You’ve probably heard about actress Ashley Judd’s recent public initiative to shame some male Twitter users who harassed her and discredited her commentary on Kentucky basketball simply because she is a woman. If you aren’t up-to-speed, in short, Ashley is a huge UK basketball fan. After a recent game during which she provided commentary on Twitter, several trolls responded to Ashley with rude, uninformed and harassing comments. Ashley – who had reached her limit – responded with “when I express a stout opinion during March Madness I am called a w—-, c—, threatened with sexual violence, not okay.” She then shared that she plans to press charges against those who physically threatened her and took to the morning show circuit to further her message.
While Ashley’s experience is the most public, it’s certainly not the first, only, or last time it will happen. Every day girls’ and women’s opinions and thoughts on sports are not taken seriously, ignored or all-together laughed at. And for what reason? Because girls just don’t care about sports like boys do.
The same argument is often used against Title IX. Detractors of the law say that the equal athletic opportunities guaranteed under Title IX are unfair because of one simple fact: girls aren’t as interested in playing sports as boys are.
Here at the Women’s Sports Foundation, we know differently. There is no research that shows that boys are more interested in sports than girls and we know that girls are just as interested in sports as boys when they are young. A combination of lack of opportunity, lack of peer group support when they do play sports and lack of encouragement causes girls to drop out of sports at a rate that is two times greater than boys by the time they are 14.
As a result of Title IX, and the work of the Women’s Sports Foundation, the number of girls participating in high school varsity sports has increased from one in 27 pre-Title IX to about 2 in 5 today (nearly 980%). In women’s collegiate programs the increase is more than 500 percent. This dramatic increase demonstrates that it was lack of opportunity – not lack of interest – that kept females out of high school and college athletics for so many years.
The truth is that not all girls like sports. Some prefer to play the piano, paint or draw. But guess what? There are the same number of boys who would rather spend their after-school hours in the school dark room or auditorium and not on the football field.