A Mother’s Journey Through The Upside Down World Of College Swimming
Very recently, I watched my broad-shouldered, 6-foot-tall daughter line up next to a male who dwarfed her in height and breadth. I watched her valiantly race in a contest utterly devoid of fairness or integrity. I watched her climb out of a pool where she swam faster than every other female competitor only to be surrounded by consoling voices as she took second place to a male.
Those voices didn’t alleviate the sting. Every woman in that building had to witness the effects of the directive from Robin Harris of the Ivy League and Mark Emmert of the NCAA — that women do not deserve fair competition and fair treatment.
Every athlete and spectator heard the announcements before each competition all season, warning them that only a hateful person would speak up for women and anyone doing so was unwelcome to be present.
I went to the Ivy League Championships. I watched it all painfully unfold again. I watched mothers in the stands dissolve in tears. I heard furious fathers decry their daughter’s sport and effort being reduced to a joke. I knew of parents who couldn’t even bear to watch.
I saw people cheer with false smiles only later to reveal how awful the whole thing felt. It was depressing. I watched a male crowned Women’s Swimmer of the Ivy Championships and later, win a women’s National Championship. I witnessed our celebrated female Olympians beaten by a male that didn’t even qualify to participate in the National Championships against other men.
What female athletes across the country are learning is that their worth is once again reduced. The subjective identity of any male athlete counts for more than their own fair treatment. Once again, women are expected to prioritize a male’s desire over their own achievement. And I watched my own daughter used as an example.
The abuse and gaslighting didn’t end there. This same male, fully endowed with intact male genitals, was allowed to change with our daughters in the showers and locker rooms. This male knew that the girls were uncomfortable, knew they had sought help to change the situation. He didn’t care; he stayed, he undressed and he stripped them of their right to change in dignity.
The schools, coaches and athletic departments told the girls that their consent was not necessary. They were offered support — to help them be okay with stripping naked against their will in front of a male. The locker room and their nudity were equally his.
Penn, The Ivy League and NCAA just nominated the male in those locker rooms for “NCAA Woman of the Year.”
Last month, the Biden administration unilaterally rewrote Title IX to endorse this discrimination, denying our daughters equal opportunity and preventing them from speaking out or from accurately describing their abuse.
With the stroke of a pen, sex-based discrimination is back.
Women across the country are learning that the subjective identity of a male is more important than their own fair treatment; women’s worth is reduced to being tools of affirmation for others.
We are a bargaining chip for those in power to use in support of male bodies with no consideration for the impact upon women. Every little girl swimming is reading these stories, every little girl playing a sport is hearing rule makers are not going to protect them.
Every girl aspiring to win a race, every professional female athlete, and every woman who has ever played a sport is learning a new lesson…
We don’t count.
But women will find their courage.
We will be recognized as equal to men in dignity and worth. We will fight for the next generation of girls. We will find our voices and we will speak until we are heard.
Kim Jones is a former Stanford All-American and co-founder of ICONS, The Independent Council on Women’s Sports, a network of collegiate and professional female athletes.
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