Panel talks girls, women, sexuality and sports
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Panel evaluates women’s roles in athletic positions
Dividing sports by gender has been both beneficial and harmful for the women’s movement, according to the research of a panel of UNLV professors, who spoke Thursday on the issue.
The panel of five spoke at a roundtable discussion called “What’s the Score: Girls, Women, Sexuality and Sports,” which was held in the William S. Boyd School of Law building.
Ann McGinley, a law professor at UNLV, addressed the debate as to whether segregating men’s and women’s sports is a better option than pooling the talent into one team. She made an overhead list that showed the issue is not as black-and-white as people may think.
“It does offer the view that women are inferior,” McGinley said, “but it also gives fewer options for women because only the elite [women's athletes] will be able to play.”
The biggest issue, according to McGinley, is that if women are allowed to join the men’s team, “the men might take over the women’s team.”
The other problem she tackled in her speech was that the gender segregation leads to the policing of gender and the defining of what is female.
“[Athletic women] are called lesbians and this affects the definition of sex.”
While McGinley debated Title IX’s usefulness for much of the time, she did praise it for coming into existence and raising the standard for women’s athletics, as she told an anecdote about when her girls’ high school basketball team was still playing 3-on-3, half-court games.
Even the most dominant players did not have aspirations to take their careers any further, McGinley said.
“At that time, a woman receiving a scholarship for athletics was unfathomable.”
One statistic she said she was glad to see was that both men’s and women’s athletic participation have gone up since the implementation of Title IX.
Title IX, or the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, states that no one can be denied equal funding or equal opportunities in educational programs based on gender. Women’s athletics is one of the aspects of this equal treatment that falls under the jurisdiction of Title IX.
Ann Cammett, associate professor of the UNLV law school, shared in McGinley’s joy over this point.
“One thing that Title IX did was that it educated boys on women’s sports,” Cammett said, “and you suddenly had men going to the women’s games.”
Her presentation focused on the success story of Anucha Brown-Sanders. Brown-Sanders was inducted into the Northwestern University Hall of Fame in 1993 before going on to work for Madison Square Garden and the New York Knicks in 2000.
Cammett, however, focused mainly on Brown-Sanders’ biggest struggle.
“In 2006, she was fired from the Knicks for filing a sexual harassment suit against [then-General Manager] Isiah Thomas.”
The trial was a case of “he said-she said” until, according to Cammett, Thomas “killed his credibility” during his testimony. She noted that this $11.6 million victory was a huge step forward for the women’s movement.
Also speaking at the event were Nancy Lough, editor of Sports Marketing Quarterly and an associate professor in sports education leadership at UNLV, and Doris Watson, associate professor and graduate coordinator of the Department of Sports Education Leadership at UNLV.
Lough noted in her opening that she and Watson were teammates on their school’s Division II national champion basketball team.
Marcia Gallo, assistant professor of history at UNLV, moderated the event. She opened up the day by discussing Caster Semenya, a South African women’s track runner whose gender had been questioned and put under scrutiny by the event’s governing body.
The event itself, co-sponsored by the Women’s Institute of Nevada, Gender Dialogues and Organization of Women Law Students, was held in honor of Women’s Herstory Month and the 28th annivesary of Title IX.