Lobbyists, Congressional staff influenced Title IX

[Videos feature Judy Norrell, former lobbyist for the League of Women Voters, and Barbara Dixon, former staff person for Sen. Birch Bayh.] Title IX wasn’t just an act of Congress, nor did it come simply from the demands of women’s activist organizations. There’s plenty of overlap between insiders and outsiders in Washington, D.C. and varying degrees of insider- or outsider-ness depending on the person and the situation. Women were small in number compared with men working in the nation’s capitol in the 1970s, which made it easier, in some ways, to find each other and collaborate as both insiders and outsiders. Female […]

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PEER took Title IX to the kids

“It’s just ordinary us.” That’s how Holly Knox describes people who change the world. You don’t need to be special, she said. Most world-changers aren’t. She’s one of the “ordinary” people who followed an opportunity to make a difference, and it improved the lives of girls across the country. (See the video interview.) At age 27, Knox left a government job to found an advocacy organization that became a powerhouse in bringing Title IX into elementary and secondary schools to fight sex discrimination — the Project on Equal Education Rights (PEER). She had been working as a legislative staff person in […]

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Sports took center court under Title IX

(Video: Margot Polivy describes the struggles around women’s athletics under Title IX in the 1970s.) The people who created Title IX really weren’t thinking about athletics. No one saw the uproar coming. For the most part, Title IX’s creators focused on collegiate admissions, equity in faculty hiring, fair pay, getting rid of sex-role stereotypes in school materials, and the like. But once the law passed in 1972 and the federal government set about formulating regulations to implement it, controversy over athletics quickly became the public face of Title IX. In many crucial settings over the next decade, Margot Polivy spoke for women’s athletics as […]

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Writing the Title IX playbook on sports

A non-athlete played a profound role in opening up sports to millions of U.S. girls and women. In this video, she talks about what it took to begin writing the playbook for equality in athletics under Title IX. Margaret Dunkle was in her mid-20s when she joined Bernice Sandler to work on the Project on the Status and Education of Women at the Association of American Colleges just a few weeks after Title IX became law in 1972.  The creators and foremothers of Title IX weren’t thinking of sports  in the beginning; the law originally was intended to fix discrimination […]

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National Lawyers Guild honors Title IX shero

Like many of today’s undergraduates who have spoken up about sexual assaults and harassment on college campuses, Pamela Y. Price  was driven by outrage when she complained to Yale University officials that a male faculty member offered her an A grade in exchange for sex. Implying, of course, that he’d lower her grade if she didn’t submit. Her final grade: C. But that was in 1976, and the grade wasn’t the end of the story. Price and her allies filed the first legal complaint against sexual harassment under Title IX. Their years-long legal battle — known initially as Alexander v. Yale before the […]

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Women’s rights, minority rights inseparable

VIDEO: Francelia Gleaves (now McKindra) not only was one of the first people to work at length on Title IX issues in the 1970s, she was one of the few African Americans doing this work. To her mind, minorities’ civil rights and women’s rights were inseparable, though not everyone felt that way, she says in this 2015 interview. A lot was happening on both fronts at that time. White America still was slow to adjust to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which, by the way, failed to prohibit discrimination based on sex in some of its provisions, hence the need […]

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Some Harvard professors have challenged the accuracy of "The Hunting Ground." (photo by Sherry Boschert)

“Hunting Ground” documentary in crosshairs of history

The San Francisco Chronicle published my op-ed article about women finding their voices to speak out against sexual assault and harassment on campuses. It’s online now; look for it in print on Thursday, Nov. 19. This Sunday, Nov. 22, CNN will televise the documentary “The Hunting Ground” about the handling of sexual assaults at colleges and universities. You can watch or record it at 5 p.m. Pacific time (8 p.m. Eastern), followed by a discussion panel featuring the filmmakers and others. Director Kirby Dick and Producer Amy Ziering (creators of the Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated documentary “The Invisible War”) took some […]

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Alexandra Brodsky (left) and Rachel Kauder Nalebuff kick off The Feminist Utopia Project's launch in San Francisco.

Fomenting a feminist utopia can be fun

It’s one thing to change the course of history. It’s even rarer to know that’s what you’re doing, and perhaps rarer still to have fun doing it. While researching the people behind Title IX from its inception to today, I’ve vicariously enjoyed the camaraderie and sisterhood expressed along the way, from the “foremothers” of Title IX in the 1970s to the editors and contributors involved in the new book The Feminist Utopia Project (The Feminist Press 2015). Feminists involved in the women’s movement in the 1960s and 1970s worked on many projects and goals, some of which succeeded and some of which […]

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A new report from Equal Rights Advocates suggested specific steps that individuals, schools, and governments can take to stop sexual harassment in schools.

Lack of Title IX in K-12 schools adding to college rape crisis?

A third of 96 school districts in the San Francisco Bay Area that responded to requests for public information did not identify a Title IX coordinator in their district — something they are required to have by law. That law — Title IX — has been on the books for more than 43 years and is in headlines today because of mounting complaints about sexual assaults and harassment on college campuses. “What the heck is happening at K through 12,” and how is that contributing to this epidemic of sexual assaults in colleges, Noreen Farrell of Equal Rights Advocates wondered at a focus […]

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Some of the books on the shelves of Bernice Sandler, godmother of Title IX.

My Title IX reading list (or what I did this summer)

Current news articles and analyses provide helpful nuggets of background related to Title IX, such as a New York Times Magazine article on The Return of the Sex Wars. But to sample the bigger buffet of Title IX history from the past 50 years, I’ve been devouring books and films, digging into research libraries, and savoring original documents generously sent me by the people I’ve been interviewing. Bernice Sandler told me that she once set a goal of owning every book about equality for women, which might have been possible decades ago, but she soon found that the second wave of […]

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Legal muscle behind Title IX still flexing

The Chicago Public School District just got its sports programs schooled by a Hall of Famer. Not a sports star, mind you, but Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center. (Video: Greenberger describes her reasons for pursuing legal justice for women.) Chicago has agreed to a settlement with the U.S. Office for Civil Rights resulting from a complaint filed by the Center in 2010 claiming that the city denies girls the sports opportunities it gives to boys. As a result, the District will have to create roughly 6,000 more opportunities for girls to engage in sports, affecting most of […]

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Men fought (and fight) for Title IX too

From 93-year-old Vincent Macaluso to young men on college campuses today, a long line of male allies to women helped bring us Title IX and are fighting to uphold its principles of fairness. (Video below: The Godfather of Title IX) While we wouldn’t have this essential law without all the uppity women who pushed for it, let’s take a moment on this 43rd anniversary of President Nixon signing Title IX (June 23, 1972) to recognize its forefathers, in a week when the nation also celebrated Father’s Day. Much of the momentum leading up to Title IX came from a slew […]

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A woman with some weighing scales, representing justice. (Wikimedia/Creative Commons 4.0/from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the U.K.)

Spotting truthiness in Title IX debates

So much of what passes for informed discussion about Title IX is tantamount to truthiness, the wonderful word coined by comedian Stephen Colbert. Some people prefer what they wish to be true instead of the historical reality of Title IX. Whether in debates about the handling of sexual assault and harassment complaints on campuses, or in the never-ending whining by men’s sports fans that Title IX is killing their sports, some inaccuracies certainly are due to an unfortunate lack of knowledge about Title IX despite it being the most important legislation for U.S. women since the right to vote. In […]

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Female athletes stripped in a Yale administrator's office to protest inequitable treatment in violation of Title IX.

Uppity women changing UC Santa Barbara

A nearly 13-hour sit-in by female students and their supporters at the University of California, Santa Barbara produced promises of change from the administration, providing an example of how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go under Title IX. The sit-in happened just as I was watching the 1999 documentary A Hero for Daisy about a dramatic 1976 protest by female students at Yale University who stripped off their clothes in an administrator’s office to reveal “Title IX” or “IX” written in bold letters on their chests and backs. Their leader, Chris Ernst, then read a statement of grievances […]

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Too [fill in the blank] for a woman

Whatever you think of the outcome of Ellen Pao’s lawsuit claiming sex discrimination at the famed Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, a tactic used by the company’s defense team could make one cringe — character assassination. (Video: Bernice Sandler, who was “too strong for a woman.”) Telling a woman that she is too exacting, too condescending, too abrasive, too strong, too weak,  too whatever to be hired, promoted, etc. is an age-old excuse used countless times to deny women opportunities that might be offered to a man who has the same qualities. (Speaking generally now, not specifically about Pao’s […]

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Comedian Betsy Salkind

Students as sexual predators: the norm?

What do Title IX, the comedian Betsy Salkind, and the new film The Hunting Ground have in common? A historical thread that’s about to change one sorry aspect of U.S. society. Finally. I hope. The Hunting Ground opens in cities across the United States this week and offers the possibility of a fundamental cultural shift toward respecting that non-consensual sex is an assault even if it’s done by a peer, like a student with a student, and that schools must not hide, tolerate, or condone it. At least, I think that’s what the film may point toward. I plan to see […]

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Legendary Tennessee women's basketball head coach Pat Summit (in green) at a game against Texas in 2008. (Wikimedia Commons/aaronisnotcool/Creative Commons 2.0 license)

Women get smaller share of coaching since Title IX

Often when we think of Title IX we think of how this law opened up opportunities for millions of girls to play sports and be athletes. The numbers tell a different story for women who want to be coaches. The percentage of college women’s teams that are coached by women dropped by more than half (from 90% to 40%) while the proportion of women coaching men’s teams did not rise, according to the fine folks at the Title IX Blog who do such a good job of keeping us up to date on current events related to Title IX. Don’t blame […]

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Taking the mystery out of obtaining consent

I’m wondering how the new “affirmative consent” standard adopted by California in 2015 and by an increasing number of colleges around the country is working out so far. It basically says that a college student must obtain consent from an awake, sober person before having sex, or risk having that sex be considered an assault. It doesn’t sound too complicated to me, but some people seem to think so. Here’s an excellent explanation from blogger Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princess, who brilliantly says, “If you’re still struggling, just imagine instead of initiating sex, you’re making them a cup of tea.” The rest is […]

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Video history from women behind Title IX

Eleven of the women most closely involved in the struggle to implement Title IX gathered on January 26, 2015 to give a living history of this most important legislation for U.S. women since the right to vote. Focusing mainly on the early years after its passage in 1972, they also shared their fears that Title IX’s hard-won gains could be lost if people don’t remain vigilant in supporting it. I’m thankful to Margaret Dunkle for organizing the luncheon at the National Woman’s Democratic Club and for including me as I research my book on the people behind Title IX.

Fresno tied to Title IX over decades

Video: Bernice Sandler coaches Women’s Studies students and faculty who are trying to improve policies at the California State University, Fresno, in November 2014. People all over the United States have links to Title IX. I’m enjoying seeing the fingers of this important law poke up in some unexpected places as I research its history and today’s in-the-news developments. Among them: Fresno, California, which appears often enough that it serves as an example of nearly every phase of Title IX. For example, Frederick W. Ness was president of Fresno State College just before becoming president of the Association of American Colleges and […]

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A scene from "She's Beautiful When She's Angry."

Uppity women star in new film

“She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” opens today in a San Francisco movie theater, and I can’t wait to see it. The headline on San Francisco Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle’s review calls it “How women got started getting uppity,” which of course reminds me of the uppity women I’ve been interviewing for my book on the people behind Title IX. Some of the Title IX foremothers never would have joined the street protests or other public demonstrations depicted in the film. They weren’t those kind of women. Much too radical for them. Yet, uppity they were, too. And all the […]

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Deborah Ashford holds of poster of President Carter's female appointees.

Title IX foremothers gather in D.C.

I’m heading home from an intensive two weeks in Washington, D.C. doing interviews and research for my book on the people behind Title IX, and I’m especially grateful to Margaret Dunkle for inviting me to an historic gathering of 11 of the remaining foremothers of Title IX for me to witness, listen to, and interview. Some brought momentos for show-and-tell. Here’s Deborah Ashford holding a poster that the Carter Administration issued to show that he’d kept his promise to appoint more women to government positions. Look who’s right next to each other — a young Hillary Rodham (center, left) and […]

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Name it to change it

(Video: Title IX expert Bernice Sandler on why words matter.) We swim in a sea of cultural assumptions. Norms surround us like the air we breathe, scarcely noticeable until we find them toxic, and then hard to explain to someone who isn’t feeling their poisonous effects. Parting the sea, cleaning the air of sexist assumptions takes time and effort, and even the cleaners may feel residual toxic effects. Women from the early history of Title IX have described to me insecurities from internalizing the sexism around them in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Bernice Sandler initially believed a colleague when he told […]

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Bernice Sandler, the godmother of Title IX, holds copies of reports from the first Congressional hearings on discrimination against women, in 1970.

37 words that inspired thousands

Bernice Sandler wanted to be a professor. Patsy Takemoto Mink hoped to be a doctor. Meg Newman wanted to play baseball in high school. Emma Sulkowicz just wanted to feel safe on her college campus. Thirty-seven words make those dreams possible today — too late for some of these women, but possible for millions of others, and only because people like Sandler, Mink, Newman, and Sulkowicz fought back when the people in charge told them to go away. These battles are not over. They’re in the news every day. Those 37 words make up Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, […]

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