week 14

sociologypsych
ATTACHED FILE(S)
Playing but Losing: Women’s Sports after Title IX” by Cheryl Cooky and Nicole Lavoi
“Playing but Losing: Women’s Sports after Title IX” by Cheryl Cooky and Nicole Lavoi
As Cheryl Cooky and Nicole Lavoi relay in their article, the number of female participants in a wide variety
of sports and at all competitive levels have increased dramatically since the 1970s. In 1972, the landmark
Title IX of the Educational Amendments to the U.S. Constitution was passed, which states: “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 educational program or activity receiving federal assistance.”
Title IX has enabled the growing participation of women in sports; in 1971 prior to the amendment’s
passing, only 105 women participated in high school sports and in 2009-2010, this number had risen to
over 3 million and as of 2019 were still growing (the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted many sports
programs).
Despite these gains in women’s sports participation, Cooky and Lavoi point to some problems still
persisting in women’s sports, including the relative lack of media representation (vs. men’s sports), the
sexualization of female athletes’ bodies in media coverage, the small numbers of women in key
leadership positions in sports (e.g. head coach, sports administration), the dominance of
heteronormativity in both women’s and men’s sports, pay inequities between male and female
professional athletes, as well as overt sexism and misogyny.
The good news is that more Americans today accept and embrace women’s sports. Moreover, as Cooky
and Lavoi write,”There are well-documented health, social, and psychological benefits for girls and
women who participate in sport. Sport is, to be sure, also one of the most important American social
institutions. Women’s equal participation in sport can help change outdated stereotypes about women’s
capabilities and capacities. This isn’t just good for girls and women: it’s good for everyone” (46). The
remarkable strides in women’s sports since the 1970s have indeed been revolutionary, but this revolution
will only be partial as long as gender inequality and the aforementioned problems persist.
QUESTIONS-
1
“Playing but Losing: Women’s Sports after Title IX” – Cooky and Lavoi
As Cheryl Cooky and Nicole Lavoi relay in their article, the number of female participants in a wide variety
of sports and at all competitive levels have increased dramatically since the 1970s. In 1972, the landmark
Title IX of the Educational Amendments to the U.S. Constitution was passed, which states: “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 educational program or activity receiving federal assistance.”
Title IX has enabled the growing participation of women in sports; in 1971 prior to the amendment’s
passing, only 105 women participated in high school sports and in 2009-2010, this number had risen to
over 3 million and as of 2019 were still growing (the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted many sports
programs).
Despite these gains in women’s sports participation, Cooky and Lavoi point to some problems still
persisting in women’s sports, including the relative lack of media representation (vs. men’s sports), the
sexualization of female athletes’ bodies in media coverage, the small numbers of women in key
leadership positions in sports (e.g. head coach, sports administration), the dominance of
heteronormativity in both women’s and men’s sports, pay inequities between male and female
professional athletes, as well as overt sexism and misogyny.
https://umb.umassonline.net/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_46663_1&content_id=_1884935_1#
The good news is that more Americans today accept and embrace women’s sports. Moreover, as Cooky
and Lavoi write,”There are well-documented health, social, and psychological benefits for girls and
women who participate in sport. Sport is, to be sure, also one of the most important American social
institutions. Women’s equal participation in sport can help change outdated stereotypes about women’s
capabilities and capacities. This isn’t just good for girls and women: it’s good for everyone” (46). The
remarkable strides in women’s sports since the 1970s have indeed been revolutionary, but this revolution
will only be partial as long as gender inequality and the aforementioned problems persist.
What do you make of the problems still persisting in women’s sports? What has been your own
participation in sports and do you agree with Cooky and Lavoi that women’s equal participation in sports
will be good for everyone?
2
“Who Should Compete in Women’s Sports?” – Brassil and Longman
As Gillian Brassil and Jeré Longman point out in their New York Times article (located in our Week 14
Readings folder), transgender people are increasingly accepted in the U.S., but their civil rights in the
areas of health care, the military, and sports have been rolled back during the Trump administration. In
terms of sports, a lawsuit was filed in Connecticut in 2020 by three cisgender female track athletes
seeking to ban transgender women from competing in women’s sports, citing their belief that trans women
(women who have a female gender identity but were assigned male at birth) have an unfair advantage
over cisgender women in the sport of track. Their lawsuit was recently dismissed by a federal judge. As of
March 2022, several states already have laws in place banning transgender students from competing in
sports that align with their gender identity (Oklahoma, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, South
Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia).
These lawsuits and state laws are signs of a growing global controversy over the issue of transgender
athletes eligibility to participate in women’s sports. Dr. Eric Vilain, a geneticist specializing in sexual
development, has said that “sports leaders were confronted with ‘two almost irreconcilable positions’ in
setting eligibility standards — one relying on an athlete’s declared gender and the other on biological
litmus tests.” One set of eligibility standards allow transgender athletes to participate in men’s or women’s
sports based on their declared gender without regard to their biological sex. These standards emphasize
inclusivity.
Another set of eligibility standards only allow transgender athletes to participate in sports according to
their sex as determined by biological tests (which can involve tests for testosterone levels, sex
chromosomes, and/or sex organs). This set of standards emphasizes competitive fairness and safety.
Presently, there are no universal eligibility standards at all competitive levels–from amateur to
professional–and inconsistent criteria for how to test for physical advantages conferred by biological sex.
“It is easy to sympathize with arguments made on both sides,” said researcher Tommy Lundberg of the
Karolinska Institute outside Stockholm (a co-author of a 2019 Swedish study of 11 transgender women),
adding “It is going to be impossible to make everyone happy.”
What are your thoughts on transgender athletes participating in women’s sports? Do you believe that
sports (at various levels) should be more oriented towards inclusivity or competitive fairness?
https://patch.com/connecticut/across-ct/lawsuit-seeking-ban-connecticut-transgender-athletes-dismissed
https://abcnews.go.com/US/oklahoma-arizona-sign-transgender-sports-bans-law/story?id=83767504
3-
What’s your experience with sports?
Note: this prompt is not related to an assigned reading. It asks you to reflect on your own personal
experience.
Many people who grow up in the U.S. have had some kind of exposure to sports, whether it be through
mandatory participation in gym class or elective competitive sports. For some of us, these have been
great experiences that bolstered self-confidence, fostered a sense of belonging in a gendered group, and
taught teamwork skills. For others, sports participation has brought about feelings of physical inadequacy
and exclusion from a powerful social norm. This discussion prompt is for you to reflect on your own
personal experience with sports: what was the extent of your participation, if any? What kind(s) of sports
were you involved in and did you have a choice as to the specific type of sport you participated in? If you
weren’t involved in sports, what has been your relationship to them (e.g. sports fan/viewer, avoid or shun
sports)? Do you think your experience of sports has contributed to your gender identity and if so, how?
You can also respond to a classmate’s post if you don’t feel comfortable relaying your own experience.
Just make sure that your response is substantive (and not just simply an “I agree” or “good post”).

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