Title IX’s 45th Anniversary: Why We Still Need It

When you think of Title IX, what comes to mind? Is it young female college athletes or do you think of colleges ensuring that sexual assault victims on campus receive due process of law? 

 Do you think of adolescent girls not having to play on a boys sports team because the school doesnt have a girls team, or do you think about how Title IX helps ensure that everyone has equal access to programs like STEM ? 

The better question is, do you think of Title IX as a law solely meant to protect women? 

Title IX 45th Anniversary

If youre strictly thinking of Title IX as a law that only aims to serve women, I wont fault you for it. Title IX has been packaged to us in a way that creates the narrative that its a law for women. And because of this narrative, many have tried to argue that it has actually hurt men in the process.

You know that term people like to throw around when others are granted a more fair and equal shot? You guessed it: reverse discrimination. 

Since Title IXs passing 45 years ago on June 23rd of 1973, people have tried to discredit the benefits of the law, like this piece written by self-proclaimed Factual Feminist Christina Hoff Sommers. 

I was a benefactor of Title IX. As a young girl who played golf growing up, I dreamt of playing in college, so when I received the opportunity to do so at the University of Washington, I was beyond excited. Because of my golfing prowess and the powers of Title IX, I received a full scholarship and graduated debt free from college. 

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However, the main argument against Title IX is that it has actually hurt mens sports, particularly in college, stating that universities have to cut mens programs in order to stay in compliance with its provisions. 

In addition, there are concerns about how few womens coaches there are in college sports now since the passing of Title IX. For instance according to the New York Times,  In 1972, when the gender equity law known as Title IX was enacted, women were head coaches of more than 90 percent of womens college teams across two dozen sports. Now that number has decreased to about 40 percent.

Those are certainly legitimate concerns, but do those two things alone outweigh the benefits Title IX has bestowed on all of us, not just women? 

First, lets break down the basics of Title IX. 

It simply 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.

So basically, any education program that receives any type of federal funding has to provide equal opportunity to all its students to its programs. 

As the Department of Education wrote on its website, Title IX applies to, recruitment, admissions, and counseling; financial assistance; athletics; sex-based harassment; treatment of pregnant and parenting students; discipline; single-sex education; and employment.

Dont equate equal opportunity with equal funding though. Lets say the mens basketball players uniforms cost more than the womens. Thats a discrepancy because as long as the quality of the uniforms is the same, the school is still in compliance. 

When it comes to sexual assault, Title IX has been used successfully to fight on the behalf of survivors, although many schools fail to comply with this, like Baylor

The Obama administration sought to strengthen Title IX to hold schools accountable for violations in cases of sexual assault. They released a letter titled Dear Colleague, issued by the Office for Civil Rights, that told all the 7,000 plus colleges that receive federal money to lower the burden of proof schools needed to determine if a sexual assault took place, in the hopes that it would encourage victims to come forward so offenders would receive harsher punishments. 

The Obama administration also stated that Title IX guaranteed people to use the bathroom of their choice that corresponded with that students gender identity. 

So when we look at Title IX, the law is not the issue: its how schools choose implement it.

But back to the sports side, where people take the greatest issue with it because they believe its unfair to men. If they were were to really look at the numbers though, it paints a completely different story. 

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Nancy Hogshead-Makar, who competed in the 1984 Olympics in swimming, and who was the first athlete to receive an athletic scholarship in swimming at Duke University, is an advocate and protector of Title IX. Her organization, Champion Women, advocates for girls and women in sports, and also aims to bring schools to Title IX compliance. 

She acknowledges that mens programs have been cut, but she does not see Title IX as the issue.

Yes, there are some mens programs that have been cut but theres also womens programs that have been cut, said Hogshead-Makar. In gymnastics, the rate of cutting has been twice as many womens programs compared to mens program. Its virtually impossible when you look at the numbers to put a cause and effect to Title IX. In other words, yes there are some areas of sports where men are losing, but believe it or not, mens sports are only being cut in one area and that is in the richest schools, with the biggest budgets, and the most money. Division I,II, III, that dont have football arent cutting mens sports: theyre expanding opportunities for men in sports.

And there is evidence to support this. According to the Washington Post, Opportunities for men in sports measured by numbers of teams as well as athletes have continued to expand since the passage of Title IX. Between the 19881989 and the 20102011 school years, NCAA member institutions added 3,727 mens sports teams and dropped 2,748, for a net gain of nearly 1,000 mens teams. The teams added and dropped reflect trends in mens sports: wrestling and gymnastics teams were often dropped, while soccer, baseball, and lacrosse teams were added. Women made greater gains over the same period, but only because they started at such a deficit; 4,641 womens teams were added and 1,943 were dropped.

In 1984, the Supreme Court ruled in Grove City v. Bell that institutions or programs that received direct federal government financial assistance had to comply with Title IX. This basically rendered that athletic programs did not have to comply with Title IX since they hardly received federal financial funds. 

Then, in 1988, Congress overrode President Ronald Reagan’s veto of the Civil Rights Restoration Act, which made it so that any institution that received federal funds had to comply with Title IX throughout the entire institution.

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NCAA schools still dropped 53 wrestling programs, an average of 13.2 a year. From 1988 to 2000, when the law again covered sports, wrestling cuts slowed dramatically, with 56 programs dropped during that 12-year period, an average of 4.7 a year, according to Karen Morrison, the NCAA’s director of gender initiatives. 

For Hogshead-Makar, there is an important part of the law that is often forgotten.

Probably no other legislation, besides womens right to vote has been more impactful on the status of women, she said. In America, the way people progress professionally, class wise, and how they better themselves, is through education. So when schools could no longer discriminate based on sex, it had a profound impact that reverberated throughout society in very positive ways. It has been helpful economically. Weve had a more productive and healthier workforce. Weve had a more educated workforce, so this is something that has benefited everybody.” 

She emphasizes the everybody part because although the law has certainly benefitted women since its passing and was set to create an equal playing field of opportunity in places of education, men also benefit from the law. 

The law states you cant discriminate based on sex, so you cant give women an advantage that men dont have, she noted. So if a man is being discriminated against, he relies on the exact same statute. 

There are less visible ways that she sees Title IX as a benefactor for men. 

I am able to generate the income I do because of Title IX, she said. If it hadnt been for Title IX, I wouldnt have gone to college on a scholarship. I wouldnt have swum in the Olympics in 1984. I may have not have been able to go to college at all. And now, I pay more than half of the familys income. I have three children in private school, so my son benefits from having his mom that is able to provide him support and opportunities.

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So when we think of Title IX, we need to look at the broader scope of it. Its not just a law for athletics, although that is an area it serves greatly. Its a law that greatly impacts society in a positive way that gives people who otherwise would have little to no opportunity, albeit in education or sports. 

What does Hogshead-Makar believe needs to happen within Title IX ?

Leave the law alone and focus on enforcement, she said. 

While that is easier said than done, if we can all begin to appreciate the benefit that Title IX has had in a affirmative and conclusive way, perhaps we will fight for it rather than against it. 

Because one thing is clear, if Title IX is no longer enforced, then we all lose.