Sports 1, Womanhood 0

NPR's Frank Deford laments "the decline of women into the depths of the male athletic syndrome."

Published May 24, 2006 9:20PM (EDT)

In a piece featured on today's "Morning Edition," NPR commentator Frank Deford laments the "irony" of Title IX: that female athletes have begun to "mimic their fellow male jocks in all the wrong ways." Sinking grades and scummy sexualized hazing (see recent attention to; wholesale succumbing to the campus "athletic culture," even seduction by female coaches of student athletes. Sprinkling his comments with cheap shorthand ("the 'Desperate Housewives' effect," "the Tonya Harding award"), Deford observes that women seem to be "holding their own as malefactors in the male athletic realm."

Deford certainly has evidence for his observation. But what about his conclusion? "Oh, my," he sighs. "We had hoped when women started coming into sports in large numbers after the passage of Title IX that they would improve the institution, investing it with the finer feminine values. So far the results seem to indicate that instead sports has won, and womanhood has lost."

OK, hold on.

In the words of one Broadsheet tipster: "I recognize that Mr. Deford himself is not saying that women are running wild, and in the past he has mourned the loss of sportsmanship and values in modern day athletics. [But] what exactly are the 'finer feminine values'? And what has womanhood lost? I am incensed that women are being blamed for not fixing sports and even more incensed that they are also being blamed for conforming to the norm in the sports world. And I won't even go into the stereotypical gender roles that are presumed by thinking that women on the field have some internalized sisterhood, or are vastly more genteel than men on the playing field."

Do we need to question certain elements of all campus athletic culture? Sure. Is it disturbing to see anyone copycat the alpha-boneheads? Oh, yes. But as our tipster suggests, I'm pretty sure that women who've benefited from Title IX thought they were showing up to play, not to get everyone else to play nice.

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

MORE FROM Lynn Harris

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