TIME Education

Title lX: How a Good Law Went Terribly Wrong

The landmark legislation was supposed to bring equality, instead it devastated mens' sports on campus

A weary wrestling coach once lamented that his sport had survived the Fall of Rome, only to be vanquished by Title IX. How did an honorable equity law turn into a scorched-earth campaign against men’s sports? This week is the 42nd anniversary of this famous piece of federal legislation so it’s an ideal time to consider what went wrong and how to set it right.

Title IX was signed into law by President Nixon on June 23, 1972. In 37 momentous words, it outlawed gender discrimination in all publicly supported educational programs. Before its passage, many leading universities did not accept women and law schools and medical schools often used quotas to limit female enrollment. As for sports, female student athletes were rare — and received precious little support from college athletic programs. The logic behind Title IX is the same as that behind all great civil rights legislation: In our democracy, the government may not play favorites among races or religions or between the sexes. We are all equal before the law — including students in colleges and universities receiving public funds.

Title IX applies to all areas of education but is best known for its influence on sports. Women’s athletics have flourished in recent decades, and Title IX deserves some of the cheers. But something went wrong in the law’s implementation. The original law was about equality of opportunity and indeed forbade quotas or reverse discrimination schemes. But over the years, government officials, college administrators and jurists — spurred on by groups like the National Women’s Law Center and the Women’s Sports Foundation — transformed a fair-minded equity law into just such a quota-driven regime, with destructive results.

Women’s groups strongly object to the “q” word. “Title IX does not in any way require quotas,” says the National Women’s Law Center. “It simply requires that schools allocate participation opportunities non-discriminatorily.” That can mean many things, but in the hands of bureaucrats and advocates, this diffuse requirement somehow came to mean that women are entitled to “statistical proportionality.” That is to say, if a college’s student body is 60% female, then 60% of the athletes should be female — even if far fewer women than men are interested in playing sports at that college.

Title IX defenders will tell you that there are several ways that schools can satisfy the non-discrimination standard other than proportional representation. That is true on paper but false in practice. The regulations are murky and ever-changing, leaving most schools to scramble to the only safe harbor: Proportionality.

Schools have cut back on male teams and created new women’s teams, not because of demand but because they fear federal investigations. Since football is a money-generating male sport with large rosters, Title IX quotas have all but decimated smaller less lucrative sports such as men’s swimming, diving, gymnastics and wrestling. More than 450 wrestling teams vanished since 1972, with only 328 remaining.

Then why not say that men’s sports were a casualty of football rather than Title IX? Because women’s groups have consistently rejected reasonable solutions to the football challenge. College football is qualitatively different from sports like diving, rowing and tennis. It is a mass spectacle, loved by millions of students, and integral to the identity and history of colleges and universities everywhere. It requires a large number of players and has no female counterpart. So why not just take it out of the Title IX mix? That one concession would have saved hundreds of small male teams. But no such concession was offered. Football is not destroying men’s teams; intransigent women’s groups and their “proportionality gap” bear most of the blame.

Look what happened at Howard University in Washington, D.C.: The school’s student body is 67% female, but women constitute only 43% of its athletic program. In 2007, the Women’s Sports Foundation, a powerful Title IX advocacy group, gave Howard an “F” grade because of its 24% “proportionality gap.” Howard had already cut men’s wrestling and baseball and added women’s bowling, but that did little to narrow the gap. Unless it cuts almost half of its current male athletes, Howard will remain under a Title IX cloud and legally vulnerable. The school’s former wrestling coach, Wade Hughes, summed up the problem this way: “The impact of Title IX’s proportionality standard has been disastrous because … far more males than females are seeking to take part in athletics.”

But the Women’s Sports Foundation disagrees. Girls are every bit as interested in sports as boys. According to its Title IX Myths and Facts, “Given equal athletic opportunities, women will rush to fill them; the remaining discrepancies in sports participation rates are the result of continuing discrimination in access to those opportunities.” And many well-meaning judges and government officials have agreed with them.

But there’s overwhelming evidence that women, taken as a group, are less interested than men in competitive sports. In 2012, a group of psychologists analyzed men’s and women’s propensities by looking at how many of them pursue team sports in their leisure time. Intramural sports are recreational games that college students can play just for the love of the sport. The researchers found that only 26% of intramural participants are women. They also studied recreational activity in 41 public parks in four different states. Lots of women were exercising, but only 10% of those playing competitive team sports were women. A 2013 ESPN report on youth sports found that 34% of girls in grades 3-12 say sports is a big part of who they are; for boys the figure is 61%.

No matter how much the Title IX activists and government officials want to pretend otherwise, the sexes are different. Overall, women care far less about athletics, both as participants and spectators. Sports Illustrated for Women, first published in 2000, was marketed to females between the ages of 18 and 34 with a “passion for sports.” The magazine lasted less than two years. The Women’s United Soccer Association and the American Basketball League were supposed to appeal to this same passionate demographic: Both folded after a few seasons. There is no call for magazines such as Vogue, Allure and Cosmopolitan, or websites like Jezebel, to include stories about draft picks, photographs of awesome plays and up-to-date information about fantasy teams and brackets.

Meanwhile, men by the legion (and a small percentage of women) support a vast network of sports magazines, websites, radio shows and fantasy teams. More than half of young men are sports-obsessives, and many would give their right arm to play competitive sports in high school or college — or even to sit on a bench all season with only a remote chance of playing.

“Build it and they will come,” says the National Women’s Law Center. But they don’t come. At least not many. So colleges are going to absurd lengths to achieve gender balance. It is not an easy task when women now far outnumber men on many campuses—thereby raising the proportionality hurdle—yet far fewer of them aspire to play varsity sports. Many schools solve the problem by axing men’s teams or limiting their rosters. Padding the women’s numbers is another common maneuver. As a 2011 story in The New York Times reported, nearly half of the fencers on Cornell’s women’s fencing team were men. Because of some loophole, male practice players counted as women. And, according to the Times, players don’t actually have to play to be counted as members, so at many schools dozens of girls are technically on teams — but never play. Some —like several women that were on the University of South Florida’s cross-country roster — didn’t even know they were listed.

Title-niners treat women’s underrepresentation in sports as an injustice that must be aggressively targeted. But areas where men fall behind raise little concern. They cannot have it both ways. If Howard University’s 24%sports gap (favoring males) warrants federal intervention, then its far more serious 34% attendance gap (favoring females) should warrant a Congressional investigation.

Instead of more investigations, restrictions, closed opportunities, bean counting, number fudging and gender politics, we should follow the advice of the novelist (and former wrestler) John Irving: “Keep Title IX: eliminate proportionality.” I know of no better way to celebrate this intrinsically good law on its 42nd anniversary.

Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. She is the author of several books including The War Against Boys and hosts a weekly video blog The Factual Feminist . Follow her @CHSommers

TIME Sexual Assault

Rape Culture is a ‘Panic Where Paranoia, Censorship, and False Accusations Flourish’

Christina Hoff Sommers
Larry Contratti

Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a TIME contributor, and author of several books, including The War Against Boys. She hosts a weekly video blog The Factual Feminist

On January 27, 2010, University of North Dakota officials charged undergraduate Caleb Warner with sexually assaulting a fellow student. He insisted the encounter was consensual, but was found guilty by a campus tribunal and thereupon expelled and banned from campus.

A few months later, Warner received surprising news. The local police had determined not only that Warner was innocent, but that the alleged victim had deliberately falsified her charges. She was charged with lying to police for filing a false report, and fled the state.

Cases like Warner’s are proliferating. Here is a partial list of young men who have recently filed lawsuits against their schools for what appear to be gross mistreatment in campus sexual assault tribunals: Drew Sterrett—University of Michigan, John Doe—Swarthmore, Anthony Villar—Philadelphia University, Peter Yu—Vassar, Andre Henry—Delaware State, Dez WellsXavier, and Zackary Hunt—Denison. Presumed guilty is the new legal principle where sex is concerned.

Sexual assault on campus is a genuine problem—but the new rape culture crusade is turning ugly. The list of falsely accused young men subject to kangaroo court justice is growing apace. Students at Boston University demanded that a Robin Thicke concert be cancelled: His hit song Blurred Lines is supposedly a rape anthem. (It includes the words, “I know you want it.”) Professors at Oberlin, University of California, Santa Barbara, and Rutgers have been urged to place “trigger warnings” on class syllabi that include books like the Great Gatsby—too much misogynist violence. This movement is turning our campuses into hostile environments for free expression and due process. And so far, university officials, political leaders, and the White House are siding with the mob.

It appears that we are in the throes of one of those panics where paranoia, censorship, and false accusations flourish—and otherwise sensible people abandon their critical facilities. We are not facing anything as extreme as the Salem Witch Trials or the McCarthy inquisitions. But today’s rape culture movement bears some striking similarities to a panic that gripped daycare centers in the 1980s.

In August 1983, an anguished mother reported to the police that her 2-year old son had been horrifically abused in the McMartin preschool in Manhattan Beach, California. She described a network of underground tunnels where school staff had sodomized her child and forced him to watch animal sacrifices. The mother was mentally disturbed and her story had no basis in reality. But the news media seized on the story, and paranoia about Satanic Cults became a national epidemic. Parents were already on edge: advocacy groups, politicians, and the media had warned that nearly 50,000 children were being abducted by strangers, and 4,000 of them murdered, every year. As news of the McMartin barbarity spread, daycare personnel in schools across the nation found themselves implicated in the crime of satanic-ritual child abuse. A national network of abuse-therapists promptly materialized. Through the use of intimidating interviewing techniques, they egged on children to “remember” terrible abuses in their daycare.

The abuse therapists were joined by an influential group of conspiracy-minded feminists, including Gloria Steinem and Catharine MacKinnon. When a few civil libertarian feminists—Carol Tavris, Wendy Kaminer, Ellen Willis, and Debbie Nathan—tried to blow the whistle on the witch-hunt, they were vilified by the conspiracy caucus as backlashers, child abuse apologists, and “obedient ‘daddies’ girls of male editors.”

From the start of the scare in 1983 until its ending in the mid-1990s, untold numbers of children were subject to manipulative therapies and hundreds of innocent adults faced charges of ritual child abuse. Several of the accused would spend years in prison for crimes that never happened. A recent Slate article called it “one of the most damaging moral panics in America’s history,” which only began to abate when skeptical journalists got round to checking facts and asking questions. A 1985 story in the Los Angeles Times informed readers that, according to FBI reports, the number of child kidnappings by strangers in 1984 was 67, not 50,000

Today’s college rape panic is an eerie recapitulation of the daycare abuse panic. Just as the mythical “50,000 abducted children” fueled paranoia about child safety in the 1980s, so today’s hysteria is incited by the constantly repeated, equally fictitious “one-in-five women on campus is a victim of rape”—which even President Obama has embraced.

The one-in-five number is derived from surveys where biased samples of respondents are asked an artful combination of straightforward and leading questions, reminiscent of the conclusory interviews behind the daycare agitation. A much-cited CDC study, for example, first tells respondents: “Please remember that even if someone uses alcohol or drugs, what happens to them is not their fault.” Then it asks: “When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people ever had vaginal sex with you.” (Emphasis mine.) The CDC counted all such sexual encounters as rapes.

Reputable studies suggest that approximately one-in-forty college women are victims of rape or sexual assault (assault includes verbal threats as well as unwanted sexual grabbing and fondling). One-in-forty is still too many women. But it hardly constitutes a “rape culture” requiring White House intervention.

Once again, conspiracy feminists are at the forefront of this movement. Just as feminist psychologists persuaded children that they had been abused, so women’s activists have persuaded many young women that what they might have dismissed as a foolish drunken hookup was actually a felony rape. “Believe the children,” said the ritual abuse experts during the day care scare. “Believe the survivors,” say today’s rape culturalists. To not believe an alleged victim is to risk being called a rape apologist.

Some will say that these moral panics, while overblown, do call attention to serious problems. This is deeply mistaken. The hysteria around daycare abuse and campus rape shed no light: rather they confuse and discredit genuine cases of abuse and violence. Molestation and rape are horrific crimes that warrant serious attention and vigorous response. Panics breed chaos and mob justice. They claim innocent victims, undermine social trust, and teach us to doubt the evidence of our own experience.

E.M. Forster said it best in A Passage to India, referring to a panic among “good citizens” following a highly dubious accusation of rape: “Pity, wrath, and heroism filled them, but the power of putting two and two together was annihilated.”

(You can read more opinions in TIME’s special report: Ending Campus Sexual Assault and get the full story in this week’s cover article by Eliza Gray: The Sexual Assault Crisis on American Campuses.)

TIME gender

‘Free to Be’ Boys and Girls: 40 Years After the Failed Gender Revolution

1974's 'Free to Be... You and Me' feels like an eternity ago. And, amazingly, kids and adults have yet to morph into mutually respectful, non-gendered human persons.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of an event close to the hearts of gender activists everywhere. On March 11, 1974, ABC aired Marlo Thomas’ “Free to Be…You and Me” — a musical program celebrating gender-free children. Thomas and her fellow co-neutralists envisioned a world where the sex distinction would melt away. Instead of “males” and “females,” there would be mutually respectful, non-gendered human persons. The project resulted in a platinum LP, a best-selling book, and an Emmy. More than that, the idea of gender liberation entered the national zeitgeist. Parents everywhere began giving their daughters trucks and sons baby dolls. Like so many dream boats floating on the utopian sea, this one crashed and sank when it hit the rocks of reality.

In one “Free to Be” song, two babies discuss their life goals: the female wants to be a fireman; the male, a cocktail waitress. Another tells about a girl who liked to say, “Ladies First” — only to wind up being the first to be eaten by tigers. The songs drive home the idea that we are all androgynous beings unfairly constrained by social stereotypes. “William‘s Doll” is memorable. “A doll, said William, is what I need. To wash and clean and dress and feed.” In the end his kindly grandmother buys him the coveted toy.

A few months ago, I found myself in a place William would adore: the American Girl doll palace in New York City. But nearly all the children there were girls. “They know what girls love,” said a transfixed seven-year-old girl attached to my hand. We were standing in front of a doll salon, where you could make appointments for your doll to have her hair and nails done. The hundreds of little girls in that store showed a purposefulness and sense of well-being I had not witnessed since the summer before, when I visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Only in Cooperstown it was little boys who were enthralled. Hundreds of them filled the shops where they carefully examined and evaluated an unfathomable number of little cards with photos and data about baseball heroes. Yes, I realize there are boys who would enjoy the American Girl doll store and girls whose dearest hope is to visit Baseball Town — but those are the exceptions. I am talking about the rule. And as a rule, the young Williams of this world do not want a doll.

“Don’t Dress Your Cat in an Apron,” another jaunty “Free to Be” song, tell us: “A person should do what he likes to. A person’s a person that way.” Well, OK, maybe sometimes. But, after 40 years of gender activism, boys and girls show few signs of liking to do the same things. From the earliest age, boys show a distinct preference for active outdoor play, with a strong predilection for games with body contact, conflict, and clearly defined winners and losers. Girls, too, enjoy raucous outdoor play, but they engage in it less. Girls, as a rule, are more drawn to imaginative theatrical games — playing house, playing school — as well as exchanging confidences with a best friend. Boys playing kickball together in the schoolyard are not only having a great deal of fun, they are forging friendships with other males in ways that are critical to their healthy socialization. Similarly, little girls who spend hours in deep conversation with other girls or playing theatrical games are happily and actively honing their social skills. What these children are doing is not only fun but developmentally sound.

The year 1974 was a long time ago. It was the Age of Aquarius, and Marlo Thomas and her friends can be forgiven for thinking gender neutrality to be a workable and desirable plan. But in a recent interview, Thomas, now 76, said she found nothing dated about “Free to Be.” Children, she said, “need to hear that … boys and girls are pretty much the same except for something in their underwear.” Except that they are not.

In 2009, David Geary, a University of Missouri psychologist, published the second edition of Male, Female: The Evolution of Human Sex Differences. This thorough, fair-minded, and comprehensive survey of the literature includes more than 50 pages of footnotes citing studies by neuroscientists, endocrinologists, geneticists, anthropologists, and psychologists showing a strong biological basis for many gender differences. And, as Geary recently told me, “One of the largest and most persistent differences between the sexes is children’s play preferences.” The female preference for nurturing play and the male propensity for rough-and-tumble hold cross-culturally and even cross-species. Researchers have found, for example, that female vervet monkeys play with dolls much more than their brothers, who prefer balls and toy cars. Nor can human reality be tossed aside. In all known societies, women tend to be the nurturers and men the warriors. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker points to the absurdity of ascribing these universal differences to socialization: “It would be an amazing coincidence that in every society the coin flip that assigns each sex to one set of roles would land the same way.”

Of course, we can soften and shape these roles, and that has been, in every epoch, the work of civilization. But civilization won’t work against the grain of human nature, and our futile attempts to make it do so can only damage the children that are the subjects of the experiment. Though few would deny that parents and teachers should expose children to a wide range of toys and play activities, almost any parent will attest that most little girls don’t want to play with dump trucks and few boys show an interest in Hello Kitty tea sets. “Free to Be” purports to be an anthem to freedom; but to “liberate” children from their gender will require unrelenting adult policing, monitoring, correcting, and shaming. Enlightened opinion tells us not to do that with gender non-conforming children; but surely it is just as misguided to do it with kids who conform to the conventions of their sex.

The writer Andrew Sullivan is right when he describes the sex difference as “so obvious no one really doubted it until very recently, when the blank-slate left emerged, merging self-righteousness with empirical delusion.” That delusion was jumpstarted in 1974 with the advent of “Free To Be… You and Me.” Today, an army of gender scholars and activists is marching in support of the genderless ideal. But these warriors forget that ignoring differences between boys and girls can be just as damaging as creating differences where none exist. “Free to Be” is a cautionary example of how an idealistic social fantasy can turn into a blueprint for repression.

Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. She is the author of several books, including The War Against Boys. Follow her @CHsommers.

TIME society

Masculinity Is More Than a Mask

Is it O.K. to tell boys to "be a man"? An upcoming film that is much buzzed about on the web ignores the real differences between the sexes

+ READ ARTICLE

Are school shooters and mass murderers born out of an aggressive emphasis on masculinity in our society? The trailer for filmmaker and feminist activist Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s new documentary, The Mask You Live In, would have us think so.

The recently released trailer has attracted 1 million views on YouTube. It argues that American boys are captive to a rigid and harmful social code of masculinity. From the earliest age, they are told to “Be a man!” “Don’t cry!” “Stop with the emotion!” and “Man up!” This “guy code” suppresses their humanity, excites their drive for dominance and renders many of them dangerous. The trailer features adolescent men describing their isolation, despair and thoughts of suicide, artfully interspersed with terrifying images of school shooters and mass murderers.

I admire Newsom for using her considerable talent to advocate for boys. But I worry that she is less concerned with helping boys than with re-engineering their masculinity according to specifications from some out-of-date gender-studies textbook. The trailer is suffused with males-are-toxic ideology but shows little appreciation for how boys’ nature can be distinctively good. The Mask You Live In is scheduled to be released later this year. Let’s hope there is still time for edits.

Here are a few suggestions:
1. Recognize that masculinity is more than a “mask”
The title and content of the film suggest that masculinity is a cultural creation. That is only marginally true. A lot of typical boy behavior, such as rough-and-tumble play, risk taking and fascination with gadgets rather than dolls, appears to have a basis in biology. Researchers have found, for example, that female monkeys play with dolls much more than their brothers, who prefer toy cars and trucks. Are male monkeys captive to a “guy code”? A recent study on sex differences by researchers from the University of Turin, in Italy, and the University of Manchester, in England, confirms what most of us see with our eyes: with some exceptions, women tend to be more sensitive, esthetic, sentimental, intuitive and tender-minded, while men tend to be more utilitarian, objective, unsentimental and tough-minded. We do not yet fully understand the biological underpinnings of these universal tendencies, but that is no reason to deny they exist.

(MORE: It’s a Man’s World, and It Always Will Be)

2. Appreciate the difference between healthy and pathological masculinity
Some boys are hypermasculine or pathologically masculine. They are bullies and worse, establishing their male bona fides through destruction, mayhem and preying on the weak and vulnerable. But most boys evince healthy masculinity. They may enjoy mayhem in games and sports, but in life they like to build, not destroy. Their instinct is not to exploit vulnerable people but to protect and defend them. Of course, all boys need guidance and discipline from the adults in their lives. I agree with Newsom that telling a boy to “man up” can be harsh and degrading. But teaching him to “be a gentleman” is another matter. It’s a tried-and-true way to bring out the best in males.

3. Acknowledge the virtue of male reserve
Newsom’s film tells us that boys in our society don’t feel safe talking about emotions and personal struggles. To do so violates the boy code and subjects them to shame and ridicule. The driving message of Newsom’s film is that we must free our young men to become emotionally expressive. Of course, parents should do all they can to improve their sons’ emotional literacy. But parents (as well as wives and girlfriends) should keep in mind that male reticence has its advantages.

A 2012 a study surveyed and observed nearly 2,000 children and adolescents and found that boys and girls have very different expectations about the value of problem talk. Girls were more likely to report that personal disclosure made them feel cared for and understood. Boys, overall, found it to be a tedious waste of time — and “weird.” Contrary to what we learn from Newsom’s film, boys did not find personal disclosure embarrassing or unmasculine. According to the study’s author, Amanda Rose: “Boys’ responses suggest they just don’t see talking about problems to be a particularly useful activity” (emphasis added).

But in girls, excessive problem talk is in fact linked to anxiety and depression. Male stoicism may be adaptive and protective. If you want a boy to be more forthcoming, Rose has good advice for parents and counselors: “You will have to persuade him that it serves a practical purpose.” Engage his male instinct for problem solving.

(MORE: What Boys Want: Hook-Up Culture Doesn’t Just Hurt Girls)

4. Make clear that most boys are psychologically sound and resilient
The Mask You Live In gives the impression that the average adolescent boy is severely depressed. In fact, clinical depression is rare among boys. (National Institute of Mental Health data show that the prevalence of depression among among 13- to 17-year-old boys is 4.3%; among girls of the same age group, it is 12.4%.)

Newsom’s film reports that every day in the U.S. three or more boys take their own lives. Suicide is, indeed, primarily a male disease. Among 10- to 24-year-olds, 81% of suicide victims are male. In 2010, a total of 3,951 young men died by their own hands. Male suicide is a much neglected scourge, and Newsom’s efforts to raise awareness are admirable. Still, in a nation of nearly 33 million boys, that means that the percentage of boys who commit suicide is close to 0.01%. Each of these deaths is a tragedy. But it helps no one to pretend that suicide is typical male behavior.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) does appear to be an epidemic among boys, but the implications of that are ambiguous. It could be that as a society, we are pathologizing age-old male rambunctiousness. Some experts have suggested that ADHD would be significantly reduced if we allowed boys more unstructured recess and occasions for spirited rough-and-tumble play. Yet, in Newsom’s documentary, scenes of boys engaging in mock fisticuffs, playfully head-butting and chasing one another around the playground are offered as evidence of how young males are driven to “prove” their aggressive masculinity.

5. Include specific ideas on how to help boys with depression or thoughts of suicide
Some of the most promising, innovative ideas are coming out of Australia. In 2006, a report in the Medical Journal of Australia argued for a paradigm shift in the nation’s mental-health system. Rather than blaming “masculinity” or trying to “re-educate” men away from their reluctance to seek help, the author asks, “Why not provide health services that better meet the needs of men?”

The Australians are now developing male-specific mental-health protocols. A 2012 Australian study, for example, found that large majorities of young men associate the term mental health with insanity and straightjackets. Mental fitness seems to go over better with men. The Australians recently launched a mental-fitness app for guys. The focus is on acquiring “skills,” developing “strengths” and achieving “self-mastery.” But doesn’t that reinforce traditional narratives of masculinity? It certainly does — that’s the point, and the key to its promise.

The energy, competitiveness and corporal daring of normal males are responsible for much good in the world. No one denies that boys’ aggressive and risk-taking tendencies must be socialized and channeled toward constructive ends. But the de–Tom Sawyering of the American boy should not be anyone’s agenda. I am sure it is not Newsom’s. Yet her film in progress suggests otherwise.

MORE: Women in Combat: A Mirror of Society?

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