When Title IX turned 50

A Washington Post article on Title IX from last June:

Title IX celebrates its 50th birthday on June 23. Signed into law in 1972, the policy requires educational institutions that receive government funding to treat all sexes and gender identities equally.

Does it? Or does it require educational institutions that receive government funding to treat both sexes equally, with no mention of “gender identities”? I think we can assume it’s the latter, since no one was talking about “gender identities” in 1972, let alone a multitude of sexes.

This mandate has at once been phenomenally successful and disturbingly unfulfilled. In banning sex discrimination, Title IX fundamentally changed American education by creating the legal expectation of equality. Millions of people have seized the expansive gender opportunities Title IX has forced open, and now their children and grandchildren expect and even take for granted those options.

Millions of people? Or, specifically, millions of women? It’s women who were disadvantaged by the status quo before Title IX.

Title IX passed in 1972 amid other policies affirming women’s rights. Feminists celebrated the law, although they initially thought it would only affect academics. Controversy exploded when girls and women rushed to claim space in academic programs and on athletic playing fields.

Title IX’s impact on sports drew the most attention because it was the area in which the sex gap was the most egregious. Girls and women in sports also visually challenged long-held sexist tropes about their capabilities and ambitions.

It’s not ladylike to be athletic.

But after less than a decade, the Reagan administration weakened Title IX. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan crippled the National Advisory Council on Women’s Educational Programs, a women’s federal advisory board on sex equality, by replacing its executive director with a state leader of Phyllis Schlafly’s anti-feminist Eagle Forum group.

A year later, he dissolved the board altogether.

Most large universities bowed to Title IX’s pressure to create women’s sports programs, though they often segregated these into “women’s centers” rather than integrate the sexes on equal footing. In these expansive new roles — as in other arenas of women’s increased access due to Title IX, including in business, medicine and entertainment — stereotyping and harassment often accompanied women’s efforts on the playing field.

But that was then. We don’t care about stereotyping and harassment of women any more, because trans women are so much more important and vulnerable and preshusss.

But even if a marker of Title IX’s success is the decades-long assumption of sex equality on campus and beyond, the law has not created a cultural shift from a patriarchal to a more feminist, egalitarian society.

Especially now that we’re spending most of our energies on men who claim to be women.

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