Football, the Newest Co-Ed Sport

by Shaker Alexmac, a transgender woman studying at the University of Florida.

An interesting gem from the lovely sunshine state: Florida's economy is suffering a lot from economic downturn, because the housing bubble has burst. This has hurt locals schools hard, given their dependence on property taxes, so they are cutting funding for everything. Enter the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) which just announced large scheduling cuts for high school athletic events. They made two exceptions to the cuts—football and cheerleading.

These exemptions reveal the continuing sexist traditions that lurk behind football. While other sports such as basketball and baseball have women's divisions or equivalents, football does not. Its women's "match" is cheerleading. So when the FHSAA went about to make cuts for sporting events, it tried to spare football (the most important sport in the state), and, as prescribed by Title IX, it had to spare a women's equivalent—for which the board naturally choose cheerleading. The only problem is that cheerleading has nowhere near the amount of participants as football does (5,522 to 40,456). Florida Parents for Athletic Equity quickly saw this disparity and sued them for violating Title IX.

In response to this suit, the FHSAA stuck its other foot in its mouth by declaring football a co-ed sport. Yes, football in Florida is officially a co-ed sport now. Too bad for the FHSAA that only 8 girls competed in football last year. I know girls are supposed to be bad at math, but that doesn't seem equal to me.

Perhaps realizing this, they have backed down only two days before the case was to be heard. For now the FHSAA will not be cutting any sports.

The players in this story are not surprising. High school football and the culture surrounding it, in large parts of the country, continues to hold onto a 1950s mindset, so far as women are concerned. I was actually a football player in high school (I was still in the closet), and I witnessed this culture first-hand. The worst thing you could be called by coaches was a woman. Femaleness and femininity was looked down on as signs of weakness. The cheerleaders were just play-toys for the star football players—and the star running back was excused from warm ups before games so he could receive oral sex from various women.

Making football co-ed would actually serve to reduce the sexism that surrounds this event, and there are girls out there who can hang with the guys on the field. Unfortunately, the FHSAA was just trying to save their asses and would not promote football as co-ed. Women in football will remain interesting stories for newspapers, and the culture of football will not change.

While it is always fun to have a laugh at governmental incompetence in Florida, this story goes to show the continuing importance of Title IX. The field of sports still runs rampant with sexism from the little leagues up to professional sports, and without Title IX, Florida would have drastically cut women's sports while leaving the largest male sport untouched.

Girls deserve an equal opportunity to participate in sports, and Title IX is integral in making that happen. You should give a look to the Women's Sport Foundation, which supports women in sports.

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