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!