The One Where I Geek Out about Title IX

So, I know it has been absolutely forever since I wrote a post, but I’m back because I finally feel like I have the brain space to write and a topic I’m psyched to tell you all about!  Last week, on Tuesday, June 23rd, the White  House held a roundtable discussion to celebrate the 37th anniversary of Title IX and through a lucky convergence of events, I was able to attend the celebration!  I’ve been fairly obsessed with Title IX since I wrote my senior thesis about it in college, so I was RIDICULOUSLY excited to get to go to the White House event for it!  As it turns out, the roundtable also is a perfect excuse share some thoughts on why I am so in love with Title IX.

For all of you who aren’t Title IX geeks like me, Title IX is Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments and it states, “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.”  It is most famous for getting women and girls into sports, but we also have Title IX to thank for removing admissions barriers in higher education (for getting more women into college), barring discrimination against women teachers, administrators, and professors, and prohibiting sex discrimination in schools.

(Above: The video of the event).

So, back to the event.  It was nice to get to go to an event for something where I got to do all that and get to feel pretty jazzed and emotional about the topic at hand!  Here are a few of the event highlights:

  • It was in the OEOB.  I’m kind of a nerd and I always wanted to go to the OEOB.  Unfortunately, my efforts to snag a souvenir OEOB appointment badge failed miserably.
  • Birch Bayh, the former Senator from Indiana, who sponsored Title IX back in 1972 was there.  I didn’t realize he was still alive, so that was pretty cool.  In his brief remarks, he seemed to care very deeply about Title IX and that was cool to see.  I wrote a lot about Senator Bayh when I was doing my thesis and I always thought of him fondly from the way he came off as I read hearings from the 1970s, so it was cool to see that he actually was a good match for how I imagined him!
  • Billie Jean King was also there and that was very cool.  It’s hard to be a woman who likes sports and not think Billie Jean King is pretty awesome.  She was pretty emotional about how much Title IX meant to her and actually seemed glassy-eyed at times, so that was quite touching.  I also want to share this BJK quote, “Nerds rule!  I love nerds the best.  They’re smart and fun!”  Nothing says we should keep educating women at the highest levels and get them into science, technology, math, and engineering fields quite like that!
  • Dominique Dawes is absolutely jacked.  I felt out of shape just looking at her.  Though, I am out of shape so maybe I just felt out of shape from being out of shape.
  • Russlyn Ali, who is in charge of the Office of Civil Rights, our friends over at the Department of Education who enforce Title IX, really encouraged people to bring Title IX complaints and she talked a lot about how they want to vigorously enforce Title IX.  Fun to hear that after the Bush years!  WOO!

I took some notes on the whole event with the intention of writing a blog post that would basically be a recap, but now that I am writing and the whole thing is on YouTube, I feel like I would rather write a bit about why I care so damn much about Title IX.

The whole time I was sitting at the OEOB listening to all the amazing speakers talk about Title IX, I could not help but reflect on my own feelings about the law.  I first got interested in Title IX one summer during college, it must have been the summer of 2002 (the 30th anniversary of Title IX) when ESPN was showing all kinds of specials about Title IX and when I was trying to think of things that could be fun thesis topics.  I remember talking to one of my professors about how I wanted to write about how women’s sports and Title IX were not killing men’s sports, and my professor encouraged me to instead write about why we only talk about Title IX and its impact on sports.  What about its promise for women in education?   In retrospect, that might have been one of the more important questions someone has ever asked me.  I ended up answering that question in my thesis (we focus more on sports because the discussion about Title IX sports focuses on gender differences than the discussion about education and Title IX).  The question also prompted what I think will be a long and fulfilling relationship between me and Title IX research.

Since that project forced me to learn all about the broad applications of Title IX, I really gained an appreciation for how much Title IX has made me what I am.  At this point, it’s pretty clear that I am going to be in school forever, ideally earning a PhD and becoming an academic and I’ve been playing sports ever since I was old enough to wear a hat that was way too big for my head and hit a ball off a T.   I remember reading about Title IX and realizing how much my generation took for granted.  Before the law, colleges had quotas for how many women they could accept, textbooks were packed with sex stereotypes, women scientists had their experiments sabotaged, and women’s sports received little support.  It just blows my mind to think about that.  Where would I be if I couldn’t have completed something like 18 years of education?  What would I have studied?  What would I have done with all my free time instead of playing field hockey or soccer or running or ultimate frisbee?  I just literally I have no idea what I would be doing as I feel like my life has so often been defined by my need to learn and research and my love of sports.  It’s crazy to think that if I had been doing all of this like 37 years earlier I might be a totally different person.

I’ve still been writing about Title IX, most recently on the Bush Administration’s regulations that allow for single sex education under Title IX (we need to revoke those, by the way).  I also feel fairly certain that once I start a PhD program, I want to write my dissertation on the subject.   So, I thought that this White House event was the perfect opportunity to talk a little bit about why I care about Title IX since it’s something I plan to continue to work on for quite some time!

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This is the First Time I’ve Been Cited as an Expert in the Press

Check out my comments on why women are underrepresented in student government in the GW Hatchet.

http://media.www.gwhatchet.com/media/storage/paper332/news/2009/02/19/News/Sa.Election.Guide.Few.Females.Earn.Top.Spot-3638628.shtml

It’s exciting!

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It’s a Post about Academic Theory and Outrage!

As part of my morning routine, I always watch CNN while trying to will myself out of bed and this morning I was reminded of a story that’s been making my head want to explode.  Last week a story came out that Georgia Republicans are trying to ban “sex courses” (I love their use of scare quotes!) like queer theory.  Here’s the thing, I love queer theory and school, so this is the kind of thing I can really get going about.  Here’s a list of everything that is absolutely outrageous about this policy:

1) The press, I’m looking at you CNN, has embraced this language of “steamy sex courses” to describe queer theory.  Have any of these people ever,  you know, picked up a book?  It’s like they want you to believe that queer theory is a guide for how to have gay sex.  It is not.  It IS compromised of many awesome theories about how to see gender and gender identity as socially constructed.  It asks us to think way outside of the box and move beyond thinking of gender and binaries.  And my personal favorite part, is that it is actually very inclusive in mind, because it pushes for an understanding of gender that allows for a diverse array of gender identities and sexualities.  It challenges people to think in new ways and that is never a bad thing.

(I know, you’re so pumped about this theory now that you want to know where you can read more.  I’d suggest starting with Gender Trouble by Judith Butler.  It will blow your mind!)

2) Here’s what’s cool about academia, if you don’t agree with a theory, such as queer theory, no one is saying you can’t argue against it, you just have to do it on solid academic grounding.  I realize queer theory is pretty radical and some people are going to disagree with it, but to those people I say, why don’t you read some queer theory, do some reasearch, and give me a well-thought out position against it.  Just banning the teaching of ideas is a totally insane way to discredit an entire field of solid academic work.  Also, I’m pretty sure queer theory could come out on top in this academic debate!

3) “Our job is to educate our people in sciences, business, math,” said Calvin Hill, a vice chairman of the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee. He said professors aren’t going to meet those needs “by teaching a class in queer theory.”

This kind of narrow-minded thinking is a huge part of the problem.  It’s upsetting that those legislators cannot see that maybe there are some flawed assumptions in how those subjects are taught and embracing new theories like queer theory, feminist theory, etc. could help provide better understandings in all of those fields that would result in greater knowledge and improved policies based on that knowledge.

By the way, for anyone keeping track out there, I like the way this guy mentions that the purpose of education is limited to science, business, and math, 3 of the most gendered, male-heavy fields I can think of.  Are we also not responsible for teaching people about English, history, social sciences, the humanities, etc?  I feel like there’s a dangerous undercurrent in this that says education is only legit if it focuses on fields that have been traditionally associated with reinforcing a system that overwhelmingly privileges white, heterosexual males.  This is key, because banning queer theory could be a slippery slope.  What’s next?

4) I think there’s also a Title IX argument to be made here.  For those of you who are not obsessed with Title IX like I am, Title IX states,”No person in the United States shall on the basis of sex, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”   The law covers all areas of education and all programs at institutes of higher education.  While this has not yet been tested in court and policy recommendations do not yet exist on the issue, I would argue that banning the teaching of queer theory (or feminist theory or whatever else conservatives decide they don’t like) could be considered a form of gender discrimination.  I know if GW (where I am currently a student), decided to up and ban the women’s studies program, I would feel as though I was being discriminated against for wanting to learn more about issues related to my gender.

OK, I feel better having gotten that out!

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Here is a Woman Doing Something Awesome

Every now and then, I find a woman who seems to be doing something totally awesome and I feel like other people should know about it.  This is one of those cases.  As you may know, I am a fan of running and dressing like a complete and total lunatic when I am doing so.  This is actually harder than you would think since running companies tend to produce things that are “tasteful” or “generally considered attractive” in colors that most people think look good.  But, I am always out there on the hunt for something wild.  In this case, my sister consulted me on how to find an insane running skirt for the Cherry Blossom Run, and I found what might be the greatest running website ever, Running Funky.

So, I hit Running Funky on the old Google search and I immediately felt good.  Then I started looking around I felt great.  Multicolored neon patterns.  Check.  Holiday themed patterns. Check.  Ability to buy skirts, tights, or even a unitard.  You betcha.  They have everything I have ever wanted out of running gear.  Now, granted, I have not actually used these products, but they really fit my aesthetic since I am someone who also owns this running skirt.  So, obviously, I will love them.  Plus, they were designed by a runner and runners tend to design great running stuff!

cheetah-haute-pink-running-skirt-web

Anyways, I digress.  Just as I was in neon lyrca heaven, I explored the website a little more and found out Running Funky was started by a woman who has been running forever, and like me, likes to look like a freak show during races.  She also seems to employ all women.  So, truly the best part is that I can dress like a neon idiot while supporting a smalll, independent, woman-owned business.  I love it so much I can’t stand it.  Sadly, my new computer means I should wait before purchasing some sweet gear from Running Funky.  But, fear not, it will happen.  I am running a St. Patrick’s Day race and my birthday is April.  Man, this stuff just makes me just want to get back in shape.  Good work ladies!

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The White House and the Rest of Inauguration

So, it seems I couldn’t quite pull of the Inauguration running diary.  The truth is that by the time the cool stuff was happening, it was all so overwhelming that I had a hard time knowing what to write.  I guess I’ll just share my story from the last few days.  Turns out we visited the White House which was pretty wild!  Since my sister and I were second in line to meet this President, the AP got our picture and it is currently in all kinds of papers (Washington Post, something from Taiwan, USA Today, and who knows where else!).

Today (January 21, 2009)

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(Above: My sister and I with the Obamas!)

I’m starting with Obama’s first day in office because it was the most exciting day of the whole thing.  As you may have read, I found out on Friday night that I responded fast enough to an Obama email that I was invited to attend a reception at the White House today.  I did not know exactly what to expect besides it started at 2 and I couldn’t bring a camera.  In my mind, I imagined it to be a short speech from the President along with some light snacks like cheese and crackers.  I could not have been more off.

My sister and I arrived at the White House around 1:15 this afternoon only to find a huge crowd outside.  Apparently, many people heard about the Open House (as this event was called) on the news and thought that it was truly an Open House.  It was not.  You had to be on the list and give them your Social Security number and everything so they could run a check on you before the event.  So, that was chaos.  After about 45 minutes of waiting, they let us in and we walked through security and right into the White House.  The first thing we saw was that they had huge framed pictures from yesterday’s Inauguration up.  Impressive work the White House.  We walked by some rooms (the Vermeil Room – you may remember Vermeil if you are a West Wing fan) and the White House Library.  Then it was upstairs and into the East Room.  The East Room used to be used for all the State Dinners and stuff like that until they added on a bigger room for those.  It has also been used for everything from a first daughter’s high school prom to a Harlem Globetrotters basketball game.  It holds the famous portrait of George Washington (the one Dolly Madison saved from a burning White House in 1812).  We were there for awhile learning fascinating facts about this room until we could move on for our surprise.

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(Above: My Official White House Cookie.  It was delicious.)

The surprise was that the President and the First Lady were there waiting to greet everyone who came (about 100ish people).  My sister and I were second in line.  So, we walked through the Green Room (which I think might have been cool) and into the Blue Room where the Obamas were waiting.  This was totally overwhelming.  I can’t tell you anything about the Blue Room.  I just know my heart was racing and they were RIGHT there.  So, Britt and I walked up and they started asking us some questions and we introduced ourselves.  The conversation basically entailed us saying that we lived in DC, that our parents live in Vermont and run an inn, and that we both work in think tanks (Britt at Mathematica and me at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research).  Barack said something like, “Keep doing that work and make sure to send it to my staff!”  and I think I responded with we’re working hard on these issues everyday.  Most of the time, I was trying to ignore the fact that there were like 50 cameras in the room and trying not to do something dumb.  It’s funny, I had thought of like 2 key sentences I could use in a situation like this, but they went out the window fast because, there I was in the White House, with the Obamas who were towering over me (they are so tall), and what seemed like the entire White House press core.  So, it was very cool, but it was a crazy moment!   Very fast, very awesome, and hard to keep your cool.

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(Above: Britt and I outside the White House)

So, after that, we left the Blue Room and went through some other room (who knows which one) and into the main entrance way of the White House, where there are some columns, some portraits (there are presidential portraits everywhere in there), and a very cool old piano.  This was also where some White House chefs gave us some White House cookies (see the picture below).  Then, we left by exiting the front door and walking out to Pennsylvania Ave.  I made a guy who was with us take a picture of my sister and I outside with his White House with his iPhone (because, hey, its easy to email!) and we walked out the fence.  This was a cool moment because you leave and people are like, “WHOA, they were in the White House!”  Then a reporter from the AP stopped and asked us some questions, my toes froze, and I walked back to work for a totally unproductive afternoon.    The only thing that would have been cool was to see the Mural Room.  I’ve always been intrigued by it!  Now I just have to do something awesome so I can go back for an actual meeting or something!

Yesterday (January 20, 2009)

dsc00441(Above: The sunrising on the crowds on the Mall; literally dawn on a new day in America)

I woke up at 6:10 and was out the door by 6:30 to make sure I got a spot on the Mall.  I picked up my sister and her friends and we headed for downtown.  There were a few snafus of meeting up, but we still managed to get a spot no problem.  It was crazy though, trying to figure out exactly how to get down there with many of the streets closed off for the parade.  After being directed to 18th Street (from 14th Street), we were on our way with a crowd of people that was almost shoulder to shoulder from I St. straight to the Mall.  We walked on past the Washington Monument just in time to see the Jumbotrons replaying the kickoff concert.  It was great to start the day with Bruce Springsteen singing “The Rising.”  We pushed forward as far as we could and ended up at 12th Street in front of the American History Museum, which is fitting really.  The concert replay was key since it was like 20 degrees out and it was great to be able to dance to songs like “Shout” to keep warm.  Also, being shoulder to shoulder with people helped on that front.

dsc00506(Above: My view of the Oath of Office)

After the concert replay ended, they started live coverage and you could see everyone make their entrance.  This was when I realized that DC is totally a nerdy city.  It’s amazing how many Congresspeople the crowd knew!  There were huge cheers for the big Dems (the Clintons, the Gores, Ted Kennedy) and the video of the approaching Obama motorcade.  There were huge boos for Bush and Cheney along with choruses of “Nanana nana hey hey goodbye” and one guy humming the Darth Vader evil Stars Wars music.   People went nuts cheering Obama everytime they showed him or any member of his family, as they were entering, as he took the Oath of Office, as he started and finished his Inaugural Address.  All in all, it was a lovely day.  It was absolutely surreal to be somewhere where all you could see in any direction was more people.  I thought the crowds were easier to deal with than expected and us common folk on the back of the Mall got in and out, relatively easily (some of the VIP’s up front never made it in!!!).  I think my favorite parts of the day were chanting loudly with the crowd and listening to the speech.  I loved what he had to say and loved even more that Bush and Cheney had to sit there and listen to it.  It was amazing to be there and see everything from the vendors selling shirts to the people crying and singing and dancing, to the actual pomp and circumstance.  I just feel like I could never capture it in words.  If only I could post my iPhoto slideshow…

Monday (January 19, 2009)

I slept and rested up for Tuesday.  Key decision.

Sunday (January 18, 2009)

On Sunday, I ventured down to the kickoff concert, which featured a crazy group of stars (Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger, U2, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Shakira, Stevie Wonder, John Legend, James Taylor, Garth Brooks, Harold or Kumar – I never know which one he was, Sheryl Crow, will.i.am, Steve Carrell, Tom Hanks, Tiger Woods, and lots of others).  My boss did an awesome job of tracking down tickets for everyone to something and I got concert tickets.  So, I managed to get up pretty close (the front edge of the reflecting pool) for the concert.  This area was cool because you could see the crowds and stuff, but it was a little tricky to see the actual stage thanks to the way they built the VIP bleachers.  But, my friend Shamus and I wandered around a bit and met one of the actors from The Wire, which made Shamus’ day since he is a superfan.  I didn’t recognize him until he also mentioned he had been on Heroes.  The lesson as always, I need to watch The Wire.  So, we were in this section for the first portion of the concert (inlcuding Springsteen doing “The Rising”) and I got some hot chocolate, some commemorative pins for my parents, and just enjoyed the scene while taking pictures like crazy.  After awhile, Shamus and I took a walk to warm up and we figured out a way to get into the VIP bleachers, so we put our plan into action and managed to get in, meaning we were about 100 yards from the stage.  We made it up there just in time to see Samuel L. Jackson introduce U2.  We also saw Obama speak from there and Bruce and Pete Seeger doing “This Land is Our Land.”  It was super fun being that close and bopping around.

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(Above: The view of the Mall from the concert).

The concert was also the first time I realized how insane the crowds were in DC.  There were lines to get in practically circling the Mall.  It took halfway back to my house (which is probably somewhere between 1.5-2 miles from the Mall) for the crowds to thin out.  But everyone was pleasant and happy and in the mood to celebrate, which I’d say was a theme for the weekend.

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(Above: Springsteen, Seeger, and a choir.  Love that Bruce!)

I wish I could post all of my pictures because are so many awesome ones, but I will leave you with my Obama Inaugural collage.

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Feminist Formal!

10:18 AM:  I’m just waking up this morning after attending the National Council of Women’s Organizations Ball last night.  It was truly lovely and in an almost shocking move, I felt like I might have been on the overly dressy side.  I always forget that there’s a whole category of clothing that I am now calling feminist formal.  Feminist formal basically means you can dress up, but it doesn’t have to involve a dress or heels, and everyone still looks great.  This meant it was easy to make the transition to my mocassins after I couldn’t handle the heels anymore!  I should also note this is one of the things I love about the feminists – it’s easy to dress so you feel comfortable!

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(Above: Me in my dress!)

The event looked amazing and it was at the President James Monroe Mansion which is an awesome old house over near GW.  Apparently, Monroe lived there while he was President after the White House was burned during the War of 1812.  Now, the building is owned by an arts club, which was the first club in DC to admit women.  So, if you walk around the place feels like this awesome old house, that happens to have art for sale on the walls.  They also set up a VIP tent last night which looked amazing and was VERY well heated which was key since it was freezing.

dsc00371(Above: My friend Angela and I in the VIP tent.  Isn’t this tent insane?!?!)

I spent most of the night wandering around and catching up with some of the people I see at events sometimes.  It was fun to get the opportunity to just chat and have interesting conversations with some other feminists.  I feel like I see a lot of these amazing women on a regular basis, but having time to just talk is rare, so that was really fun.  Overall, the party was more low key than most balls (more lik\e a big cocktail party), so it wasn’t quite what I expected, but it was still a lot of fun!

Now its time to relax before the big concert (which my boss got me tickets for!).

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Saturday: Before the Ball

Not too much excitement until the ball tonight, but in the spirit of the running diary, I’ll keep updating.

11:39 AM:  I just received this email from my dad about tomorrow’s concert.  Here it is in it’s entirity.  My dad is known for great emails, by the way.

“I just heard that the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus are going to perform at the concert tomorrow. It’s worth considering, whether or not, it is worth enduring this pain in order to see Bruce, U2 and JT.”

I should note that by JT he means James Taylor, not Justin Timberlake.  I don’t know my dad’s feelings on Justin!

I still plan on braving the cold, almost entirely because Bruce was awesome when I saw him over the summer.  I hope he plays “American Land.”

And with that, I’m going back to my homework which is about how the religious right ruined everything.  Thank god they are out of there in 3 days!

12:01 PM: Another note from Dad: “VIP tickets would be a good thing!! Bring ear plugs so that you don’t have to hear the teeny bopper performers. By the way if for some reason Britney Spears shows up I expect you guys to leave immediately!”

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