This essay examines two different approaches to gender equity in sport. Specifically, it will review the university rowing systems used in both America and Canada between 1972 and the present day. Historical differences, Title IX legislation, and inequal levels of funding are causes of differences between the systems. Therefore this analysis is not a direct comparison, but an exploration of two separate methods through which gender equity in collegiate rowing may be addressed.
Informing this gender equity and values analysis will be the respective historical context of both countries’ gendered rowing history. Because both the American and Canadian collegiate rowing programs approach the issue of gender equity in different ways, the analysis will focus on my perception of each country’s ability to achieve their respective stated goals. That is, my assumption that national and cultural values influences the different approaches to gender equity. Conclusions will be drawn based on each country’s ability to meet their goals, and the extent to which those goals support gender equity.
The outcome of this analysis should further our understanding of both approaches – that is, external legislation and internal policies – toward chieving gender equality in collegiate sport. While this paper discusses the current status of gender equity in collegiate rowing, it would be poorly informed to not include the developments of gender equity pertaining to North American rowing. My understanding of those proceedings is supported by primary sources when possible. Throughout this essay, the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, and New York Times have primarily been used to sustain these developments.
Those newspapers were selected because rowing is a fairly niche sport in North America, and therefore needed the largest reader-base ources to maintain any consistent coverage. Additionally, the biographies and memoirs of some rowers, when possible, will be included to inform the context. The combination of newspaper and memoirs is important because while more insight may be found in the latter, the former is more likely to objectively report on events and public perception thereof. I will provide some introductory definitions for clear communication of the remainder of this essay.
I will focus on rules and definitions used at the international level. Rowing comes in two forms; sweep and scull. Sweep is when each ower has one oar, while sculling rowers have two oars apiece. Boats are designated by the number of rowers, and which style of rowing they compete in. Therefore, possible boats for sweep are a pair, four, and eight, while in sculling there is a single, double, and quad. Coxswains are athletes who sit within a rowing shell to steer, execute race plans, and motivate the rowers.
The designations of an event depend on the weight class (L/H for light or heavy); gender (W/M for women, men); number of athletes in a boat, whether it is sweep (-) or scull (x), and whether or not it has a coxswain (+). Sculling events do not use coxswains and, at the elite level, they are often only found in eights. Therefore, a lightweight women’s coxed four would be written as LW4+ while a heavyweight men’s double would be written HM2X. The issue of gender equality can not be disregarded. The core values of balance and fairness are commendable.
It should not be confused with gender equity. Equity is providing resources to ensure fulfilling and positive experiences, and accounts for the different circumstances between people. Equality is the promotion of fairness and balance. Both equality and equity are oncerned with social differences, but approach them in different ways. Ethically, men and women should have the same opportunities. The issues that follow are concerned with how those opportunities are created, and how they can be fairly distributed to everyone. There is a growing awareness and acceptance of social equality.
Cultural practices in western societies are coming to understand that no one controls the circumstances of their own birth, and therefore society must operate so as to limit prejudices and opportunities that depend on such uncontrollable facts. i While the ultimate goal would be making egislation and policy to create social equality redundant, society has not yet reached that state. As such, we must continue to try different approaches to cultivate equality until we create change. Title IX was introduced in 1972, but did not immediately come into effect because the laws needed interpretations from the courts.
The Canadian juxtaposition is interesting because it has no such sport-specific, nor university-specific, law that targets these cases of gender equality. Another difference between the two countries is the level of funding available to university athletics. There is a large gap between American and Canadian intercollegiate sporting budgets. Furthermore, within those countries, additional divisions exist between popular and niche sports. A strong understanding of Title IX must therefore be established first, before delving into the history of rowing and its current context.
During World War II, there were a variety of societal roles and responsibilities that fell to women in the absence of men. Traditionally limited to the domestic sphere in the western world, there are a number of examples wherein women successfully took on formerly male-dominated jobs or esponsibilities. This list includes the All American Girls’ Pro Baseball League, and the US Navy program Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES). WAVES, when added to the nurses serving in the US Navy, created over 100,000 jobs for women in the US Naval forces alone. i
Much has been written elsewhere on these topics, and they are merely examples of the social duties collectively taken up by women during the mid 20th century. The important takeaway from these circumstances is the empowerment of women in the social sphere. Having successfully filled male-dominated workplaces and esponsibilities, women were then expected to give up their new-found opportunities for returning soldiers. Unsurprisingly, this expectation was met with scepticism and resistance by women who had adjusted to their new roles in society during the war.
This resistance can be seen by the formation of political groups like the National Organization for Women (NOW). NOW led the social and political push for fair treatment. iii Empowerment came from responsibility – women had been expected to do jobs that previously were restricted from them, and had done so successfully. With employment ame the same benefits as before the Great Depression: money and increased leisure time. Women were largely reluctant to leave these benefits behind. Maintaining these benefits became a primary lobbying goal of NOW.
Second Wave feminism grew as a response to societal expectations of women returning to the domestic sphere. They wanted to keep their jobs, their money, their leisure time. Despite having had access to voting for less than half a century, women (along with African Americans) exerted their new political power and lobbying to influence the creation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. v This bill represented the desire of women to regain and improve their social positions held during the war.
The Civil Rights Act marked the beginning of legislative improvement for groups subject to discrimination in America. Legislation for military service, family planning, pregnancy, and divorce were among some of the key changes in American society as a part of the feminist movement. Among these changes was the Title IX amendment to the Higher Edu Title IX’s original intention was not sport-based at all, merely an attempt to create opportunities for women at academic tion Act of 1965. institutions that received federal funding.
McDonagh goes on to describe the “burning issue at the centre of Title IX was not sports but womens’ equal entry into educational institutions as students. “vi It was the attempt to address the practice of denial of opportunities, a rejection of discrimination, similar to the intention of Title VII, the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title IX stipulates that no discrimination can take place “on the basis of gender… under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. “vii Multiple measures and avenues or success and achievement were identified for Title IX, with sport quickly becoming a primary approach.
American sport policy generally takes an economic free market approach to sport. There are some federal regulations, but unlike other nations, there is no government organization or department that administers sport policies. viii There are instead three systems: professional, inter-scholastic (from elementary to post-secondary), and club. Strongly established secondary and post-secondary sport leagues have long been serving as developmental leagues for professionals. Collins, a sport evelopment and social exclusion professional, argues that universities foster sport development. x So, with a primarily hands-off approach by the American government, an inter- scholastic system which handles the bulk of sport policies and issues, and the political environment regarding civil rights, Title IX was enacted and began to be implemented. There were various goals of Title IX.
While the basis was to provide equal access to education, and later to sport, there were other benefits, both stated and implied. University of Pittsburgh professor of Law, Deborah Brake, described that iews on equality maintain that discrimination are best avoided by ignoring qualifiers such as colour and gender, and instead looking at the individual. This was the success of the various movements of the time period – to change the culture in institutions to create equality. To illustrate that individuals wanted to participate in sports, one should look at the immediate growth under the law.
Title IX required high school compliance by 1977, by which time girls in high school sports teams had increased from 1% of girls to 26. 7%. xi By 1996, the total participation in high school girls had grown to 2,000,000. ii By 2009 there were 3,000,000 girls in high school sports, and 170,000 in collegiate sport. iii Many institutions lagged, but the five year growth of just high school participation shows that there was a desire to participate, if given the opportunity. That growth into the 21st century displays a conscious effort to access sport. Women, despite opposition to their right to play, immediately began to participate when given the opportunity.
Soft skills and traits are learned in team and individual sports alike, and it is to society’s benefit that everyone, not just half the population, gains these skills. v When sport is introduced before, or during high school, girls have less likelihood of delinquency, drug use, unplanned pregnancy, and they improve their body image and self-confidence. xv Another source includes increased “self worth, lower incidence of depression and anxiety… lower risk of childhood obesity... and a reduced risk of suicide. “xvi Women’s mental and physical health is increased with sport. This has the added benefit of saving money combating these issues after they have taken root.
Sport helps to dispel the myths that there is only one female body type, and that said body type is a weak girl who needs help. xvii These benefits, from leadership, to physiological and psychological health, to improved gender identity, are incredible. These are the goals of Title IX – opportunity, and with it, benefits to people and society. Moreover, the element of choice, that the option of competing merely existed, is essential. In their autobiography of the 1988 Canadian Women’s National Rowing Team, Heather Clarke and Susan Gwynn-Timothy write of their experiences.
They state that women do not compete because of traditions like “becoming a man,” but because they like it, in the simplest terms possible. xviii They go on to quote teammate Kathryn Barr having repeatedly explaining that “‘|| don’t have any dark needs to overcompensate for… I row because I like it. “xix Title IX also has an unstated goal of increasing female representation in coaching and administration, as it is supposed to represent a complete overhaul of systemic discrimination. xx Unfortunately, not all of these goals were achieved immediately, while some are still being worked toward.
Evaluation of Title IX acceptance became a three-pronged assessment. The “primary areas [were] financial assistance, accommodation of interest and ability, and other athletic program elements. “xxi This suggestion meant that programs should be equal in quality, but were not necessarily identical in structure. The first ‘prong’ in these standards was ensuring male-female student-athlete ratios were similar to the general gender ratios of the school. Second, a commitment toward the evening of genders. The options given were the growth of female programming, or a decrease in male programming.
The committee emphasized their preference for the former, with a desire to avoid the latter. The final test was reasonable growth. Salter provides the example of a five woman hockey team in Kansas as unsuitable because the interest level does not suggest reasonable competition or participation. xxii These standardized assessments created guidelines for developing secondary and post-secondary female sporting opportunities; the hope and intention being an institutionalization of female sport to encourage further participation in higher education among women.
A factor in the prevention of Title IX’s goals is the criticism of the law and of its goals. Vocal critics claimed that it was a feminist attempt to remove men from sport. In fact, the issue was not limiting male roles, but having access to fully supported (staff, equipment, facilities, funding) as male teams. xxiii Richard Lapichick, a scholar in race and equality in sport, described a solution to the issue by proposing the possibility of having “100 men who want to play football... have 100 women compete in field hockey, volleyball, and synchronized swimming. xiv
The goal was not to limit or subtract from men’s sports (something indeed that was frowned upon by those who tested compliance with the law), but to offer equality of programs. xxv The equality was intended to be seen at all levels, which remains an issue to the present-day. A final and still-persistent criticism is over financing and the opportunity to maintain male sports because they can self-finance. While athletic departments complain about the financial bottom line, women’s basketball has emerged as a money-making sport, and as many as 20% of all NCAA athletic departments operate in revenue generating budgets. xxvi