A month later, I’m still fixated on what a new friend told me, regarding the perceived cattiness we sometimes see in women’s sports, and how it’s all Title IX’s fault.
Title IX, if you don’t know, is a law inacted in 1972, that goes as follows:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
“And unfortunately,” my new friend said, “we just have to consider this type of behavior (the cattiness) a negative consequence of Title IX.”
I thought I was going to spit up my Starbucks. Please explain yourself, I said, as directly and uncatty as possible.
“Title IX has moved women into a man’s arena that is the antithesis to women’s innate tendencies, which are to be loving, compassion, and nurturing.”
Aw, fuck that shit.
She was telling me this on the way to a bike race!
I didn’t learn about Title IX until my swim career at Cal State Bakersfield was over, and all of a sudden, the men’s swimteam was on the chopping block unless they could generate x number of dollars for the next season, as their funding had been cut.
That was a huge blow, as the team had won the National Championships eight years in a row. Meanwhile, our women’s team won Conference, once. There was a huge disparity in talent and accomplishments, but their program was threatened simply due to gender. Because if you interpret Title IX to the letter of the law, or at least this is what was happening on college campuses across the nation, if 51% of your student population were women, then 51% of the available sport opportunities had to be available women.
So we had all these men, and women, too, screaming about inequality in sports. I certainly didn’t think it was fair.
On the other hand, my mom, the true athlete in the family, couldn’t do college sports, aside from intra-mural synchronized swimming. She was laughed off the pool deck when she asked the coach if she could swim with the guys.
I mean, at least nowadays at least men’s teams can hold a bake sale. Before Title IX, girls and women couldn’t do sports they wanted to do, period. And we know women want to do sports. If they don’t want to do sports, they don’t show up. And we don’t see that many women at bike races, relative to men. So you can’t say that Title IX has done that much for post-school sports, can you? There’s no connection.
So anyway, my mom became a downhill skier and a racecar driver. There were other women at the autocrosses, she said. And they were pretty catty, she said. This was in 1964, years before Title IX.
I don’t think women are catty. I think some women never learned the joys of winning and losing as children, and have a terrible time with the idea of “failure” as adults, and take out their fears and frustrations in warped ways.
I think a lot of men do that, too.
My best friends in the world, men and women, are athletes and most were athletes in school, as well. I met my oldest friends on my swim team. I believe that when you train three hours a day with someone, every day, you see the best and worst of people. You learn how to get along.
Thank you Title IX!
But there’s that price, says my friend. Almost ten years older than I, she rode one of the first waves of Title IX. I am trying to understand why she sees the dark side, but I’ve heard her say it a few times, as she gets back into competitive sports after twenty years on the sidelines. And what she observes, as she gets her feet wet, are women trying to get along in a “man’s sport.” They do terrible things to themselves, she says, trying to be like men. They’ve been taken out of their natural elements.
Aw, fuck that shit. That might be her perspective, but I think she’s been taken out of her natural element. Those of us who’ve been playing all these years are having a swell time in the sand box. What you see isn’t cattiness; you’re witnessing women playing the game.
Vive la difference.