I have two daughters, 19 and 17 years old.
There were many factors that contributed to their adolescent years, but without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most positive was their participation in school athletics. Throughout middle school and high school, there was rarely a season when one of them wasn’t involved in at least one school-sponsored girls’ athletic team, not to mention club teams they played on during the off-season. Whether it was gymnastics, volleyball, swimming, or track, participating in sports developed parts of their social-emotional and physical health in ways that could not be found elsewhere and, undoubtedly, will continue to have an impact on their lives for many years to come.
Thank you, Title IX.
Title IX was the law passed in 1972 that finally opened up female participation in sports and athletics across the nation. Before Title IX, male athletes outnumbered female athletes 12.5 to 1. Since Title IX, female participation at the high school level has grown by 1,057% and by 614% at the collegiate level. It has made spectacular, record-breaking athletic achievements possible for women, scholarship opportunities, new careers, and a healthier overall well-being for millions of girls and young women across the country.
But with the institution of one of the Biden Administration’s executive orders, that’s about to change. Shortly after the President and the first female Vice President were sworn into office, one of their first orders of business was to sign an “Executive Order on Preventing and Combatting Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Equality or Sexual Orientation.”
Sounds okay on the surface, doesn’t it? There’s nothing wrong with equality, inclusion and non-discrimination.
Or is there?
The problem is, this order stands to undo the years and years of progress that has been made in the way of opportunities for millions of young girls — like my daughters and yours — especially when it comes to sports and athletics.
According to the order, “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room or school sports ... All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.”
In other words, any school that receives federal funding must allow biological boys who identify as girls on to girls’ sports teams or face administrative action. (Of course, the reverse would also be true, but, interestingly, when was the last time we saw a boy taking issue with being unequally pitted against a girl in an athletic competition?)
For this new presidential administration that has made it abundantly clear that science will now take center stage when addressing our nation’s problems, it seems like science has been tossed out the window.
Don’t we all know that girls and boys are ... well, different? Obviously, the physical differences between the two exist from birth, but it’s undeniable once puberty sets in, right around the time intramural sports and athletics also begin for most kids. The testosterone in boys really kicks into overdrive and the physiological chasm between the sexes only widens.
When it’s all said and done, the biological differences between boys and girls can’t be ignored:
Boys have larger skeletal structures, which provide a clear mechanical advantage over girls.
Boys have higher muscle mass and bone density, which allows for greater speed and acceleration.
Boys have larger hearts and higher oxygen-carrying capacity, which allows them to perform exercise at higher intensities (VO2max).*
There’s a reason we have “men’s” and “women’s” sports; to make competition fair and equitable. It wouldn’t make sense, for instance, to allow a male who naturally has longer legs and a larger bone structure to compete in hurdles (where stride length clearly matters) against a heat of women. What girl would want to run in that race?
And there’s a reason why, since 1972, we’ve seen such remarkable athletic achievements from women like Jackie Joyner, Serena Williams, Dara Torres, and Simone Biles, among many others. Not to mention the thousands of girls around the country who have landed college scholarships, awards, and careers because of their athletic achievements at their local high schools. Imagine how many of those records and accomplishments wouldn’t even exist if their bodies had been poised in competition against men?
According to Erin Blocker, Ph.D., exercise physiologist and instructor at ESU in the health and human performance department, it’s simply a matter of biology, nothing more, nothing less. Blocker, who has coached track and field at the collegiate level for over 16 years and teaches classes on exercise physiology and sports nutrition, has seen first hand what it can mean for a male who identifies as a girl to compete in a women’s event.
“... it meant this biological male athlete, who identified as a girl, won the 2019 Division II National Championship in the women’s 400-meter hurdles, while ‘her’ competitor, a biological girl — who would have otherwise won — finished 2nd.”
It just wasn’t fair.
Non-discrimination and inclusion are important and necessary. We would all agree. But we also need to use scientific facts ... and common sense ... when we approach the issue.
Title IX was created to open doors and remove barriers in sports for women and girls (not for boys) and its impact over the last 50 years cannot be underestimated.
Electing one woman into the White House for the first time while simultaneously throwing away all that’s been accomplished for thousands and thousands of other women with this executive order is certainly not a victory we should celebrate.
Do we need a new division in athletics or a different method of rankings for athletes? Perhaps. There have to be some solutions. But making our girls pay the price is not an option.
*The highest VO2max ever recorded for a male athlete is 96ml/kg/min. The highest VO2max ever recorded for a female athlete is 77ml/kg/min.