Forty years ago, Richard Nixon signed Title IX into law. This significant title – only 37 words long – was part of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX, 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. — 20 U.S.C. §1681
Contrary to popular belief, Title IX actually applies to more than just athletics. Title IX prevents sex-based discrimination under any of the following federally funded activities: athletics, access to higher education, career education, education for pregnant and parenting students, employment, learning environment, math and science, sexual harassment, and standardized testing and technology.
Title IX prevented sex-based discrimination for all women and men. It allowed individuals to participate in any activity or program without considering sex. Finally – a form of legislation that enabled all individuals to dream high without limitations, because finally, there were no limitations.
Obviously, women have benefited the most over the years from IX. Title IX required pregnant girls to receive fair treatment, it allowed girls to not only go to college but to also play sports in college, and it opened the doors for girls to delve into the hard sciences, math, engineering, and technology - fields usually reserved for boys. Girls were presented with opportunities they’d never truly had before.
In particular, Title IX allowed girls to focus on what they wanted to, instead of focusing on what society deemed appropriate. No one realized the impact Title IX would have on generations of girls and women to come – it opened doors, created pathways, and put in motion the wheels of social progress.
In the past 40 years, America has made tremendous progress in terms of gender equality, but as with any social movement we have a long way to go.
Although Title IX legislates what should happen or how things should be, reality paints a very different picture. Pregnant women and parenting students are still discriminated against, while sexual harassment, discrimination, and stereotypes, for women and men, are still common occurrences in schools and the workplace.
Title IX equips individuals with the ability to demand equal and fair treatment. However, it’s up to us to ensure that the promises of Title IX are not only available but also enacted for the next generation.