A defense of female sports
Given the cultural revolution in which we currently find ourselves, it should not be surprising that we are debating the once-obvious question of whether it is fair for biological males to compete against biological females in sports. Senator Angela Hill (R., Picayune) is leading the charge in Mississippi to protect the rights of our girls and women by sponsoring The Fairness Act, which would ensure that only biological females compete on public school girls’ sports teams in our state.
As a former athlete and Mississippi State University women’s basketball player, this issue is of particular importance to me. My high school basketball team was nationally ranked and finished first in Mississippi my junior year and second my senior year. We routinely practiced against our school’s varsity boys’ team, which had nowhere near our record or ranking.
Despite our being at the top of our game in high school women’s sports with an All-American player and numerous others who went on to play college ball, the boys’ team handily beat us every time—it was ugly.
This male advantage seems clear across all sports. Allyson Felix is probably the fastest female sprinter in the world, holding more records than Usain Bolt. Her best time for the 400 meter is 49.26 seconds, but just in 2017, that time was beaten over 15,000 times by boys and men.
Venus and Serena Williams once boasted they could beat any male tennis player ranked outside the top 200. In 1998, a male ranked 203rd took them up on their wager and handily beat them both decisively, 6-1 over Serena and 6-2 over Venus. What if we never knew of a Serena and Venus Williams because they never had the space to compete and advance to the top of their sport?
As a little girl, I was inspired by the few female athletes that were featured prominently. Fortunately, a lot has changed in female sports since I played.
The incredible growth in women’s sports over the past almost 50 years has been in part the result of the enactment of Title IX in 1972, a federal law specifically designed to create equal opportunities and access for females in education and athletics.
Before Title IX, an estimated 3 percent of girls in America participated in sports; today, about two in five (more than 40 percent) of girls play sports. The number of women playing college sports has increased by more than 600 percent, and the number of young women playing high school sports has increased more than 900 percent. The impact Title IX has had on young girls and adult female athletes is immeasurable. It is not a coincidence that 98 percent of female CEOs played competitive sports.
Yet, all of this hard-fought progress women have made in athletics could be eroded if our state lawmakers fail to ensure that our girls have a level playing field.
For instance, over the last few years in Connecticut, two biological males who had never distinguished themselves when competing on male track teams came to identify as girls/women. They joined their respective schools’ girls’ track teams and competed in track meets against biological girls. It should come as no surprise that they dominated girls’ track by winning 15 state championships, in the process stripping away 85 opportunities for biological females to advance to higher levels in girls’ track. Along the way, they broke 17 girls’ state track records, records no girl will likely ever get close to.
I have compassion for trans athletes’ struggles, and I understand their desire to compete in sports. Yet, we must be able to have honest, biology-based discussions on the matter without name-calling, fear of being canceled, and without assuming evil motives of those with whom we disagree.
Too many today are afraid to state the obvious: science shows us that male-bodied athletes are generally bigger, taller, faster, and stronger than females. Males benefit from greater speed and power, adding up to 10-50 percent advantage over female athletes, depending on the sport.
Physicians like Michelle Cretella have been stating the same, that men and women are profoundly genetically different, and that no hormone therapy or body-altering surgery can reverse these biological changes. “[M]en and women have—at a minimum—6,500 genetic differences between us. And this impacts every cell of our bodies….”
When we ignore the undeniable biological advantage that males have, girls are harmed, harmed by the loss of medals, trophies, records, podium spots, college recruitment and scholarships. To use one of the favorite phrases of the left, where are the “safe spaces” for young girls and women? Where is the concern for their physical and mental health and the character development that comes from competition?
Fortunately, at least for now, most Mississippians see past the claims of today’s cultural revolutionaries. Recent polling demonstrated that 79 percent of Mississippi voters support such legislation. This includes 87 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of Democrats, and 83 percent of independents.
We cannot look to Washington to protect the civil rights of young girls and women in Mississippi. Mississippi is one of only ten states that has no policy addressing the participation of biological male athletes in girls’ high school sports. We need our lawmakers to protect the rights of young girls and women in our state and pass The Fairness Act now.
We as a nation and a state have made too much progress for women’s rights over many decades to now watch it all be taken away.
Lesley Andress Davis is the Executive Vice President of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, the state’s non-partisan, free-market think tank.