May 18, 2010
Why Do Feminists Hate Female Flag Football?
Posted by Christine Hurt

OK, so I went for a little alliteration at the expense of accuracy.  In the NYT Sunday, a few high-powered females slammed high school flag football for girls, which apparently is really popular in Florida and some other states with football cultures.  Flag football is even a varsity sport in Florida and Alaska.  So, isn't this great?  Title IX working at its best?  Not for some people.

Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Olympic swimmer, Florida Coastal law professor, Title IX expert and senior director of advocacy at the Women's Sports Foundation, says no.  She says that administrations have pushed this on high school women and that it is a dead end sport because the NCAA does not recognize it.  This is also the complaint of Neena Chaudhry, counsel for National Women's Law Center.  Because participation in flag football does not create educational opportunities (i.e., college scholarships), then the sport does not fulfill the promise of Title IX. 

So, a few things.  I am not a respected expert like Prof. Hogshead-Makar and have no knowledge of Title IX's stated or unstated purposes, but I would think that part of achieving equality in sports at the high school level is having sufficient opportunities for both genders to play sports.  Flag football seems like a good opportunity that is very popular.  It doesn't have expensive equipment or facilities, so it's good for schools' budgets.  Also, a lot of people can play football.  My daughter plays volleyball.  That's 6 kids.  And unless one of them gets on a bad run or gets hurt, they don't need to rotate out.  If you go to a very large high school, it's hard to be on the volleyball team, even if there's varsity, JV, etc.  This is one of the problem of balancing women's sports programs with men's sports programs -- football is a personnel giant and it takes several women's teams to balance it out.  Football has an offense, defense, special teams, etc.  So, many more than six (volleyball) or five (basketball) female athletes can get some sort of playing experience pretty easy.  And you don't have to be a perfect athlete, either.  There are a lot of diverse skills on a football team. 

Second, I'm not sure that a high school sport is valuable only if it leads to an opportunity for a college scholarship.  What percentage of high school athletes get a college scholarship?  Or choir members?  Band members?  Orchestra members?  Drama students?  Is this really how we measure meaningful extracurricular activity?  I would think that being able to play at a club level in college would be great, if that.  The article points out that in my generation, women began to play soccer, but it was varsity at few high schools and few colleges.  But it is now.  (I started playing soccer in 1976, and my dad checked out a book from the library on soccer drills so he could be the assistant coach.) 

Finally, with all this national discussion on obesity, do we really want to discourage participation in a  high school sport that lots of kids want to play?

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