Earlier: One Not So Giant Kick For Womankind
Title IX of the Civil Rights act, passed in 1972, has led to the assumption by courts, and thus necessarily by universities, that if women are less interested in sports than men, it must be men that are at fault. As Steve Sailer notes below, this, and the consequent destruction of men's athletic teams at colleges around the country, is why a member of the Vanderbilt Women's soccer team was asked to suit up as a placekicker in a non-historic event at a men's football game.
Jessica Gavora's 2002 book Tilting the Playing Field—Schools, Sports, Sex and Title IX, explains how we got here, recounting the 1996 case of Cohen vs. Brown. (Amy Cohen, a female gymnast, vs. Brown University.)
What Amy Cohen's attorneys did argue was the fact that women at Brown participated in sports at lower rates than men, and therefore were discriminated against. At the time the lawsuit was filed, 51 percent of Brown students were women but "only" 38-39 percent of Brown athletes were women. The university's supposedly evenhanded demotion of two men's teams along with women's volleyball and gymnastics, Bryant and Labinger contended, wasn't evenhanded at all. It merely perpetuated a preexisting inequity. One of the plaintiffs, former gymnast Eileen Rocchio, succinctly illustrated the obsession with numbers behind the case in a statement to USA Today: "The athletes at Brown are 61 percent male. It doesn't take a rocket scientist, or a Brown degree, to see that's not equal."
Brown would present reams of data attempting to show that women on campus participated in sports at a lower rate than men because they had a lower level of interest in athletics than men. But Amy Cohen and the other plaintiffs would argue that such data were irrelevant. They would make what they called a "field of dreams" argument, the phrase coming from the 1989 movie in which Kevin Costner stars as a farmer-mystic haunted by dreams of baseball, a lost father and personal wholeness. "If you build it, they will come," voices tell Costner, instructing him to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield. The university's responsibility under Title IX, the Brown plaintiffs charged, was the same as Costner's. If they created the teams, hired the coaches and built the facilities, women would play. Brown's mandate under the law, then, was not just to accommodate women who were interested in sports, but to cultivate athleticism in women who didn't yet know they were interested.
"I'm asked all the time whether the interests and abilities of women are met," said Donna Lopiano, executive director of the Women's Sports Foundation and a star witness for the plaintiffs. "There's never been a question of enough interest. If you build it, they will come." The duty of the universities and colleges of America, then, was not to fulfill demand, but to create it.
At stake in the case was not just Brown's guilt or innocence under this standard, but the guilt or innocence of virtually every institution of higher learning in America. For if Brown—with double the average number of women's teams—was not in compliance with the law, then no school in the Country was.
Tilting The Playing Field, p. 73, Ch. 3, "If You Build It, They Will Come"
And that's why this happened:
Incredible that a women's soccer player was called up to the football team for kicking duties.— J. Reuben Clark (@JReubenCIark) November 28, 2020
All it took was guts, determination, and federal legislation to destroy men's sports teams in favor of women's sports teams. https://t.co/MC2Sj7zDHy pic.twitter.com/WvfX9LTuGC
Remember that this is caused partly by litigation, partly by legislation, and partly by the enforcers of the federal Civil Rights bureaucracy. Republicans have held the Presidency for 12 of the last 20 years, and frequently held both Houses of Congress, and have done nothing about this.