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A Title IX childhood

My sister and I were Title IX toddlers. At school, we became Title IX enforcers.

This weekend marked the 30th anniversary of the legislation that bars gender discrimination in schools, so I called my mom to reminisce about our vigilance back when Title IX was still taking its warm-up lap around the track.

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There was the time my sister's gym teacher told the girls to watch from the side as the boys played a game. This otherwise timid fourth-grader had to reach up to tug his sleeve as she told him, "You can't do that. It's against Title IX."

Ten years later, I argued with my high school PE teacher, who repeatedly tried to play touch football with the boys and leave us girls on our own with a bag of frisbees.

But Title IX is about equal treatment beyond the playing field, too. That's what my mom worked hard to convey to people. Her daughters just naturally absorbed her enthusiasm for the new law. She called the schools so often that they made her a consultant (her other credential was her job at the YWCA). At workshops, she educated the educators.

Changes in home ec and industrial arts came swiftly. When I was in middle school, boys and girls had to take one semester of each. But what persisted were the things that people considered "harmless," my mom said. Telling the boys, for instance, that if they misbehaved, they'd have to stand in the "girls' line" as punishment. One day I rebelled and stood in the boys' line as we waited to enter the school. Soon the segregated lines disappeared.

It may be easiest to measure the law's impact in sports, where women's participation has grown exponentially. But in my mind, Title IX is forever linked with the joy of shaping a wooden bowl on a lathe – and becoming a person who's not afraid to stand up for what's fair.


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