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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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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Women got Ford to fund Title IX

                        A good idea doesn’t go very far, very fast without financing. In the early years of Title IX, key funds came through a new cohort of women hired or promoted by the Ford Foundation. Uppity women on the Foundation’s staff pressured senior management in the early 1970s to diversify its white-males bastion of decision-makers and to direct more of its funding to issues pertinent to women and people of color. The same process was happening in all parts of society thanks to civil rights movements and the second-wave women’s movement. Ford’s response […]

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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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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: 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 of […]

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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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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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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 Woman’s National 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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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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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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