Pawing through the papers of Title IX history

Here’s the thing about Title IX: Everybody I interview has a Title IX story. Some of the stories contradict each other. There are those that present clear pictures of the past, and others are a little blurry around the edges. Title IX is, after all, 45 years old — still young, but old enough for people to question their memories about it, or to question the memories of others. And old enough that some of the people involved in the beginning are, unfortunately, no longer with us. Part of my job as a journalist and historian is to question the […]

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Facades change, but Title IX foundation remains

An aging federal building in Portland, Ore. that was rehabilitated to model modern environmental ethics honors a woman, coincidentally named Green, who is best known for rehabbing federal laws to treat women ethically. Rep. Edith Louise Starrett Green (D-OR), a former teacher, birthed Title IX in 1971-1972 as chair of the Subcommittee on Education of the House Education and Labor Committee, giving girls and women equal opportunities in education. During her 10 terms from 1955 to 1974, Congress also felt her influence in the Equal Pay Act of 1963, a 1971 bill that outlawed sex discrimination in training doctors, nurses, and […]

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Generations inherit Title IX unfinished business

Feminism is a journey, not a destination. We travel some of the same roads as our foremothers. Our descendants retrace a few of our footsteps, rediscover some things we’ve experienced, and continue hacking through the sexist thickets that still block the way. If we’re lucky, they blaze trails that take us to beautiful new vistas. Title IX remains the most important law for U.S. women other than the 13th and 19th Amendments to the Constitution (which abolished slavery and granted women the right to vote) because feminism’s work is unfinished and Title IX is the strongest tool we have to clear the path ahead. Some of […]

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Framing Title IX controversies: New or old?

The media and anti-Title IX pundits are fond of framing controversies around campus sexual assaults as a relatively “new” phenomenon that started in 2011. Too often that leaves out the 45-year history of schools and colleges unfairly ignoring, obstinately defying, and only reluctantly complying with Title IX’s mandate to fight sex discrimination in education. A case in point: The Chronicle of Higher Education, which probably has the best and most extensive Title IX coverage of any media outlet over the years, published a lengthy and very interesting article (available to subscribers), “One Letter Changed Colleges’ Response to Rape Cases.” The article described events since the Office for Civil […]

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Title IX case bridged black, women’s movements

Pamela Price entered Yale University in 1974 as a black nationalist with a huge Angela Davis-style afro. She’d never heard of Title IX and wasn’t attracted to any of the women’s organizations on campus. She put her heart and energies into the black community and working for civil rights. By the time she graduated in 1978, though, Price was one of a handful of women at the heart of a pivotal legal case that established for the first time that Title IX covers sexual harassment — Alexander v. Yale. Her involvement bridged the black rights and women’s rights movements on campus. Thus began a […]

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Athlete activism all about men, apparently

A new Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change at San Jose State University launched yesterday, but media coverage of the kick-off event gives the impression that only men are athletes and activists. A featured panel of “leaders and legends” in sports was all men, a slap that stings extra in 2017, the 45th anniversary of Title IX. The half-day program focused on activism against racism, which was wonderful (though a bit confusing at first, since nothing in the Institute’s name or description suggested limiting the topic of Social Change to race issues). The program did include an earlier panel that […]

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Senators should ask DeVos about Title IX

The U.S. Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee has at least another week to consider what it will ask Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos since it delayed her nomination hearing from Jan. 11th to next Wednesday, Jan. 18. My suggestion: Ask her about Title IX. Does she understand that it’s a civil law operating under civil procedures, not criminal ones? Does she agree that Title IX is important for elementary and secondary schools as well as higher educational institutions? Is she aware that it’s about so much more than the hot-button issues of sports or sexual assault or transgender bathrooms? For the […]

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Fake news generates fake history

Pop quiz: Who said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Go ahead, google it. You’ll find lots of sources all over the Web and social media agreeing that the quote came from poet and writer Maya Angelou. But they’re all wrong. The modern crisis of fake news has a corollary in fake history, which is why I find myself returning to original (“primary”) sources as I research the history of Title IX. It’s difficult to discern the fakeness of the quote above by online searching because it’s been repeated so often that it dominates search results. Eventually, another source […]

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Journalists ignore women’s sports

I saw ghosts in October. I could sense that female athletes were out there being sportsy and all, but in my local newspaper mostly they were invisible. I decided, on an irritated whim, to monitor the San Francisco Chronicle’s coverage of women’s sports for one month and write a Letter to the Editor each day, a horrifying exercise that left me cursing the Chronicle. Jump to the Oct. 31 letter below for a recap and the curse. Or follow along in these excerpts: Oct. 1: 10 pages, 22 stories, 13 photos. Women = 2 sentences. Nothing on the two exciting WNBA […]

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Ten reasons to vote, for Title IX

Title IX itself isn’t on the ballot Nov. 8, but it might as well be. The gains made for sexual and gender fairness through Title IX were created by politicians, courts, and activists, and can be undone by them, too. Now that we’ve had several generations of women grow up and grow stronger under Title IX, I tend to think that we’ll never  go back to the days when “normal” meant only men got to make the decisions and to define what’s fair. We’ve still got a long way to go to reach equity in so many parts of our […]

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Media amplify Title IX controversies

Journalists’s coverage of Title IX disputes put the heat on government and educational institutions to deal with sex discrimination, from Cheryl Fields at The Chronicle of Higher Education in the 1970s to Tyler Kingkade at the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed today. Their stories about feminism and the backlashes against it are time capsules of two different eras with some persistent problems. (See the video interview with Fields, above.) Fields’s beat (the federal government as it relates to education)  justified covering Title IX issues and reached a dedicated audience of academic readers of the print weekly newspaper. Kingkade carved an online niche that reaches […]

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Running for president, long before Hillary

History turns a page this week when Hillary Clinton becomes the first female candidate for U.S. President to be nominated by a major political party. In the spirit of this blog’s weaving of historical and contemporary threads, you might enjoy The Guardian’s article on Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for President, or The Smithsonian’s article on the same topic. Many of the foremothers of Title IX who have been profiled on this blog are contemporaries of Sen. Clinton and entered government service in some fashion in the 1960s and 1970s. See this earlier post for a fun photo […]

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Equality game in overtime for coaches

I loved being the quarterback. I had a strong passing arm, a good eye for quickly reading the players on the field, and fast legs to sprint when I had to. My college football team didn’t play on the stadium field, since girls weren’t allowed to play intercollegiate football, but the intramural teams got us in the game. On Christmas break, back home my father seemed to listen with enthusiasm as I described the best plays from our games. He introduced me to football, after all, through weekend TV, teaching me to recognize a screen play or a defensive blitz. […]

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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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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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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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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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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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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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