Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Do We Need Women's Sports At All?

Is there any advantage to having Women’s sports? More specifically, should the government require that schools allocate equal funds to both men’s and women’s sports teams?

Title IX requires that to receive federal funding a school cannot distinguish based on sex. In reality this rule requires equal funding for both men’s and women’s sports programs. The constitutional legitimacy of Title IX is debatable, but I’m accepting its veracity here.

Is there an advantage to having separate women’s teams? Should a school be required to create two tracks of sports programs? Those are difficult question. There seems to be benefits of women’s sports, from self-confidence to learning about teamwork. But do these benefits justify congressional legislation mandating women’s teams?

First a libertarian objection: Let’s assume there are benefits to women’s teams. If these benefits are universally known, then schools will create women’s sports programs for the sole reason of drawing qualified females to their school. If school A has a program and school B lacks one, then more women will choose school A, all things being equal. And even though all things are never equal, school A will have a recruiting advantage over school B. So if women are choosing schools for their sports teams, then other schools will create programs simply to keep up. This is free market economics at its best.

I am not a libertarian (although I do have some leanings). The above argument has been made against Title VI, which prohibits discrimination based on race in employment. The argument goes that if one corporation refuses to hire Blacks, they are putting themselves at a disadvantage and the firms that are equal-opportunity employers will do better, forcing the racist firms to change their hiring practices or lose money.

Even if this argument is true in fact, I disagree on moral grounds. Society should not allow a situation where certain groups can be openly excluded on racial grounds. Such a society promotes the existence of an “other,” and that is detrimental to having a cohesive society. Moreover, the other will often feel disadvantaged and will generally not be as successful. So I agree with Title VI.

But Title IX is different. If men’s teams excluded women, then the situations would be analogous. But men’s teams are inclusive, and women can play if they make the team based on merit. So women’s teams are a form of affirmative action, because the school creates these teams for people of a certain gender, and the teams are generally are not inclusive. I see no reason why creating women’s teams is any more correct than having two tracks of men’s teams. If both men and women can make the men’s team, then everyone has an equal opportunity. Creating teams for people who aren’t capable of making that team makes as much sense as creating special handicap teams.

I’ll deal with some other objections in later posts.

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