Title IX Is About Much More Than Sports

By DR. JOY MARTINEZ, Staff Writer

On June 23rd we will celebrate 50 years of Title IX. It was enacted into law to prohibit educational institutions from discriminating against students or employees based on sex.

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Fifty years ago this one sentence snuck into a larger section of the Education Amendments which was signed into law by president Richard Nixon. It was straightforward; no-nonsense jargon. Clear and concise words – the result of a hard-fought battle for equality that helped level the playing field and attempted to remove sex discrimination from everyday life.

As a policy, Title IX is designed to promote gender equity and equality in education and while often associated with sports, it is a broad guarantee, promoting equity in vocational, professional, graduate and public undergraduate admissions and scholarships at all levels. It also requires schools to prevent and remedy sexual harassment and sexual assault and prohibits discrimination against pregnant and parenting students. Title IX represented a tool for social change—letting women in and expanding their opportunities for future success.

Title IX stemmed in part from the legacy of civil rights and the organizing spirit of Black women who highlighted the dual costs of racism and sexism they faced, including racialized sexual violence.

Activist and attorney Pauli Murray was one of Title IX’s foremothers. Having challenged segregation in higher education, public transportation, and businesses, Murray predicted in 1965 that the Civil Rights Act would do nothing for women unless they organized. She was convinced that establishing a “NAACP for women” was necessary. Shortly after, Murray became one of the co-founders of the National Organization for Women (NOW), which built upon the civil rights movement to push for the Equal Rights Amendment and eventually Title IX.

Rep. Edith Green (D-OR), along with Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-NY) (the first Black U.S. congresswoman), stated that she drew Title IX language directly from the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act. Black women have been instrumental in the creation of civil rights laws including Title IX, extending protections to race, gender, and historically marginalized identities.

Despite this integral participation in its creation, statistics show Title IX has done little to curb racial inequities experienced by Black women “Title IX has really helped white women,” said Professor Tina Sloan Green, a former national champion lacrosse coach who is executive director of the Black Women in Sport Foundation.

Despite the simultaneous influence of race and gender endured by Black women, the legal remedies for race and gender discrimination are separate. Title IX does not provide legal protection on the basis of race, but it can be part of the solution to creating more opportunities for Black women as a means to combating sex discrimination. Overall, women and girls continue to be underrepresented in athletics compared to men and boys; girls receive 1.3 million fewer participation opportunities than boys at the high school level and 86,305 fewer opportunities in college.

Even with that gender disparity, The number of white women getting an associate or bachelor’s degree by the age of 29 is nearly twice as high as for Black women and Latinas.

While this legislation has certainly impacted women, it fails to look at the intersection of what happens to Black women in these spaces where opportunity is supposedly opened but access is limited.

Although participation by women in college sports has increased by more than 600 percent since the law’s passage in 1972, a racial gap remains among girls and women on athletic fields. Less than one-third of all collegiate female athletes are women of color, according to a 2022 report by the Women’s Sports Foundation.

“Title IX has been … a profound success, but not equally for all people,” says Sherry Boschert, author of “37 Words: Title IX and Fifty Years of Fighting Sex Discrimination.” “If we want it to … realize its full promise, we have to deal with those intersectional discriminations.”

Title IX focuses on gender in isolation and advocacy has really focused on sports in isolation. When we use Title IX to try to push for gender equality in sports, unless strategies of racial justice are incorporated, the law ends up benefiting the most-privileged…again.

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