Opinion: Title IX requirements were profound for women and changed America for the better

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Fifty years ago today, President Richard M. Nixon signed an omnibus bill bringing order to various federal education policies. The otherwise common law is now remembered for one thing only: its Title IX provision: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation, be denied benefits, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. It was like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but based on gender instead of race. It started a journey that left this nation a much better place.

What is most quickly remembered about the Title IX requirement that educational institutions receiving federal funding must treat men and women equally is that it led to a an explosion in women’s sports participation in high school and college, which is now up to 10 times higher than levels seen in 1972. .

But Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post has done the best job framing the law’s long-term impacts. Contrary to her detractors, she wrote, “Title IX did not destroy men’s sports programs. Title IX devastated everything. It destroyed ideas – men’s ideas of what women were capable of, but above all, women’s ideas ideas on themselves.”

As academic researchers have shown, far beyond athletics, the most profound effect of Title IX has been to influence women to change their expectations of higher education. This led to a huge increase in the number of female students in law and medicine and dozens of other fields that were considered closed male fiefdoms. Fifty years later, women now constitute the clear majority of American students.

The long-term effects of Title IX have also been profound with respect to employment and the requirements for monitoring and vigorously combating sexual discrimination and harassment. For decades, activists have used the law to expose colleges’ failure to protect female students from unfair and callous administrators and from predatory professors and fellow students. It helped inspire the courts, Congress, and future presidential administrations to demand and demand profound institutional change far beyond academia.

Yes, the circumstances remain far from ideal. The use of Title IX in the name of transgender people is opposed by some social and religious conservatives, leading to ugly new chapters in the culture wars. Even before the events of the past two years – in which some Republican governors increasingly expressed open contempt for those who did not fit into the tidy boxes of the 1950s – too many people still faced the kind of treatment that title IX is supposed to stop. Protections that may seem standard in white-collar jobs seem irrelevant to many women working in blue-colored services and jobs, where harassment can be a daily occurrence.

Nonetheless, as a symbol of American ideals and the federal government’s commitment to using its power to combat gender discrimination, Title IX represents both a noble moment in United States history and a necessary break. with the past. May it inspire more positive change. And may the principles he represents be reflected in ever more American life.

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