Almost everyone heard last week about the ban on sports bras for the Rowan University’s women’s cross country team. There was near universal outrage about the prohibition; discussions about the double standards female athletes face, the sexualization of female athletes, and the privileges of male football players.
All true and important things to discuss. It perhaps reminded some people of the moment at the 2018 US Open when French player Alize Cornet received a warning for taking the shirt she had put on backwards off and quickly switching it, thus “exposing” her sports bra. And, of course, we could just utter the name, Brandi Chastain, and well…you get it.
There is actually more to this story though: the Title IX implications.
First, the women were running in their own gear because they don’t get practice uniforms. They also do not have a locker room. These might not be violations. One would have to go to Rowan (or perhaps nicely ask the director of athletics for the information?!) to see if there are equal numbers of men and women who are not receiving these amenities.
But the second issue is the big one. The women’s team was relocated from their track–that surrounds a field where the football team practices–to a local high school track. They were removed from campus because they were distracting. And they have not been moved back!! Yes, they are now allowed to wear sports bras, but they have been kicked off campus by way of a rule that says two teams cannot use one facility at the same time. Again–we can go with speculation and say it would be ok–if other male athletes have been similarly displaced. However, the more pertinent fact is that the football team has another practice facility that they can use. (Also–do 100+ female athletes at Rowan have access to more than one practice facility??)
A friend of mine, in commenting on this story noted how the banning of sports bras because male football players were “distracted” is an example of men reasserting power that they never really lost. The quality of treatment the women’s cross country receives is a perfect example of all the power that remains in the hands of men’s sports.