University of Pittsburgh law professor Deborah Brake recently published a thought-provoking scholarly article (free download) examining the relationship between Title IX and a generalizable preference among female athletes for male coaches, which has been demonstrated by various studies. This preference, Professor Brake argues, contributes to the decline in coaching opportunities for women, who are presently a minority among college coaches of women’s teams. More broadly, the preference exposes the ways in which sex discrimination, in its subtlety and complexity, operates counter to the paradigm of discrimination that is recognized by law. For one, the bias is “within group” (i.e. exerted against women by other women) and “bottom-up” (exerted by those with less power on those with more). For another, it is a product of social forces that mediate women’s agentic choices and preferences. Finally, it is a preference rooted in the intersection of sexism and anti-gay bias, and in this way, exposes the limits of discrimination law’s one-dimensional, uni-lateral paradigm. By exposing counter-paradigmatic examples, Professor Brake argues, we can challenge discrimination law to become more responsive, and identify extralegal strategies for dealing with complexities of gender bias in and beyond the context of athletics.
Article citation: Deborah Brake, Discrimination Inward and Upward: Lessons on Law and Social Inequality from the Troubling Case of Women Coaches, 2 Indiana Journal of Law & Social Inequality 1 (2014).