I cannot imagine a world without Title IX. I am 35 years old and grew up under this radically awesome piece of legislation. How many other pieces of legislation can you think of that has impacted so many lives and done so much to positively change the lives of women and girls?
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 reads:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
1. The simplicity of Title IX: No one because of sex, female or male, can be denied access to any education program receiving federal funding. Of course enforcement and interpretation has waivered depending on who is in the White House.
2. The explosion of women in higher education: As you can see from the graph pulled from a 2007 Ms. magazine article [PDF warning!], women were eager for access to higher education.
3. Men entering women-dominated fields: Every now and then when I tell people that I run a program to support women in science and engineering, I get asked about men in nursing programs. Thanks to Title IX, men are most welcome and recruited into nursing programs. I love how their entrance has brought up questions of gendered teaching as well.
4. Women got game: According to the Women’s Sports Foundation:
In 1970, only 1 out of every 27 high school girls played varsity sports.[In 2008], that figure is one in 2.5. Female high school participation increased from 294,015 in 1971 to 2,472,043 in 1997. College participation has more than tripled, from 31,000 to 128,208.
5. Women also got lab: Title IX didn’t just open the fieldhouse doors, but also the doors to math classes and laboratories. According to the National Science Foundation, in 1972, women were earning just under 100,000 degrees in science and engineering. By 2008, women were at about 250,000 degrees.
There are some people who think it is a tragedy that young people, don’t know how hard it was to pass Title IX. I prefer to think of that ignorance as a victory. When I was a kid in the 1980s, I had this inkling that something like Title IX must exist. As a sports loving girl, I just knew it was wrong to legally keep girls off the playing field. I was lucky enough to have never consciously* run into sexism in the classroom. When I was entering high school, I dared a football coach to not let me try out. He relented. I didn’t try out. Yeah, I was that kind of girl. Now that I have a 6-almost-7-year-old daughter, I wouldn’t be upset if she was ignorant of Title IX and all the magic it possesses. She’s of a generation that entitlement will be constructed differently with a rainbow of advancements that even I didn’t think possible as a kid. She sees gender differences in how boys and girls act, in numbers on her soccer team and in her classroom. But what she doesn’t see is any obvious barriers to her doing what she wants. Well, other than the ones her parents put up anyway.
That said, I do make a point to educate my daughter on our shared women’s history. She has children’s books that discuss suffrage, the All-American Girls Baseball League and segration. She knows that the world she is growing up in was not always like this.
If my daughter and her friends, boys and girls, grow up not seeing any firm lines between boy sports and girl classes, then the promise of Title IX is working. Of course, we still see children being raised in a gendered manner (pink toys versus black & red toys) and public opinion makers still cling tightly to biological differences as a reason to keep girls out of the lab. But as long as we have Title IX in place, we have a powerful friend.
Happy Birthday Title IX!
And thank you to the couragous sponsors of Title IX, Birch Bayh (Senate) and Edith Green (House) and its author, Patsy Mink.
* a long story for another post
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