3 Reasons to Be Mad About the Way D.C. Treats Girl Athletes


D.C. has a reputation of being a city of people in transit and stodgy old white men in suits; a metro packed with a sea of black and grey and the occasional red tie or American flag pin. In reality, it’s much more than that — in the six years I’ve lived here as a student and now a twenty-something working in the city, I’ve begun to call D.C. home — and I’ve grown passionate about this place in the process.

This is a city of diverse cultures and neighborhoods (which results in some pretty phenomenal food — who wants to join me for some pupusas at Ercilia’s, some awaze tibs sopped up with injera at Dukem, or perhaps a nice big bowl of Pho doused with so much sriracha that the broth turns red?). And I've met tons of people who care passionately about their community.

Yesterday, the National Women’s Law Center filed a Title IX complaint against D.C. Public Schools for failing to give high school girls equal athletic opportunities. The District’s own data showed disparities of over 10 percentage points and as high as 26 percentage points between girls’ enrollment and the share of athletic participation opportunities provided to them in the majority of the district’s high schools.

That means D.C. Public Schools would have to create almost 700 additional athletic opportunities for girls to comply with Title IX, the law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs. That’s 700 girls currently missing out on opportunities to play sports. And space on teams isn’t the only problem — female athletes practice and play on fields that lack adequate lighting, are poorly maintained, and aren’t metro accessible (in a city — the kiss of death). They also get unequal treatment in equipment, supplies, and uniforms — sometimes being forced to compete in uniforms with numbers affixed with duct tape.

Terry Lynch, father of two daughters in D.C., said it best: “Simply put, girls in D.C. are 2nd class citizens.”

But why should any of this matter to me? I’m in my 20s and rarely interact with anyone below the age of 21. And why should it matter to people outside of D.C. at all? This doesn’t affect them directly, right?

Wrong. Here are three reasons why both D.C. and non-D.C. residents should be riled up about the fact that the District treats girls unequally.

1. D.C. is our nation’s capital.

The District should be an example for other cities, and we should pour our resources into making sure that every student has equal access and every opportunity to succeed.

2. Would you want to live in a city that discriminates against young girls?

Would you want to move to a city that you know discriminates against young girls in athletics or anything else? What if you wanted to settle down and build a life in that city? You would have to take into account the school system. This should apply to all cities in the way they handle equality in education.

3. Athletics encourages a healthy body and healthy body image.

American girls face an obesity epidemic and are plagued by poor body image. In 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese — regular physical activity could help mitigate that problem. Healthy lifestyle habits can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases. Girls and women who play sports have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem, a more positive body image, and higher states of psychological well-being than girls and women who do not play sports.

Girls in D.C. — and across the country — deserve a healthy, active lifestyle and to be treated equally. These are things that all young people should take into account when they think about putting down roots in the cities they begin their lives and careers in. As a 20-something D.C. resident, I’ll be watching closely to see how D.C. tackles this inequality in schools.