Changing the Game: Title IX, Gender and Athletics in American Universities

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Changing the Game uses Title IX and the debate over athletics at the college and university level to examine what equality means in a democratic society. It takes as its starting point the radical change the passage of Title IX seemed to promise. Historically, high schools and universities had largely excluded women from athletics.  To the extent that women’s sports existed, they operated under a different administrative structure with a different vision.  Title IX seemed both to promise and require offering women vastly increased opportunities to participate in athletics.  However, it left several critical issues unclear:

  • Does gender equality require ‘sameness?’  In other words, must women and men play using the same rules?  Must women and men play on one integrated team, or is ‘separate but equal’ permissible in athletics?   Must men’s and women’s sports be administered by a common organization?  Most importantly, must the two share a common vision for the role of athletics in education?
  • How do you measure equality? How do you gauge whether an institution is making sufficient progress at redressing inequality? What role should the government take in forcing institutions to change to ensure compliance?
  • How do you measure the effects of past discrimination in producing modern day preferences?  It has become common for opponents of Title IX to suggest that fewer women than men want to play sports.  Others argue that offering women opportunities to play will in itself increase the number of women who want to play.   Must institutions equalize the number of male and female athletes?  Or is it sufficient to match opportunities to participate with already existing interests?
  • Finally, is it permissible to discriminate against current male athletes and teams in the interest of providing opportunities for women?  Was such drastic action necessary, given the realities of sports at colleges and universities?

About the Authors:

Kelly McFall teaches at Newman University, where he is Associate Professor of History, Chair of the Division of Humanities and Director of the Honors Program.  He is broadly interested in the history of conflict and human rights.  He is the author of The Needs of Others:  Human Rights, International Organizations and Intervention in Rwanda, 1994, a game in development in the Reacting to the Past Series.  He also hosts a podcast titled "New Books in Genocide Studies" as well as contributing to a similar podcast called "New Books in Sports."

Abby Perkiss is an Assistant Professor of History at Kean University in Union, NJ. Her first book, Making Good Neighbors: Civil Rights, Liberalism, and Integration in Postwar Philadelphia (Cornell University Press, 2014), examines the creation of intentionally integrated neighborhoods in the latter half of the twentieth century. Her second book, Staring out to Sea: Hurricane Sandy on New Jersey's Forgotten Shore, is also forthcoming with Cornell UP. She is the co-author of two Reacting modules: Changing the Game: Title IX, Gender, and Athletics in American Universities (with Kelly McFall) and Monuments and Memory-Making: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1981-82) (with Kelly McFall and Rebecca Livingstone). Perkiss is the Managing Editor of the Oral History Review and Vice President of Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region.