The unwanted elimination of elite women’s sports has been the scary endpoint of the transgender-athlete debate ever since guys started racing women on the track and in the swimming pool. It is the apocalyptic terminus of biological men’s competing in women’s sports.
In a nutshell: If you let men compete in women’s sports, you will destroy women’s sports.
However, it looks like there might be another way to destroy women’s sports. According to a Sept. 17 article in the Atlantic, entitled “Separating Sports by Sex Doesn’t Make Sense,” the End of Women’s Sports as We Know Them may bypass the whole transgender sports kerfuffle.
To belabor the obvious: Combining the sexes in adult sports — in any sport whatsoever — denies women the opportunity to succeed in competition.
The article, by Maggie Mertens, steers clear of the transgender issue in order to imagine a fantasy world where competitors’ sex is overlooked altogether. Where girls and boys — and ultimately women and men — are all on the same field of play, with none of this evil, binary segregation to cordon them off into their own discrete sports.
But the result is the same: the end of elite women’s sports.
The story follows a young lady in New York City who is required by her school to jump through myriad hoops — providing medical history and performing physical tests and so forth — to qualify to try out for the boys football team. She has to do this simply because she is a girl, whereas the boys, some smaller and weaker than she, are exempted from such testing. Also described is a boy who wants to play field hockey — while a male sport in much of the world, it is a female sport in America — for his school’s team but is denied the opportunity because of his sex. Both students are denied participation because of safety concerns, because, quite frankly, the girls could get hurt. Safety is the chief reason women and men don’t compete against each other.
Mertens says that the girl’s experience “exemplifies the way many people still view sports as a perfectly reasonable venue in which to enforce exclusion on the basis of sex.” Mertens quotes a social neuroendocrinologist who called BS on the safety argument:
If safety was a concern, and there was evidence to select certain bodily characteristics to base safety cut-offs on, then you would see, say, shorter men excluded from competing with taller men, or lighter women from competing with heavier women, across sports.
Weight and height, Mertens suggests, are more suitable criteria than sex for divvying up sports. She quotes Billie Jean King:
If the skill, size and strength of any participant, female or male, compared to others playing on the team creates the potential of a hazardous environment, participation may be limited on the basis of these factors, rather than the sex of the participant.
Mertens then adds, “In other words, if a girl on the football team needs to be assessed for her size and strength for safety reasons, so should all of the boys.”
And she lets fly some doozies. Here is a smattering:
Maintaining [the gender] binary in youth sports reinforces the idea that boys are inherently bigger, faster, and stronger than girls in a competitive setting — a notion that’s been challenged by scientists for years.
And though sex differences in sports show advantages for men, researchers today still don’t know how much of this to attribute to biological difference versus the lack of support provided to women athletes to reach their highest potential.
Old notions of sex as a marker of physical capability are changing, and more research is making clear that sex differences aren’t really clear at all.
Sure, some girls are bigger than boys their age and are able to hold their own on a playing field. But why would girls want to do that? With every passing year they would drop down a place or two in the pecking order; they would succeed less and thus play less, because biology would be catching up with them. They could get discouraged and drop out of sports altogether. In the meantime, they could be playing on a girls team and be one of the better players, remaining so year after year. Girls who can compete with boys at the younger ages are the exception, not the rule. Most girls cannot, and to throw both sexes together, even at early ages, is to sacrifice girls’ enjoyment and fulfillment at the altar of woke gender ideology.
For the vast majority of girls, once the hormones start surging, once the boys begin developing greater muscle mass and lung function and stronger skeletal structure, safety becomes the number one concern.
Another thing that happens once puberty strikes is that women are left in the athletic dust. To belabor the obvious: Combining the sexes in adult sports — in any sport whatsoever — denies women the opportunity to succeed in competition.
Consider a study conducted by the Center for Sports Law and Policy at Duke University School of Law. It measured performances in track and field, an entirely objective sport where men and women compete against a clock or a tape measure — a sterile environment where minutes and seconds and feet and inches separate competitors.
In one year, 2017, the best elite women’s time, no age limit, in the 100-meter run was 10.71 seconds. The best under-18 boys time that year was 10.15. Additionally, in 2017, at least 124 boys ran faster than the fastest elite woman’s time. When men of all ages are included, 2,474 men ran faster than the fastest elite woman’s time. On top of that, there were 10,009 instances in 2017 when a man ran faster than 10.71.
It’s like that right down the line, in every track and field event, excluding the throws, which are more difficult to compare because women compete with different weights than men. Perhaps the closest women came to equaling men’s performances were, on the track, in the 5,000-meter run, where “only” 1,243 men beat the best elite women’s time of 14:18.37, and in the field, in the pole vault, where 684 men exceeded the best women’s height of 4.91 meters.
Take the mile. The world record for the outdoor mile is 3:43.13. The fastest mile time by a female is half a minute slower, at 4:12.33. During the 2021–2022 indoor season, 82 college men broke 4 minutes; throughout U.S. history, 17 high schoolers have run sub-4-minute miles.
Mere common sense dictates that grown women could not compete in any “contact” sports with grown men — football, basketball, hockey. Brittney Griner, who is 6 feet 9 inches, 205 pounds, may dominate in a WNBA lane, but the first elbow she received under an NBA basket would send her into the first row of spectators.
Watching Serena Williams capture 23 Grand Slam singles titles was a joy. But if there were no women’s tennis and Serena had to compete against men, she would not have 23 championship plates and winner’s cups from Grand Slam events; she’d have 23 participation ribbons.
This is not to malign women’s sports but to underline the importance of keeping the two sexes separate on the sports field. Women have fought so long and hard to get the opportunities males have in scholarships and honor and prestige that it is unthinkable to squander that to identity politics. Dividing competition by sex gives millions of women athletes the opportunity of a level playing field, gives them the chance to experience the joy of meaningful victory and the lessons of meaningful defeat. Not to mention, in the professional ranks, the chance to make lots of money.
And it denies to us spectators the joy of watching a Jackie Joyner-Kersee break a finish tape or a Lindsey Vonn cruise to downhill victory or a Serena kiss a silver plate at Centre Court.
Whether it is fighting back the threat of biological males’ competing with biological women or succumbing to the “woke” underpinnings of this fantasy world that eliminates sex separation on the playing field, we need to keep vigilant about keeping women’s sports women’s sports.