Are the 1970s feminists okay?  

In 1972, two women founded what would eventually be named the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) to fight “for the passage and full implementation of Title IX.” In particular, they cared about opportunities for women in sports, where inequalities between women and men were “most obvious.” My, how the times have changed!  

NWLC recently filed a brief to defend men in women’s sports that goes beyond confusing — it’s alarming to the point of comedy.  

NWLC seeks to intervene in Gaines v. NCAA, to oppose Riley Gaines and other female athletes who challenge the NCAA’s violations of Title IX. The NCAA determined that women’s athletics should include males, subjecting women to risk of injury and unfair competition, not to mention severe discomfort, from being fully nude with a male minutes before taking the starting block.  

Seems like a perfectly pro-woman lawsuit, so what’s the NWLC got to say against it? A lot, unfortunately.  

NWLC starts by redefining women: “NWLC advocates for inclusive policies that allow all women—including transgender women—to participate fully in society, including in sports.”  

Sanitizing language is intended to make the court forget what we’re talking about (men in women’s spaces). Tragically, this move blurs why “women” is a legally distinct category. Women are afforded legal protections, based on sex, because our biology creates unique hardship. As in, we get pregnant, taking us out of the workplace while we puke, get enormous, and ultimately recover and care for our children.  

We are generally smaller and weaker, subjecting us to domestic abuse and sexual violence. When NWLC indicates “woman” has no basis in biology, it eliminates the very reason women are legally protected. 

The NWLC then says the erasure of sex is a good thing: “Transgender inclusion helps all women and girls learn free from sex stereotypes and ensures all women and girls can enjoy the lifelong benefits of playing school sports.” 

In plain English, NWLC is arguing that men should be allowed to depart from their gender stereotype by being feminine and, apparently, playing women’s sports. Why? Because that “frees” women to depart from their gender stereotype, and, presumably, work in manly fields or shrug off motherhood.  

Even if freedom-from-stereotype is a net benefit for women, letting men into women’s locker rooms perpetuates rather than eliminates stereotypes. That is, what does it mean to “identify as” a woman? It means role-playing a woman’s appearance. Or worse, according to Dylan Mulvaney, it means overspending, being passive aggressive and generally being a weepy and brainless consumer.  

Finally, if we’re talking about lifelong benefits for women, women benefit from single-sex sports and educational environments. Ninety-four percent of C-suite women are former athletes. And single-sex education is linked to leadership skills, attaining higher levels of education, and self-esteem for women.  

NWLC goes on to bemoan the “egregious” practice of “body policing” to protect women’s sports, including collecting “pseudoscientific” “medical documents,” i.e. birth certificates. “Black and brown women and girls who play school sports are at a particularly high risk of harm under these policies, because Black and brown women are often viewed as ‘nonconforming’ with white-centric stereotypes of femininity.” 

Um, birth certificates are harmful junk science? But more shocking is NWLC’s opposition to them because Black women might be asked for them. Birth certificates are helpful. No woman regardless of race should be forced to shower or compete with men when they sign up for a woman’s category, and if birth certificates can alleviate that, that’s a good deal.   

And let’s not forget: labeling Mulvaney girly does not help Black women in any respect. It reduces women to lashes and a flipped out bob. Finally, who is calling Black women, from Beyonce Knowles-Carter to Kerry Washington, not feminine? That would be the NWLC.  

NWLC then says single-sex sports “reinforce a false binary by assuming that those assigned male at birth are inevitably and inherently athletically superior and those identified as female are inherently weaker and less athletic.”  

Sigh. I don’t assume anything. As Independent Women’s Forum’s Competition Report explains, men jump 25% higher, throw 25% further, run 11% faster, and punch 30-162% harder than women. Obviously. It’s why we have women’s sports in the first place, and why hundreds of women have already lost competitions and spots on teams to men competing as women.   

Finally, NWLC says single-sex sports “sends the message that transgender students are acceptable targets for violence and harassment.” No. It sends the message that women matter and their rights cannot be swept aside to please some men. We can be respectful to those men while still recognizing that males are biologically distinct from females; those who disagree can debate it. 

By attempting (often successfully) to relabel truthful speech “violence,” NWLC wants to shut down debate. We don’t live in Soviet Russia. This country was founded on debate as the foundation for a free society, where we can further the best and highest values through competing ideas, including the idea that women deserve to have women-only sports.   

Clearly, NWLC doesn’t speak for women. That’s why the real women’s legal group, the Independent Women’s Law Center, filed a declaration in court alongside other women’s organizations, opposing the NWLC’s attempt to speak for all women and erase us.