Title IX at 50th Conference Weighs Law’s Past and Present


Ash O’Connor began playing women’s badminton in her senior year at Downers Grove South High School. It was the best decision she ever made, she says, because she is able to do something she loves just the way she is. But the opportunity was not granted without sacrifice.

In order to qualify to play for the women’s team, O’Connor had to submit detailed documentation, including doctor’s notes, parental consent, and personal medical information about whether or not she had received hormone treatments and surgery. sex reassignment. As a transgender woman, Ash is permitted to compete in the Women’s and Women’s Sports Leagues under Title IX as long as she adheres to this protocol.

“There will always be people who have biological advantages. Look at Michael Phelps, he has a wider wingspan, super big hands and feet, bigger lung capacity. He wasn’t taken out of the sport because he was too good or anything,” O’Connor said.

A near-full house at the Northwestern University panel on the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Credit: Annabelle Dowd

O’Connor shared her story in a special report co-produced by Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and WTTW’s Amanda Vinicky that was presented at the Title IX 50th Anniversary Conference on Northwestern’s campus on Friday.

Passed in 1972, Title IX allowed girls and women to play sports in schools that received federal funding, granting them protections against gender discrimination. The law has evolved to protect survivors of sexual assault, and now, transgender athletes who face discrimination from laws that restrict their ability to participate in school and cultural events, such as athletics.

Each panel at Friday’s conference assessed the expansion of the law since it was passed in 1972. Attendees shared personal stories and academic research that demonstrate the dynamic application of Title IX.

The morning began with moving testimonials from panelists who commended survivors of sexual assault for coming forward while demanding justice. The panel, which focused on the evolution of Title IX, included a journalist Sherry BoschertProfessor at Wayne State University Nancy Cantalupoand Allison Robinson of the New York Historical Society. All three attributed this era of Title IX expansion to increased communication made possible by social media.

“I can’t stress enough the power of social media to create change,” Robinson said.

The Role of Title IX in Student Sex Lives

In the 50 years since Title IX’s death, students often persuade the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to use the law to expand protections. Such action resulted in the use of Title IX to allow schools to intervene in sexual assault cases.

University of Washington law professor Susan Appleton took on student culture and widespread sexual assault on campus. Appleton said Title IX can be expanded to promote wellness and sex education in schools, where students come from diverse backgrounds and varying levels of sex education.

While Title IX has dramatically increased opportunities for many female athletes, panelist Kate Lockwood Harris, author of Beyond the Rapist: Title IX and Sexual Violence on American Campusesshared that many of the students of color and LGBTQIA+ students she spoke with during her research believe it is their responsibility to hold their cis and white male peers accountable.

According to the national network Rape, Abuse & Incest, 23% transgendergenderqueer and nonconforming students were sexually assaulted. A RAINN study also says that 13% of all undergraduate and graduate students have been sexually assaulted or raped by physical force or violence.

“In a way, reporting work adds to already existing inequalities on campuses,” Harris said, suggesting Title IX should be viewed intersectionally and linked to other efforts to address violence. with anti-racist and pro-LGBTQ groups on Campus. “It will be really crucial in terms of super effective interventions, especially since we know that there are no reports.”

Giana Levy, a graduate student from North West, said she enjoyed hearing how far Title IX has come and felt comforted by the panelists who showed compassion for the well-being. to be people.

“People really really care and take into consideration how society is changing,” Levy said. “And that means as society evolves, you have to involve laws so that you can include everyone.”

A notable absence of a panel addressing the rights of transgender student-athletes was addressed by Caryn Ward, conference organizer and Professor Medill, who explained that the attempt to coordinate a panel was impossible due to reluctant attendees, who wanted stay away from the controversy that often accompanies public debate on the subject.

A generational divide was present in the perspective on Title IX’s role in gender equality. While older recipients, like sports commentator Christine Brennan, believe the law has given them the ability to play sports, she also worries about the perceived benefits of trans athletes.

80% of female Fortune 500 executives have played sports

After lunch, the mood turned triumphant in Northwestern’s Kellogg Hall, where the brightly lit double classroom showcased Northwestern alumni who are now in high-level professions.

“If it hadn’t been for Title IX, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get a college scholarship to go to Hampton [University]who then opened all these doors,” Amina Charles said, acknowledging that her time as a volleyball player provided her with essential skills for her current role as head of North American sports marketing for Beats By Dre.

“Another skill as an athlete that I’ve learned is having confidence,” Charles said. “Learning to turn ‘no’ into ‘yes’, and really perseverance.”

Other panelists agreed on the transferability of skills athletes have to business acumen. Moderator Danielle Bell referenced a study by ESPN and Ernst & Young which revealed that 80% of female Fortune 500 executives have played sports at some point in their lives, and 61% of those surveyed believe that playing sports has positively contributed to their career advancement.

Tamara Bohliga businesswoman with a 10-line paragraph of titles and accomplishments, says she’s developed her ability to communicate and collaborate in sport, and it’s now essential to her job.

“I can tell you about a team: if they don’t communicate with each other, they lose games,” Bohlig said. “I think people get confused with collaboration and finding consensus. [In] true collaboration, you may have disagreements, [but] you push each other to get to a better place.

The Title IX legacy of two families

Former Indiana Senator Evan Bayh said modeling respect and support for women and people with marginalized identities is important to building the influence and legacy of Title IX. His father, Senator Birch Bayh, was the author of the 37 words that make up Title IX and a leading supporter of his death in 1972.

Bayh, who spoke at the conference via video, recalled his mother’s instrumental role, Marvella Bayh, in the Title IX passage.

Lusia Harris in “The Queen of Basketball”

The final panel of the day screened “The Queen of Basketball,” the Oscar-winning short documentary about Lusia Harris, the first woman to be drafted into the NBA and the player who scored the first points in the first-ever women’s basketball game. 1976 Olympics. tournament. Harris’ daughter, career educator Crystal Stewart Washington, discussed the impact Title IX had on her mother’s life.

Corinna Christman, who teaches math and coaches the middle school boys’ football team at Kenwood Academy in Chicago, said she felt inspired to hear about the impact of access gained with Title IX. .

“Many of us tend to complain about the way things are going – and there’s always room for improvement, but it’s so nice to look back. The women who fought for this, how it started, how it built. how it evolved,” Christman said. “I think it’s really important for me to hear those stories and bring them back to the students.”


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