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Suzanne Venker on Title IX: Time to Revise?

Sometime when I was watching ESPN in the last year, I saw a commercial where girls where playing sports together outside, and then, one by one, began leaving the field, their uniforms changing into beautiful dresses and formal business suits. At the end of the commercial, there was a brief message trying to convince young women to stay in athletics. Implication: if you have to convince girls to stay in athletics, you’ve got too many programs.

Title IX, while it was necessary at the time it was implemented to make sure athletic departments offered women’s sports, has since over-proliferated a women’s programs when the cost of all sports has exploded. Suzanne Venker, a conservative author and speaker, has written about the affects of Title IX in her book The Flip Side of Feminism.

“Enrollment in academic courses is now approaching 60 percent women to 40 percent men…athletic teams must enforce this same ratio. This rule is absurd because it’s a fact of human nature that men are more interested than women in participating in competitive sports….”

Also skewing this ratio men who want to work in trades like plumbing, mechanics, or construction, are more likely to go to a two year college and never set foot in a D-1 school. Venker continues:

“When the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in 2010 recommended colleges use a survey to determine student interest in athletics as the ‘best method available’ for complying with the law without requiring arbitrary gender quotas, the Obama administration-predictably-rejected that helpful suggestion, sticking to the proportionality rule…Demanding equal participation in college sports is absurd-and it’s wholly unfair to men.”

In addition to using a student interest survey, sampling participation in high school and junior high could be a fair way to determine which programs a college has to offer.

Due to radical feminism, Title IX is that it is Teflon when it comes to the rising cost of college athletics. Every now and then, a”serious journalist” will gasp over million-dollar football budgets…without mentioning the fact that there’s a federal law mandating universities carry programs that are destined to loose money. This is why you can’t a reasonable conversation about paying college football players because a chunk of every dollar every scholarship football player brings the university automatically gets cut off and sent to support another athletic program at the university, even though the money is better spent on the track teams rather than a linebacker’s weekend binge.

Let’s consider how the culture has changed since Title IX: major college sports aren’t just a ten-hour a week, extra-curricular activities. They are full-time jobs that involve regular travel (and longer travel because of conference realignment), plus off-season workouts, on top of being a student. When Title IX was implemented in the early 1970’s, woman’s college sports were underfunded or non-existent. Now the market has been over-saturated.

Cutting back on woman’s programs could actually help the competitive balance in woman’s sports. Consider how woman’s college basketball has been largely dominated by two programs, UConn and Tennessee, over the last several decades. Consider UConn’s long winning streak a couple of years ago: women’s college basketball is often the top women’s sport on campus,and takes little money to compete in, because they share a facility with the men. How can UConn carry on such a streak in this earth-is-flat, even-resources world? Cutting back the number of woman’s teams can help the school focus its resources.

Granted, Title IX can’t be scrapped completely, and indeed, there is a very fair component to it: making sure woman’s programs have funds. Many unions in this country began when workers were vastly underpaid, overworked (think sixty hour work weeks), and sent into unsafe working conditions. While their overall value is debatable now, worker’s unions are still needed to ensure safe working environments (as is necessary in a mining or construction business). Title IX is needed to ensure woman’s sports can have the resources they need to provide a positive experience to their participants. And with the advent of conference networks, all non-revenue sports aren’t going to lose the money they did ten years ago.

But still, society’s evolve. Given how much it takes to field a competitive team, let’s not saddle athletic departments with teams that the girls don’t want anyway. There’s no shame in admitting that boys want to play sports more than girls.

Breaking Bad and the Search for True Manhood

I had been watching various clips of Breaking Bad online for quite some time. It’s not one of my favorite shows, mainly because of its Fargo-ish humor, but I appreciate the show because it gets one of the most under-appreciated aspects of American society dead-on: the dilemma of the trapped and constantly marginalized American family man.

Die Hard was the first incarnation of this struggle, but that film’s 80’s camp suppressed the realism that bleeds through Walter White: a schoolteacher who’s been the gracious provider who starts to do heinous things when faced with the reality that his loved ones will go on without him. While I don’t think Vince Gilligan is reacting directly to feminism, it’s hard not to note Bad‘s reaction to it: an ordinary man who starts pursuing dangerous things in the face of a wife who starts loosing interest.

That is the dilemma for men today, isn’t it? Women demand to be treated as equals in marriage but below the surface, they only give respect to a man who can take care of them. Women expect their men to share with their feelings (even if this isn’t what they do naturally) and aren’t content with a man’s physical provision. But some men, maybe most men, can only express their love for their women through the act of physical provision, and when push comes to shove, they throw themselves into work. After all, hard work is the only way to guarantee a woman’s respect.

It is also through this work that Walt gains the platform to put himself above his wife. Consider the scene where Skylar confronts her husband about the death of a rival meth cook. She urges him to go to the police, fearing he’s in danger. Walter responds by putting himself on a higher plane. He tells her that she doesn’t know how important his business is, and reveals to her (by inference) that he ordered the hit she’s referring to. (Like all uber-successful people, Walter White doesn’t take it well when others question his authority.) It is through this act of defying his wife that Walt, in a twisted way, somehow gains a piece of his manhood back. If only he could have gained it back through love, respect, and good will, not cooking meth.

It is a sad dilemma that faces not just Walter White, but the American man. Our society has become so much more fragmented when it comes to childbearing (out of wedlock, single women having babies via sperm donation and adoption, parenthood redefined) and “equal” marriage, the world of Walter White seems strangely fair. That’s what makes it really sad.

Say One Thing, Do Another: Why The Hunger Games Narrative is Sorely Lacking

(Warning: the following post contains spoilers from both The Hunger Games book and film. Proceed at your own risk.)

Two years ago, I walked out of a theater having just seen Inception for the first time and was depressed because it was the best movie I had seen in about ten years, and I’d probably only see about eight or nine movies as good as it for the rest of my life. Few do what Christopher Nolan did with Inception:take a radically original premise and pushes it to its limits, all the while ignoring what any other film has done before it, all on a grand scale. But after reading The Hunger Games and seeing the movie, I was severely disappointed because I’d just watched a film that had an equal premise but took no such risks and offered a poor character.

Let me make a concession: The Hunger Games is commercially successful. There’s something in this movie that speaks to young people, and it is at some points pure spectacle, such as Rue’s death and the subsequent rioting in District 11, along with Katniss’ tears. Katniss’ voice, as she provides for her family, echoes the despair of the lower classes, and her character isn’t the spoiled brat Bella Swan is.  The whole idea of teenagers forced into a killing competitions breads the possibility to explore so many idea, and when you see the film half-explore them, it is maddening.

The Hunger Games frustrate as they seems to know what to do at times, and other times, they seem clueless, in virtually the same narrative situation. For example, director Gary Ross wisely keeps the violence off-screen in places where it’s needed: the bloodbath at the opening of the games, Cato’s mauling by the dogs, and death of the boy who rigged the mines after Katniss destroy the career’s food supply. But in other situations, the gratuitous material lingers, like when Glimmer’s mangled remains are overshown. Also, there’s the boneheaded move of showing the dogs in the control room before they’re unleashed on Katniss, Peeta, and Cato. The games control room itself is a nice addition to the film along with President Snow and the head gamesmaker, Seneca Crane. The all the capitol supporting players and Haymitch are well cast, although it’s not overtly to find an actor to play an over-the-top TV host.

Then there’s the film’s twist: a good plot twist is not just about the twist itself, it’s about the setup and fallout. Take Katniss’ decision to destroy the careers’ food supply. She mentions it right before she does it, in both the book and film. If I had been editing the manuscript, I would have told the author to have Haymitch suggest to Katniss to destroy the food supply before the games. Make his character look smarter; an action that important needs to be hinted at earlier in the work. And in spite of this action Katniss still seems to survive by dodging the action. Other plot misses: Katniss’ failure to kill Foxface not coming back to bite her (reading the book, I thought Foxface would find and kill Peeta when Katniss went to the feast) and Peeta never disclosing to Katniss why he joined the careers at the beginning of the games. If you’re smart enough to come up with the double attempt suicide to end the games, I expect you to figure the rest of it out.

Half-an-hour into the film, I wished the screenwriter would watch some episodes of 24 to understand how to pull off a good twist, only to see at the end of the film Billy Ray, who wrote a rejected screenplay for the 24 movie, was one of the writers. A yes-man writer if there ever was one.

But the real problem with The Hunger Games has to do with the central character and her arc, or more specifically, her lack of one. At the beginning of the story, Katniss doesn’t want to marry her friend Gale, and at the end of the story, she doesn’t want to be with Peeta. That isn’t a story arc. I don’t care if Katniss were to go being in love with Gale to denying love, or from not believing in love with Gale to believing in love with Peeta. Granted, I would prefer a view of marriage that respects the institution, but either way makes for a more interesting story that what I was subjugated to.

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