In Celebration of Women’s History Month: Advocating for Fair and Safe Competitions for Female Athletes

The month of March is Women’s History Month, a dedicated time to honor and reflect on the contributions of women throughout history, including their strides and achievements in the realm of sports. Women have overcome many obstacles to achieving equality in sports, but sadly the clock is turned backward on their advancements when they are forced to compete with men.

When competitive female swimmer Riley Gaines of the University of Kentucky tied with Lia Thomas (a biological male) in the 2022 NCAA Swim Championships, the incident made national headlines, raising concerns about biological men participating in women’s sports.

Over the past few years, Massachusetts has had a few troubling headlines of its own. Several instances of biological men participating in women’s sports, have cost female athletes championship titles as well as caused injuries to young women competing.

The phenomenon of men identifying as women and competing in women’s sports affects females in both school athletic programs and professional athletic organizations. And it’s not hard to figure out why. Men’s body composition, strength, and endurance give them an unfair advantage when competing against women, not to mention the risk they pose to women’s safety.

The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s (MIAA) Rulebook currently requires that if there is no equivalent boys’ team in a sport, male athletes must be allowed to play on the girls’ team, with no exceptions. It also requires that males who identify as female be allowed to compete on the girls’ team. As a direct result of these policies girls are being harmed.

Here is a timeline detailing how the participation of biological male athletes has impacted girls’ high school and women’s professional sports competitions, as well as the physical safety of female athletes, within the Commonwealth:

2022, Northampton: Biological male, Austin Killips took first place in an elite women’s cycling race, the Verge Northampton International Cyclocross in Northampton, MA. This is amongst Killips’ 17 career wins, most of which have been in women’s competitions.

2023, Brookline: Chloe Barnes, a biological boy, aided Brookline High School in winning the MIAA Division 1 Indoor Track and Field Championships and displaced another female athlete from advancing to finals hurdle competition.  

2023, Dighton-Rehoboth: In a girl’s high school field hockey game at Dighton-Rehoboth, a female athlete was struck in the mouth by a ball shot by a male playing on the Swampscott girls’ team. The female player suffered serious facial and dental injuries.

A female Dighton-Rehoboth field hockey player was sent to the hospital after a male Swampscott player’s shot hit her in the face. Her screams can be heard in the video, while many of her teammates can be seen becoming ill at the sight of her injury.

2024, Lowell: In the most recent incident, the Collegiate Charter School of Lowell girls’ basketball team’s coach forfeited the game at halftime against Kipp Academy (Lynn) after three of his players were injured by a male opponent. Collegiate Athletic Director Kyle Pelczar expressed concern over more players getting injured and preventing the team from being able to compete in the upcoming playoffs.

How many more lost competitions and injuries do female athletes have to endure before these unfair and dangerous policies are changed?

Common sense tells us that girls should compete with other girls, yet the MIAA seems determined to prioritize ideology over the health of their female student-athletes.

Celebrating Women’s History Month means championing women across all segments of society, and that includes in sports. We must acknowledge that genuine empowerment for women doesn’t happen by forcing them to compete alongside biological men. Such mandates do not foster equality but rather compromise the fairness of competitions and the well-being of female athletes. Demanding change to policies like the one from the MIAA is essential to safeguarding an equitable playing field, allowing women and girls to thrive in their sports careers.

Will you help MFI advocate for policies that protect girls’ sports in MA? Tell the MIAA to amend its rules. Sign and share the petition today!

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