By Ryley Holmes, V Form, and Hannah Macleod, IV Form
Colorblindness To Gender Inequality in the SM Community
Despite gains made after the passing of Title IX in 1972, gender inequality still exists in school athletic programs. A close look at St. Mark’s athletics program helps suggest the ideas of gender equity in sports.
|Key Points:Due to Title IX, Women are unable to be excluded from participating in sports in educational institutions that are federally funded. However, we are socialized and have conformed to the norms that women do not participate in certain sports at St. Mark’s. Sports donors at St. Mark’s are required to donate to both the boys and girls varsity programs for a specific sport, as opposed to a particular gender in that sport to ensure equitable funding. However, those sports that only have one varsity team receive all of the funds for only one program. Men typically specialize in one sport whereas women tend to be members of multiple sports teams. This specialization is geared towards men, for their future income is reliant on playing a professional sport. This specialization is reinforced throughout all of American society.|
Research on gender and athletics at St. Mark’s reveals that while progress has been made since Title IX was passed in 1972, the societal norms and structures still make gender equity more of a goal than a reality. Those who are part of the minority groups of society face these degrading acts each day due to society’s perception of their identity. More specifically, women face oppression each day, due to the power that the dominant group holds in society. Males appear as the norm, which sets society’s expectations based on their benefits. Sports are portrayed to society (including St. Mark’s) as a predominantly male-dominated aspect of life, which makes women feel inferior, whether men are aware of it or not. At St. Mark’s, the community strives to create an equitable environment for all genders; however, improvements have and will continue to be made to ensure this sense of gender equity.
The U.S. Department of Education proposes the idea of equity through Title IX, 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 education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” (“Title IX”). In the St. Mark’s community, girls are allowed to participate in certain predominantly male sports, yet they often do not. This is due to the socialization of women in society, and the implication that sports were not originally made for them to participate in. For instance, the ISL allows female players to play football but only in JV games. This regulation alludes to the fact that women do not have the same capabilities as men to compete at a higher level. While there is a fear of women getting hurt at a high level due to their physical stature, this fear could be just as present at a lower level. However, society does not challenge this because it has continuously been reinforced throughout different cultures and beliefs. Men’s attitudinal and internal privilege blinds them to this reality, which imposes a divide between women and men. Besides, football is not considered a “Co-ed” sport on the ISL website. It is specifically defined as a male sport, yet females are allowed to participate. This suggests the larger institution’s lack of attention towards the idea of gender equity across various schools (ISL Sports).
Men hold dominant positions in the institution of sports (and in most realms of society), which allows them to set the norms in athletics. Typically, male high school athletes focus their time on one sport, in which they have the highest skill. At St. Mark’s, most male athletes spend their “offseason” training. Rather than playing three different sports in all three seasons, they typically participate in Strength and Conditioning. However, female St. Mark’s students often compete in two or three different sports during the year instead of focusing on one field of sports. This past Fall, of the sixteen athletes who participated in the Strengthening & Conditioning program, only three athletes were girls (Bates). Seeing as it is the norm for men to focus their attention on a particular sport in which they thrive, women feel pressured to pretend they understand, but do not challenge or get in the way of the norms. These norms that are put in place for the benefit of men have been and are still apparent in American culture, which forces girls in the St. Mark’s community to not challenge them.
Overall, St. Mark’s has made changes to strive towards improving upon the acts of oppression that are prevalent in our athletic community. However, our socialization, men’s specialization, and donation equity still need to transform over the years. In order to move forward, it is essential to be aware of the inequality that is taking place and correct it. For many people are still blinded by their own actions, it is necessary to raise awareness regarding this current issue throughout our community.
To raise awareness surrounding gender equity in our community, we plan to publish our brief in the LEO. By using this school-wide resource, we hope to reach various audiences in the SM community. We want to inform both the athletic community and beyond to bring attention to their blindness to prevalent issues that surround them. By using statistics from the athletic department, we are able to visualize how our community considers gender equity throughout sports. In addition, we hope to portray the imperfect institution that we are part of and present areas upon which we can improve.
Ryley Holmes is a V form boarding student from Ashland, Massachusetts. Her favorite subjects are English and Spanish, and she enjoys playing field hockey, basketball, and tennis.
Hannah Macleod is a IV form boarding student from Medfield, Massachusetts. Her favorite subject is English, and she enjoys playing sports.
— Bates, Casey. Personal Interview. 10 Dec. 2019.
— “Independent School League.” Independent School League, https://www.islsports.org/.
— Sensoy, Özlem. DiAngelo, Robin J. Is Everyone Really Equal?: An Introduction To Key Concepts In Social Justice Education. New York: Teachers College Press, 2017. Print.
— “Title IX and Sex Discrimination”. U.S. Department of Education (ED), 25 Sept. 2018, https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/tix_dis.html.