A review of Tilting the Playing Field. By Jessica Gavora.

Encounter Books, 2002.

A good example of the law of unintended consequences can be seen in the US law, Title IX, passed by Congress in 1972. Born of humble beginnings with a laudable aim, it soon mushroomed into a powerful tool of feminists and gender benders to remake the world in their own image.

Title IX had as its purpose the simple prevention of discrimination based on sex, when it comes to participation in any education program or activity. It soon came to bear heavily on the area of sports participation. And it soon went from a simple plea for equity to another affirmative action program, complete with preferences and quotas.

And with many affirmative action programs, it demanded not just equality of opportunity, but equality of outcome as well. And when unequals are treated equally, or are mandated to have equal outcomes, then real inequality results. New discrimination and inequality came into play. Boys and men, and boy’s and men’s programs, especially in sports, were the real casualty. Many male sports programs and activities were axed or cut back in funding, in order to get the 50-50 mix.


But it went even further, and Gavora documents the many heart breaking cases. For example, one University was not content with the 50-50 mix in athletics’ spending and programs, but insisted it be 53-47, since 53% of the student body was female.

And it was not just males and male programs that suffered. Females also suffered. For example, if a girl really preferred to be a cheer leader instead of a football halfback, she often found her desires frustrated, with the gender equity police insisting that females not take on what they perceived to be traditional female roles.

A regime of androgyny, in other words, was enforced by the gender benders, regardless of whether it was in the best interests of all concerned. Thus tax payers subsidised a system which was often out of kilter with the biological realities of those involved.

The feminists insisted that male-female differences are only social constructs, not something rooted in our very nature. They insisted that the sexes are identical in their interests and abilities. And they insisted that such parity be fully represented in our schools, even in our sports, with the full force of the law brought to bear on those who do not comply.

Guided by these stubborn, and often irrational, convictions, they insisted that if a school has 33 boys playing soccer, then 33 girls should be playing it as well. They insisted that if males are over-represented in advanced maths and sciences, then this ‘obvious injustice’ must be remedied by force of law. Never mind that there may in fact be good reasons why such iniquities exist. Never mind that males tend to prefer sport more than females. Never mind that boys may be hotwired by nature to excel in science while doing poorer in other academic subjects.

But such differences are clearly documented by the social sciences. The emerging fields of genetics and evolutionary psychology, and our growing understanding of male and female sex hormones, are all pointing in the same direction: males and females are different. These are innate and deeply rooted differences. Environmental and social factors do explain in part these differences, but they are only a small part of the equation.

From quite early ages boys will engage in rough and tumble group play much more than will girls. Young girls are much more interested in play parenting than play fighting, reflecting their natural tendency for nurturing and personal relationships. Males are more aggressive and competitive, while females are more likely to avoid risk and to develop relationships. And because of these differences, not only do more males like to play sport, but more males like to watch sport as well.

Nature it seems has hardwired such differences into us, and government attempts to act as if they do not exist, or to seek to eradicate them, can only result in chaos and grief. Indeed, given that males have 10 to 20 times more testosterone than females, it is folly to ignore the very real biological and psychological differences between the sexes.

This volume documents how ideology and social activism, instead of sound reason and good science, determine much of our social policy. The results have been disastrous, with many casualties along the way. A mandated androgynous ideal may appeal to feminists and government bureaucrats, but it does real damage to ordinary men and women, as this book so clearly shows.

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