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Raspberry on Gender Bigots and Funds for School Sports

April 30, 1988

Raspberry asked whether, " . . . When it comes to athletics, separate-but-equal is a reasonable doctrine?"

As the U.S. Supreme Court eventually recognized in Brown vs. Board of Education, separate facilities for blacks and whites were inherently unequal. As Raspberry himself noted, torn gym mats for women, causing unnecessary injuries, are not equal to well-maintained gym mats for men. Clearly when facilities are provided to both men and women they should be equal.

However, blacks and whites are inherently equal so it makes sense to mandate equal facilities and equal opportunity to gain access to facilities. But the sexes are not inherently physically equal and so equal facilities (football stadiums, for example) for unequals will not produce the condition of equality of opportunity. What is needed in sports is qualitative equality for the sexes.

Offer football. Clearly few if any women will make the team. And probably few women would want their own team. But then offer a sport that provides opportunity for women such as water ballet. Provide an Olympic-class coaching staff. Provide adequate bleacher space so the public can attend performances. Install a good sound system. Provide a travel allowance so the team can do exhibition tours. Water ballet is not entirely equivalent to football because there are few professional opportunities in water ballet. But maybe those opportunities would come if schools concentrated on providing women with new opportunities in spectator sports.

Separate-but-equal when applied to sports should mean separate and qualitatively equal opportunities--which may require separate and different facilities where differences in abilities dictate. And where both sexes participate in the sport, such as volleyball or gymnastics--the facilities and access to those facilities ought to be equal.

ELLEN LEWINSTEIN

Laguna Niguel

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