Now that all of the madness surrounding Lia Thomas’ hijacking of women’s collegiate swimming events is mostly in our rearview mirror, the battle over transgender athletes will almost certainly shift to a new set of players in other sporting events. But that doesn’t mean that the debate is settled in terms of America’s ongoing culture wars. Far from it, in fact. There are all manner of gender-bending questions being raised in many high school, collegiate, and even professional sports. These range from wrestling and field hockey to football and more. But even outlets as liberal as the Washington Post have recently felt compelled to admit that current polling shows that a significant majority of Americans do not support biological males competing against girls and women.
Perhaps this tidal shift in opinion is what compelled Maggie Mertens at The Atlantic to try to reframe the debate this week. Rather than arguing in favor of letting males compete against girls and women in female sports, Mertens instead asks why we need to have segregated female sports in the first place. She seems to be attempting to make the argument that sex-segregated sports are actually unfair to girls and women. (The author does not attempt to answer the question of what a woman actually is, but then again, she’s not a biologist.) She offers a few examples to support her case, including that of Shira Mandelzis, a girl who attempted to compete in the boys’ football league at her high school and ran into “gender discrimination” in the process. The author then goes on to question why we still need to have segregated sports leagues.
Although Mandelzis’s exact experience may seem rare, it exemplifies the way many people still view sports as a perfectly reasonable venue in which to enforce exclusion on the basis of sex. School sports are typically sex-segregated, and in America some of them have even come to be seen as either traditionally for boys or traditionally for girls: Think football, wrestling, field hockey, volleyball. However, it’s becoming more common for these lines to blur, especially as Gen Zers are more likely than members of previous generations to reject a strict gender binary altogether. Maintaining this 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.
Decades of research have shown that sex is far more complex than we may think. 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.
Hoo boy. It’s tough to know where to even begin picking apart this claptrap. First of all, when Shira Mandelzis attempted to try out for the boys’ football team, she was not met with rules intended to “keep girls in their place” or whatever. The New York educational athletic rules in question were put in place to prevent girls from being injured by competing against physically more dominant boys. Mandelzis was eventually allowed to compete in the boys’ football league in her freshman and sophomore years, but was denied as a senior.
As to the “science” underlying all of this, Mertens did manage to find a doctor (technically the “research chair in social neuroendocrinology at Queen’s University”) willing to claim that sex is complicated and “dynamic.” She argues that hormone levels can change in people in “a second-to-second and month-to-month way.” Based on these observations, she argues that it doesn’t make sense to segregate athletic competitions based on gender.
All of this runs directly contrary to nearly every study we have reviewed here over the past several years, not to mention common sense. Yes, there will always be some girls who wind up being larger or stronger than some (or even many) of the boys. Likewise, there will be boys who are slight of frame and not as athletic as the top-performing girls. But those are the significantly infrequent exceptions to the rule. Whether you’re talking about body mass, length of limbs, or accumulation of muscle, the boys start leaving the girls behind in nearly all cases shortly after puberty begins. And putting them on unnatural hormone therapy for a year or so does not come close to erasing all of those natural advantages.
For proof of this, look no further than the aforementioned Lia Thomas. When Thomas was competing in the men’s division he could barely qualify for a starting spot on a swimming team and certainly wasn’t close to being a top performer. One year and some estrogen treatments later he was breaking records right and left in the women’s division. Care to explain that?
Women fought for a long time to establish girls’ and women’s sports leagues where they could compete on an even playing field for the same opportunities, scholarships, and honors that the males were receiving. And now people are trying to roll back all of that progress in the name of the transgender agenda. Any real feminist in this country should be outraged and an increasing number of them are.