I wouldn’t advise it; she may be tempted to punch you in the nose. But as the segment of education law known as Title IX turns 40 this month, that’s exactly the argument many of its proponents are making.
In June 1972 President Richard Nixon “signed Title IX, the law that finally opened the playing fields of America to girls and women, forever changing our nation by allowing the other half of our population to learn about winning, losing, teamwork and sportsmanship at a young age,” writes Christine Brennan in USA Today .
But were playing fields closed to girls by law, or by mere tradition?
By the 1970s, the U.S. was changing quickly to become the country we see today, one where women have the same educational opportunities men do. But that wasn’t driven by law; it was driven by a change in attitudes. The law followed a generational changing of opinions. That’s why it’s impossible to imagine Title IX passing in 1945, but equally impossible to imagine a world today in which girls aren’t treated as educationally equal to boys.
But that’s not how proponents of Title IX see things, of course. “Women have not yet come close to achieving the proportional representation Title IX mandates,” Brennan writes. Well, hold on just a moment. This is actually a fundamental misreading of the law.
Don’t take my word for it. As Brennan also points out, Title IX is a mere 37 words, so please read it for yourself: “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.”
There’s nothing in there about “proportional representation.” The law simply demands that the sexes enjoy equality of opportunity , not equality of outcome .
Look at it this way: If Title IX demands equality of outcome in education, the country would need to discriminate against women. They are, after all, vastly overrepresented in higher education.