McGowan: A Half Century of Title IX
“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.” — Title IX
The March 10 Wall Street Journal featured a celebratory picture whose caption read, “Tennis legend Billie Jean King helped mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX civil-rights law.” The picture was a reminder of how much things have changed.
It also reminded me of my friend, Hannah, whom I met at Washington State University in the early 70s. She had hoped to attend WSU and become a veterinarian. During the interview process for admission to the vet school, Hannah was asked, “Why do you want to become a veterinarian? Why don’t you marry one?”
At the time, I thought the question was insulting and rude. I still think that. If anyone wants to pursue a career in veterinary medicine, and the person has the brains and drive, then pretty close to everything else is irrelevant for admission. But things change.
College campuses change. In 1972, when so many young men were dying in Viet Nam, more men attended college than women. Colleges were concerned about the imbalance and worked to change it. They succeeded. With the change, women stood a better chance of attending those prestigious schools, like Colgate University in upstate New York. Women seized the opportunity so much that female undergraduates outnumbered men by1988. It has stayed that way every year thereafter. These days, unlike the imbalance in 1972, undergraduate enrollment is about 58 percent female to 42 percent male. Things change.
Indiana colleges and universities also worked hard to include women; they also have a higher percentage of undergraduate female students. For instance, IU-South Bend, which boasts that it is the largest public university in the region, has an undergrad population that is 65 percent female. The school has a women and gender studies major, though it has no men and gender studies major.
In that regard, IU-South Bend is typical of Indiana colleges and universities. IUPUI, with 61 percent female students in 2019, has a similar major whose first, required course is entitled “Gender, Culture, and Society.” The course description says the course provides an “examination of the international emergence of the field of women’s studies; the achievements and limitations of scholarly work exploring oppression and discrimination based on sex and sex differences; . . . and the relevance of changing understandings of the term ‘culture’ for the study of women, gender, and/or sexuality . . .” The absence of the word “man” or “men’” suggests that men need not be included in such a course; they can be opaque to themselves.
Failing to include men in such a course might mean ignoring 80 percent of the suicides in America, many of them military veterans who have done the fighting on America’s behalf. The course might ignore data on deaths of despair (in which suicides are counted). Men are about 2½ more likely to suffer a death of despair. Men would have more self-awareness were men’s studies courses offered.
And several Indiana colleges and schools have women’s centers or women’s health centers but no corresponding centers for men. How is that different from 1972, when women were by and large ignored?
This essay began by lamenting the treatment my friend Hannah received at the hands of Washington State University. It is worth noting that the only veterinary school in Indiana does indeed include women. In fact, about 85 percent of Purdue’s vet school students are women. Title IX has indeed changed the educational landscape.
However, the changes appear to exclude men, just as women were excluded in 1972.
Unless men are included in Title IX’s application, Title IX represents unprincipled legislation.
And uneven, unprincipled laws are not worth celebrating.
Richard McGowan, Ph.D., an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, has taught philosophy and ethics cores for more than 40 years, most recently at Butler University.