• Let Us Never Be The Least Bit Ashamed Or Scared To Defend Our Girls

    June 13, 2024
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    (From our honorable friends slightly to the north: a powerful message we need to embrace nationally in order to win this grotesque showdown. --Ed.)

    Kim Jones speaking at a fundraiser in CT.
    Photo Credit: Gillian Nadel Gaughan

    By Kim Jones

    The following speech was delivered by Kim Jones to an eager crowd at a fundraiser in New Canaan, CT, last week. Funds were raised to support the lawsuit recently filed by 16 female athletes, including Riley Gaines, to protect women's sports and ensure safety in women's locker rooms.

    Let us never be the least bit ashamed or scared to defend our girls.

    We are here to champion women’s sports, to understand what is happening to our daughters and learn how we can change the current situation facing female athletes at every age and every level. No one has explained this more succinctly, in my opinion, than US National Team member for US Triathlon, Lauren Bondly:

    "This fight is about whether women deserve to be treated fairly or not. Because if we don't deserve to be treated fairly, even in the one place where fairness is supposed to be ensured and upheld, what hope do we have everywhere else where women are being treated poorly and people make excuses like that's our place and we just need to learn how to take it?”

    After this introduction you will hear from four incredibly strong and accomplished plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the NCAA for allowing a male swimmer to compete at the 2022 NCAA Championships where he won a Women’s National title and entered and undressed in the women’s locker rooms with women who wanted no part of undressing in front of a man. This event forced national attention on something that had been brewing for decades out of public view. It caught many of us off-guard, including me.

    It’s important to understand the current situation.

    Presently, there are too many boys and men competing to even tell you about and they have won at every level of women’s sport. Most of you have probably heard of the two boys that took 15 state titles and 17 state records here in Connecticut about 5 years ago. However, the public is generally unaware of the persistent problem that continues to expand.

    In Connecticut alone, there have been several other girls state titles won by boys, and even more boys participating and winning awards - taking opportunities away from girls and robbing all of the competitors of fair sport. In about the last two weeks in 5 states across the US, there have been boys crowned as girls state high school champions in track and field alone, including again here in Connecticut.

    Some of these boys are at the top of the rankings for girls nationally and all of them are competitive for collegiate scholarships. Half the girls track relay team at one high school in Hawaii is currently male. Just in this last year we know of five women and girls in high school and college who have been concussed in volleyball by male players - in some cases with permanent brain damage.

    We’ve seen women have their teeth knocked out in field hockey and we’ve spoken personally with women who have been severely injured in contact sports. I was just on a phone call with a cyclist a few weeks ago where all of the awards in the women’s event went to men - all three podium finishes, fastest out of town finisher and even their DFL prize - all men.

    There were 5 known male athletes competing in women’s NCAA sports this year, almost none of these stories were shared in the mainstream media, including one Division 1 volleyball player likely receiving women’s full athletic scholarships for the past three years in California.

    You’ve heard of Lia Thomas, but there are men who have won World, Olympic and National championship titles. There are men who hold women’s world records. Men who have taken All-American status and so many boys who have won state medals, we can’t keep track of them. This has all just been happening since about 2015 and the problem is rapidly growing each year. The effects of this experience on women and girls is hard to articulate. I was introduced to this when my daughter had to compete head to head against Lia Thomas, and when I witnessed how she and her peers were treated by the leaders of their sport and their schools. One of those athletes is here tonight from the Penn women’s team, the courageous Paula Scanlan from our area, who has been speaking out and working to protect women ever since.

    Paula Scanlon, Photo Credit: Gillian Nadel Gaughan

    I had a front row seat to the tears and the struggle and I watched as strong confident women became frightened, quiet, and stopped believing that they could depend on their coaches, parents and leaders to do the right thing. The women were silenced, told to ignore their instinctive reaction to injustice, fear and discomfort, they were emotionally blackmailed and told that the feelings and well-being of a man were more important than their own.

    Telling women that they are responsible for carrying the mental health burdens of another is wrong.

    Every week I now see firsthand what happens as we are putting our women and girls through this. The stories, the numbers, and the impacts are heartbreaking and they are staggering in volume. When they reach out to us, women are relieved to be able to speak freely and share their experiences. In most instances, women, parents, families and even whole professional and collegiate teams contact us in tears, wondering why no one is doing anything to stop the painful situations they are facing or watching unfold around them. They speak of getting physically sick, losing weight, finding it difficult to focus and sleep, anger, depression, and fear. They speak of quitting, injuries, or retiring early, and some have - at the highest levels. The younger athletes consider changing sports entirely to try to escape the injustice.

    As this has become more visible over the last two years, we’ve seen public support for female athletes only grow. When we tell our girls that they are more valuable as tools of affirmation, as shields of protection for men, when we tell women that their accomplishments, their desire to win, their hard work and feelings need to be set aside to make someone else feel better, we damage them psychologically. This is abuse of women.

    So, we are here to say no. We are not ok with this as the future for our daughters and we won’t back down. The cavalry has arrived, but they need you to give them the means to take this battle to court and see it through on behalf of girls out there today. These incredibly brave and unbelievably accomplished young women are here to speak to you tonight, to share their stories and tell you why they are fighting for the rights of female athletes.

    Supporting these female athletes in this lawsuit is the best possible investment in a future for our daughters where women are recognized and respected.

    This lawsuit aims to:

    1. Compel the NCAA to protect the women’s category in sports.
    2. Rectify the results of the 2022 Women’s NCAA Swim and Dive Championships, where
      Lia Thomas participated.
    3. Ensure that women’s locker rooms remain female-only spaces.

      This lawsuit is crucial bc:
      ● It will impact women and girls in every state and at every level of sport subject to Title IX (K-College).
      ● A victory will reinforce the recognition of sex in law across the U.S.The contested points are:
      ● Title IX protects women from discrimination based on sex, not “gender identity.” Sex means male and female.
      ● Bathrooms and locker rooms must be segregated by sex to protect the rights of women and girls.

    If the plaintiffs win, ALL states, even here in Connecticut, will be compelled to protect women’s sports for women.

    The Gaines case, filed in Georgia in the 11th Circuit, has the best Title IX case precedent in the U.S. The 11th Circuit has recognized Title IX as a sex-based law, specifically covering sports, locker rooms, and bathrooms in previous decisions. It’s hopeful this case will progress to the Supreme Court quickly, supported by strong precedents and clear language.

    Title IX Trickles Down

    A win in a case like this is a crucial step in the U.S. to influence Olympic and club-level sports policy. There is nothing that will have a more immediate impact than this lawsuit to shift the legal and cultural direction of the conversation around men in women’s sports and spaces securing the rights of our girls to fair treatment and respect in their sports and communities.

    Kim Jones is a cofounder of ICONS, the Independent Council on Women’s Sports, a network and advocacy group comprised of current and former collegiate and professional women athletes, their families and supporters. 

    From L to R: Kim Jones, Riley Gaines, Kaitlyn Wheeler, RekaGyorgy, and Kylee Alons.
    Photo Credit: Gillian Nadel Gaughan

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