men are pig-ignorant'-Sean Hannatzi factor, who knows?

By "good ones" I'm assuming Davis means the best students, the very brightest who are motivated by their own achievements. Doing something very well tends to make you want to keep doing it and want to keep getting better at it. But it's the average students, the ones whose grades are only ok, good enough to get them into college, but not good enough to earn them any academic scholarships, who may be deciding college is not worth it.

More financial aid would be a big incentive for those young men, but we have a Republican Congress that attacks federal financial aid programs every chance it gets and a lot of states that can't afford to fund generous programs of their own, for a variety of reasons, including the fact they aren't getting help from the Republican Congress.

And while those young men are on the fence about whether or not to go on to college, what are they hearing from the Right Wing Noise machine?

The continuation of a now six year old argument that being smart, well-educated, well-read, intellectually curious, thoughtful and even intelligent aren't necessary to being successful at the most important job in the world.

This is another hypocritical argument, different from the hypocrisy of Schafly's, because it has different victims.

The people who've been arguing that it's ok that George Bush is an ignoramous don't really believe it. That is, they don't want their own children to be slackers and goof-ups. They just want George Bush to be President and to be thought a successful President and they will say anything they can think of to help that cause.

But who else is listening to them, if not their own sons?


Post a Comment

<< Home