Title IX: The amendment that changed our world

“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”    -Start of the original Title IX law

The story of Title IX sounds like it was made up as a leftist-feminist conspiracy tale, intended to prove just how fucked up gender discrimination was (is) in America. But, I kid you not, this is how it happened:

In 1965, presidential Executive Order 11246 prohibited federal contractors from discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, or national origin. President Johnson later amended the Executive Order to include discrimination based on sex in 1968. Soon there after, Bernice Sandler of the University of Maryland realized that, as federal contractors, most universities and colleges were subject to the Order and her efforts to bring this to light caught the attention of Rep. Martha Griffiths (D-Michigan), who then gave the first Congressional speech about discrimination against women in education on March 9, 1970. The conversation that the speech started inspired Rep. Edith Green (D-Ohio) to draft anti-discrimination legislation and hold the first congressional hearings on discrimination against women in education and employment during June and July of 1970. Senators Birch Bayh (D-Indiana) and George McGovern (D-South Dakota) managed the bill in the Senate and after several months of debate and compromise, the Education Amendments of 1972, including Title IX, were signed into law by President Nixon without much fanfare. Supporters of Title IX intentionally kept mum on it’s benefits & relied heavily on the ignorance of it’s would-be opponents. What they didn’t notice, wouldn’t piss them off until it’s too late! Sorta’ like the strategy used to pass the Patriot Act, except instead of circumventing the freedoms of Americans, Title IX expanded them. It is a common misperception that Title IX only applies to women’s participation in sports programs. It did open the Wide World of Sports to the fairer sex, but it also prohibited the common practice of steering girls away from science or math programs and into Home Economics courses against their will. It did forcibly open up the Debate Teams, the student government, and all those extra-curricular programs that colleges look for on student applications. Educational institutions receiving federal money were no longer allowed to keep women from receiving higher education, less they jeopardize their grant funding. It did de-gender scholastic subjects making it easier for American girls to become Mathematicians, Scientists, Engineers, and Intellectuals in traditionally male-dominated fields. It is difficult for me, a girl born into the post-Title IX era, to imagine what the educational system looked like prior to 1972. We certainly didn’t have to attend our Mamma’s high school! That maybe why I can’t hem a skirt, but that’s another story!

The wording of the Education Amendments was intentionally vague, since any specifications in the initial bill would jeopardize it’s passage, and it took three more years before the specific regulations of Title IX were signed into law by President Ford on May 27, 1975. These specific regulations/ protections required school districts (or other such systems) to appoint at least one Title IX coordinator, who’s name & contact information is available to all students / parents / staff members, to oversee compliance efforts and investigate any sex discrimination claims. Districts were also required to make grievance procedures and discrimination policies public. After these regulations were announced, districts (and the like) were allowed to undertake a one-time self evaluation of discriminatory policies and were given the opportunity to layout plans to rectify bias, this way the schools weren’t slammed by a wave of lawsuits they were unprepared to face. Title IX went largely ignored and under enforced during the politically conservative Reagan and Bush Sr. Administrations, but since the 1990’s it has become an indispensable piece of gender-equality legislation.

Title IX has since been renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, in honor of the late Rep. Patsy Mink (D-Hawaii), the co-author of the original bill. Thirty-six years after Rep. Mink and Rep. Edith Green watched their historic legislation signed into law, we are still reaping the benefits of their hard work. The drop-out rate for pregnant teens and young women with children has dropped 30% since the 1970’s, largely because Title IX prohibited the automatic expulsion of mothers or would be- mothers. In the 1970’s, only 18% of American women completed four or more years of higher education. But, for the first time in American history, women now outnumber men in undergraduate programs & women receive 55% of all Bachelor’s Degrees. Women went from earning only 7% of all law degrees (in 1972) to a whopping 43% (as of 1994); they formerly held only 9% of all medical and 1% of dental degrees, but as of the early nineties women have received 38% of the degrees in both fields. There has been a four-fold increase in women’s participation in athletics since 1971, undeniably a result of Title IX’s protections. Probably more important than any tangible statistical comparison is the change in social beliefs about women and education. Many modern American families want their sons AND daughters to participate in sports programs, successfully complete high school, and go on to an institution of higher learning to earn their degrees. Prior to the ‘70s, this was necessarily the case in households across America. There isn’t exactly a study or bar graph I can cite to prove the change in American attitude toward women & education, but the proof is unnecessary if your mother, your grandmother, your aunts, or other ladies educated in prior generations are available to talk about the subject. This month marks the 36th anniversary of Title IX’s passage and I suggest we take a moment to reflect on how we have benefited from it’s existence. Devote a minute, an hour, an afternoon to thinking about how education has impacted your life and consider the not-so-distant past when women, just like you, were denied the opportunity to learn. Threats to equality never cease to exist, so peep yourself up on game about the campaign to Save Title IX at the EXercise My Rights webpage.


Facts and information cited in the above post was gathered from the following sites: Historical info found in the WEEA Digest from August 1997 located HERE, progress statistics were found in an archived progress report from the U.S. Department of Education dated June 1997 located HERE. Sorry, I couldn’t find more recent information on the subject.

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