Title IX – Why is this law important to guarantee equality and freedom in the United States?
Today, most Americans think that Title IX is nothing but a law that requires schools to offer the same number of sports teams for girls as boys. However, Title IX is a fundamental law that goes well beyond providing equal access to athletics in colleges. Today, it is a landmark achievement in the long fight for equal rights in the United States that set a paradigm in breaking gender stereotypes and providing women with the freedom they deserve.
What is Title IX?
Signed in 1972 by President Richard Nixon, Title IX of the Education Act was established as a follow-up to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prevent any form of discrimination in U.S. schools and universities. It states that:
“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.”
Title IX set forth a new paradigm in education – a model based on equality of opportunity and the protection of civil rights. Before this statute was enacted, some colleges and universities refused to admit women and NCAA member institutions included less than 30,000 female students in total. Today, more than 3 million girls are actively participating in athletics just at the high school level. What is even more important, is that now women comprise more than half of college students across the country.
Why is Title IX making the difference in the American society?
The enactment of Title IX represents one of the most important victories in the battle for gender equality. Before Title IX some schools had the liberty to choose whether women could be allowed in some classes or not. Namely, if a career other than housekeeping was found “unsuitable” for women, a school administrator had the right to bar access to all female students.
But it was even worse than this – pregnant students could be expelled at any time, and female professors would have to find a less-paid work in women’s-only colleges and universities (often with no tenure, either). Title IX broke gender stereotypes that deeply affected the American society, such as that only males would be good at math, science, and finance. Even textbooks depicted girls as remissive wives and mothers, while men were always at the head of a patriarchal society.
Title IX is even central in fighting sexual harassment, as now schools have the legal responsibility of preventing any harassment episode, and take action if one is reported. Before 1972, most administrators could simply trivialize these serious claims as “boys being boys” in order to dismiss them. In 2011, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights issued a letter to all school officials advising them that sexual assault is nothing but a more extreme form of sexual harassment, and should then be prohibited under Title IX.
This law is as short as a single sentence, yet it goes a long way toward providing all American women with the self-confidence and freedom they need to obtain the independence they rightfully deserve.