Raining on the Title IX parade

I’ve not found many more refreshing athletes to cover than Brandi Chastain.

And I’ve never been enamored with Republican politicians whose voting records are a predictable laundry list of all the issues, economic and social, that I couldn’t be more opposed to.

But when California Assemblyman Chris Norby expressed his concern this week over court interpretations of Title IX, it became a national story, and for all the wrong reasons.

With Chastain in the House chamber for a 40th anniversary Title IX recognition ceremony, Norby soured the celebrations with some rare public candor:

“We need to be honest about the effects of what I believe are faulty court interpretations or federal enforcement of Title IX, because it has led to the abolition of many male sports across the board in [California’s public universities]. And that was never the intention of this, to have numerical equality. It was never the intention to attain equality by reducing opportunities for the men.”

Chastain couldn’t say anything because Norby was not speaking at a public hearing. Instead, she winced, in an image that was widely reproduced in news outlets all across America.

A sampling of the breathless media response to someone saying something so terrible about Title IX:

Chastain “managed not to blow her top.” She even “kept her cool.” On the other hand, she “bristles.”

Can someone actually be all those things at the same time? Especially if there’s wincing involved? Ah, I digress.

According to the OC Weekly, Norby “inserts soccer shoe in mouth.”

ESPN.com: “Brandi Chastain winces at Title IX flak.”

Poor Brandi! Muzzled! By Flak!

The San Jose Mercury News wrote that Chastain “had to endure” Norby’s remark, adding that “it’s shameful that there are still people out there who think Title IX was a bad thing.”

Except that Norby neither said nor implied such a thing. He made it clear he objected to compliance methods that call for numerical provisions to achieve “equality,” which he accurately pointed out was not the original intent of the law, or the sports regulations that came later.

(If you want to get an idea of the absurd ramifications of a 1993 California NOW Title IX consent decree affecting sports programs at public universities in that state, here’s a recent example.)

Norby didn’t say anything about scuttling the law. But he learned that if you question the Title IX establishment at all, you’re in for a snoot full of blowback.

The Title IX blog: “Brandi Chastain witnesses backlash.” The predictable gender feminist term, trotted out right on cue, and reflexively used to describe any dissenting response to the party line.

Norby is a Republican from the conservative hotbed of Orange County, where he was a supervisor before being elected to Sacramento. I could not imagine ever voting for the so-called “wonk of the right,” especially with so many elected officials of similar ilk in my midst in the Deep South. But I share enough of a libertarian bent to see that he was able to get to the heart of the argument often made by critics of Title IX:

Title IX is a good law, with a bad interpretation.

This is my complaint; not the statute itself. The need for the law remains, because inequities do exist. The way it is being enforced has had a harmful effect on some male athletes in some sports. Not all, and not across the board. But the impact has been strong enough to warrant a closer examination that the Title IX powers-that-be simply will not tolerate.

Norby was condemned not just for what he said, but for saying anything at all.

Later, Chastain was interviewed by The Daily, explaining that her response to Norby would have been this:

“I think there’s missed perspective on what Title IX is. It’s not men’s sports against women’s sports. Let’s be honest about this — men’s football is a big money machine and so there’s a lot of money spent and other sports don’t have the luxury of spending it.”

Unmuzzled, at last!

Of course. It’s all football’s fault. The “other sports” don’t make the money; I invite Chastain or anyone else still clinging to this narrative to check out the high cost of non-revenue sports, for men and women, just at the University of Minnesota. This is where real “arms race” in college sports gets alarming.

The Daily story closed out with an interesting observation from Chastain about the need to “revisit”  the law “on a regular basis, [since] there will be people who don’t understand the history or where it comes from and that’s dangerous.”

I’ve been calling for that for a good long while, making specific suggestions about reworking Title IX here and here that might get the compliance methods back to what the law had in mind in the first place.

For Title IX absolutists, however, “revisiting” the issue isn’t about giving it a critical look. It’s about having another chance to restate their talking points about the law, and daring anyone to disagree.

Website Pin Facebook Twitter Myspace Friendfeed Technorati del.icio.us Digg Google StumbleUpon Premium Responsive