Title IX has inspired many an imbroglio since 1972, but the law's latest controversy is truly daffy. Responding to a parent's complaint about inequitable resources for girls, 14 high schools in upstate New York now require female cheerleaders to rouse the crowds at girls' as well as boys' basketball games "regardless of whether the girls' basketball teams wanted and/or asked for" them. An important caveat, since neither the cheerleaders nor the female athletes seem pleased with the situation. Amanda Cummings, cheerleading co-captain at Whitney Point High School, says it "feels funny" to cheer for girls. Many girls' teams, meanwhile, not used to such rah-rahing during games, complain that the cheerleaders are distracting. The districts, for their part, say the parents who forced the issue are interpreting Title IX in a sexist and archaic manner. "We regard our cheerleaders as athletes," says one district official, "while [proponents of the new mandate] are working on a 1970s' stereotype that cheerleaders are here to support the boys." May Gadfly suggest a better approach? Outfit some comely young lads with pom-poms and make them cheer for the girls' teams. That would be the spirit of Title IX at its finest. And the girls might even like it.
"Equal Cheers for Boys and Girls Draw Some Boos," by Winnie Hu, New York Times, January 14, 2007