Research Paper on Gender Equality
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Example Research Paper on Gender Equality
Since the enactment of Title IX in 1972, women have come a long way to balance out the social injustices they faced in society. The one sentence law taken from Cotton and Wolohan (2001) stated that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” (p. 563).
Initially, the law had been enacted to prevent discrimination in schools. The legislative bodies had no idea the impact that this statute would have on the opportunities for women to participate in sports. However, the controversy surrounding Title IX today is that the law places gender quotas on institutions. This “gender equality” law has caused much trouble for the men and for the women it had intended to help.
Gavora (2002) looked at the unintended consequences of Title IX in her book, Tilting the Playing Field: Schools, Sports, Sex, and Title IX. Gavora examined cases of college athletes, professors, and legislation to show that Title IX had a negative effect on all college athletics. Equality of opportunity was demanded by the statute, but some schools were not ready for the change. This allowed for the demise of many prestigious men’s programs across the country. Some examples given by Gavora of these men’s teams that were terminated due to progress toward compliance with the statute were the Providence College baseball team, Princeton’s wrestling, swimming, and diving programs, Boston University’s football program, and UCLA’s swimming and diving program. These programs were all successful and some of them even turned out professional athletes and Olympic champions.
Title IX had an enormous impact on the sporting world, but its application didn’t stop on the playing field. Gavora (2002) showed how bureaucrats, activists, and radical feminists used Title IX to make claims in the areas of sexual harassment and areas of education where they felt the law applied. In one case, a North Carolina first-grader was suspended from school because he kissed a member of his class on the cheek. Under the law the six-year-old had committed sexual harassment and he was punished. An example of how the law applied in education was the changing of the questions on the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT). Questions on the exam were found to be gender biased. Gender discrimination was found in the awarding of the National Merit Scholars based on the PSAT because too few recipients were women.
Where will the expansion of the power given to Title IX stop? Gavora looked at this issue last as an attempt to show a need for new legislation to create boundaries. Gavora (2002) stated that “even though the public does not yet have an accurate understanding of how Title IX is being implemented today, there are storm clouds on the horizon for use of this law in schemes involving gender equity” (p. 156). Men are feeling most of the negative effects of Title IX and until a better interpretation of the law is presented, they will continue to be punished for things beyond their control.
The issues of Title IX and gender equity encompass many social ramifications and social factors. Many of the ramifications can be explained by the related social factors. Three pertinent social factors that apply to the issue of gender equity are social roles, social change, and social conflict.
Social roles are defined by society or groups within a society. Landis (1992) defines a social role by “the behavior of one who occupies a particular status” (p. 87). Societies expect certain behavior from people who occupy certain positions.
Traditionally, the role of women has been to be the nurturing and compassionate sex. This view left little room for women to join the competitive, aggressive, and physical nature of athletics. Clasen (2001) found in her study of the female athlete that the women athlete wants to be feminine, “which means that social roles are valued more than sport roles, and life goals include marriage and motherhood rather than being a champion athlete” (Dualisms and Paradox in Practice Section, para. 3). How did society view women athletes? Clasen found that “a female athlete is always two different people, but a male athlete can be the same all the time” (Dualisms and Paradox in Practice Section, para. 7). Back at the time of the civil rights movement women playing sports were few and far between. Today, it is amazing how far women have come since that time. What are acceptable and unacceptable sports for women today? Reimer and Visio (2003) did a study to determine if children grades K-12 perceived certain sports to be masculine, feminine, or neutral. The information was obtained from 365 students through paper and pencil questionnaires designed for different age groups. The researchers found that “certain sports are gender specific” (Conclusions Section, para. 1). Open-ended responses were submitted by grades 7-12. These responses inferred that stereotyping and sexism prevailed at these ages. This showed that at these age levels students had a preconceived notion of what roles were to be filled by men and women.
Another finding by Reimer and Visio (2003) was that with some sports neutrality was high at a young age, but as age increased certain sports were identified as male or female sports. This could be due to the fact that at a younger age students are more inclined to play sports as a social gathering rather than for competition, which allows them to associate with both sexes. Reimer and Visio inclined that “this may be a by-product of the youth sport environment, in which boys play baseball and girls play softball. By the sixth grade, few boys are participating in recreational softball leagues” (Conclusions Section, para. 4). Students begin to recognize social roles at some point in their adolescence and begin to conform to the norms of society to fit these perceived roles. Social roles are developed through socialization and factors of the environment. Gavora (2002) showed that “social scientists don’t discount the role of environmental factors or socialization in producing girls who would rather play with dolls and boys who would rather play with guns”(p.134). Social roles are played out by pursuing different interests. The problem exists when a person is denied the right to pursue their interests.
Role models are an important part to students development. Many female role models have come into the spotlight as a result of Title IX. Athletics and business enterprises have allowed for women to reach lofty goals and influence future generations. Women have fared well in athletics on the field, but this has not carried over to positions of athletic administration. Whisenet (2003) conducted a study to see how women have fared as athletic administrators since the passage of Title IX. An e-mail was sent to all 50 states athletic associations in order to gain demographic information on athletic directors. Twenty-two states responded giving a total of 7,041 athletic directors or administrators. Whisenet found that “of those members, 6,142 were men (87%) and 899 were women (13%)” (Results Section, para. 1). There is an abundance of successful male administrators, which provides direction to young males by showing them required characteristics of athletic administration. Whisenet claims that “many girls may abandon career pursuits associated with athletics because of the absence of a network of women to serve as role models and mentors” (Discussion Section, para. 4). Increased participation opportunities for women may have decreased the number of women interested in pursuing administrative positions.
The changing roles in today’s society have led to some permanent social changes. Hess, Markson, and Stein (1991) define social change as “the process through which values, norms, institutions, social relationships, and stratification systems alter over time”(p. 479). In social change, role behavior becomes different for those members of society. Equal rights for all people were a major social change in the United States.
A major social change in athletics was the integration of Title IX into the governing of athletic programs. Gavora (2002) pointed out that defenders of Title IX relied on the fact that “before Title IX, 1 in 27 high school girls played sports. Today that number is 1 in 3” (p. 32). Based on the numbers, it is evident that women’s opportunities skyrocketed after Title IX was in place, but the unseen consequence was the displacement of long time established men’s programs. Institutions had to change there athletic team distribution to be in compliance with the statute. This forced many men’s programs out in order to offer women’s programs the same opportunities. A reason for this tradeoff was because it was much easier to transfer the men’s teams budgets over to the women’s teams rather than trying to expand the already bloated athletic budgets of larger universities. Sigelman and Wahlbeck (1999) researched gender proportionality in intercollegiate athletics and found that “cost cutting, not program expansion, has been the norm in intercollegiate athletics over the last two decades” (Substantial Proportion Section, para. 3). Rather than increasing opportunity for all, the number of athletes at institutions doesn’t change.
In regards to gender equity, social changes are taking place more often. The trend has been for the U.S. to move towards equality for all of its citizens. Reaching this goal means providing opportunities in schools, athletics, and in the job market. This progression has not produced all positive results. With social change comes social conflict. MacArthur and MacArthur (1999) defined social conflict as “the various types of negative social interaction that may occur within social relationships (e.g., arguments, criticism, hostility, unwanted demands), and may include physical violence” (Definition Section, para. 1). Gender equity and Title IX has caused much social conflict. This conflict was highlighted in Gavora’s book. Title IX defenders believed that the advancement of women in sports was due to Title IX. This was evident in their use of the 1999 Women’s U.S. World Cup soccer team as an example of female success. Gavora (2002) believed:
The ritualistic attribution of the success of the U.S. women’s soccer team and by extension all successful female athletes to Title IX oversimplifies complex social changes in America that produced equal opportunity for women, and it also demeans talented athletes and their accomplishments. (p.40)
The way people view others is a major source of social conflict, especially when these views lead to discrimination against another individual or group. Wade (2001) researched professional men’s attitudes toward race and gender equity. His work particularly looked at discrimination in the workplace against minorities and women. Wade’s participants in the study were 170 adult men across the U.S., who were contacted by their e-mail, and asked to complete a survey questionnaire. The research examined male reference group identity and how dependence on the reference group caused for the ideology of traditional masculinity to stand out in the professional work environment. Traditional masculinity encompasses what men do and what they don’t do. With regards to a men’s reference group that focuses on traditional masculinity, anything feminine can be frowned upon. Wade (2001) stated:
Therefore, it is possible that men whose reference group is the “traditional” male, and who are dependent on this image of masculinity to define themselves as characteristically male, may also define themselves by excluding from their identity any characteristics that are contrary to that image. (Discussion Section, para. 2)
With these views still present in the working environment, social conflict will continue to exist, especially in the area of gender equity.
With the views of the traditional male ever present in our society, progress toward gender equity will be slowed. Title IX has helped the U.S. progress toward equality, but the social conflicts that it has caused remain apparent in society.
Cunningham and Sagas (2002) researched the differential effects of human capital for male and female division I basketball coaches. The researchers looked at the human capital investment, “head coaching aspirations and occupational turnover intentions of male and female assistant coaches” (Introduction Section, para. 5). Research showed that the most valuable characteristic for advancing in the coaching profession was playing experience. Cunningham and Sagas showed that “overall women had greater intercollegiate playing experience than did men” (Results Section, para. 2). Based on the researchers argument, “it is possible that, although women possess more salient human capital, they do not reap the rewards of such acquisition and consequently perceive little upward mobility in the coaching profession. Because the number of women coaches is statistically low, it is fair to suggest that women are possibly being discriminated against in the coaching ranks. Cunningham and Sagas made it clear that the struggle women have had to endure with discriminatory practices continues” (Discussion Section, para. 7).
In the discussion of gender equity, many social issues arise. The topic is not limited to the three issues of social roles, social change, and social conflict. All three of these issues are interconnected within the struggle of gender equity. It has been shown that women have a history of being discriminated against and they will continue to struggle until society accepts the rules it has set upon itself. The problem with Title IX is that it assumes equal interests and abilities of all people. Gavora (2002) showed that “any honest examination of a law must evaluate its central premise in this case, that the sexes are identical in their interests and abilities” (p.133). It is unclear whether total equality will ever be reached.
Gavora (2002) claims “the way out is to defend the principle of nondiscrimination, even when it is hard” (p. 164). When society recognizes that its people have different interests and abilities and that they should not be denied the right to pursue these interests and abilities, a major step in the direction of reaching the goal of gender equity will be taken.