Maya Hermann: “Gender Equity: Not a Done Deal”

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GUEST POST

Title IX, the landmark 1972 civil rights law that outlawed sex discrimination in schools and colleges and universities, is turning 34 this month.

But think sex discrimination is a thing of the past? Think again. In the recent past, we have been repeatedly reminded that women continue to face bias in the classroom, at the workplace, and on the playing field. Phyllis Schlafly, for example, insisted this past January that”this year’s spectacular Rose Bowl game attracted a phenomenal 35.6 million viewers because it featured what we want: rugged men playing football and attractive women cheering them on. . . .public demand is for all-male sports, not female contests.”

And she’s not the only one. University of Colorado football coach Gary Barnett made clear that he thought Katie Hnida — a female player on his team who was sexually harassed by her teammates – had it coming. According to Barnett,”Katie was a girl, not only was she a girl, she was [a] terrible [football player].”

And, of course, then-Harvard President Larry Summers set off sparks when he suggested that the differences in”intrinsic aptitude”between men and women might explain women’s continuing (and vast) under-representation in math and science.

It’s clear that gender equity is not a done deal. Title IX has enabled millions of girls and women to play sports, earn college degrees, and pursue careers to support themselves and their families. But women continue to lag in opportunities to participate in athletics and to pursue training for careers that are nontraditional for their gender, and in the wages they are paid in the work they do. And developments in federal policy threaten to halt or even roll back the gains that have been made. Just recently, for example, the Bush Administration made a major change to Title IX policy that forces girls to prove that they are interested in participating in sports in school before they are given the chance to play. And the Department of Education continues to consider new regulations that would promote sex segregation in our nation’s elementary and high schools.

Title IX has done a lot for women in the last three and a half decades, but there’s still much more work to make its promise a reality. Please join us; we’ll keep you up to date on the newest developments in gender equity and help to amplify your voice in making sure that Title IX continues to be strong.

Happy birthday, Title IX. Here’s to 34 more.

Maya Hermann
National Women’s Law Center

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