In recent months, college sport has seen several high profile instances of violence by female athletes, from New Mexico soccer player Elizabeth Lambert pulling an opponent down by her ponytail to Baylor’s Brittany Griner currently serving a two-game suspension for punching another basketball player. In Sunday’s New York Times, reporter Jere Longman looks at these instances and others, and asks “what is going on?” Has violence increased with the rising stakes and pressure in women’s sports, as women emulate the behavior of men to be taken seriously as athletes? Or is it just our perception that has changed — manipulated both by the growth of the media and the 24/7 news cycle, and by the fact that instances of violence in women’s sports are reported against a backdrop of minuscule coverage of women’s sports generally?
Longman turned to several sports experts to help answer that question, including none other than my co-blogger Kris, who suggested that the media’s fixation on violence in women’s sport could be related to backlash against Title IX. The perception of violence in women’ sport lends support to who criticize Title IX and seek its repeal when it (like ACL tears) is framed as a problem caused or triggered by the law. This framing ignores the prevalence of violent acts in college men’s sports, and as Kris says in the article, misses the opportunity to examine the problem as a non-gender-specific one. Violence shouldn’t be tolerated in college sports, men’s or women’s. The solution to the problem of violence in women’s sport isn’t to stop advocating for women’s equality in sport, but to change the college sports culture that pressures student-athletes to commit acts of violence or that valorizes it rather than condemning it as, in Kris’s words, “third grade behavior.”
Nice job, Kris — way to represent the Title IX Blog!