At a press conference celebrating Title IX’s anniversary at the University of Washington Women’s Center this morning, these were the stories Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Seattle City Councilmember Jean Godden and other community leaders shared from their own experiences to show how much changed as a result of Title IX, not only for women’s sports, but for course enrollments, career counseling and opportunities, financial aid, and non-athletic extracurricular activities. Title IX opened the doors to institutions previously reserved for men, and then demanded that these new environments be free from harassment, allowing women and girls to study and play safely and with dignity.
When I applied to law school three years ago, no one discouraged me, and certainly not because of my gender. I have Title IX to thank for that—indeed, to thank for helping create a society where the idea of being automatically unqualified because of my gender would have never crossed my mind. But would the same be true if I had been applying to engineering school? Or for a college coaching job, where the number of women coaching both men and women’s teams has been steeply declining for decades? What if I were Skye Wyatt, a 16-year old Texas softball player whose coaches staged a fake team meeting, locked her in a room alone with them, yelled at her and threatened her about her sexuality, then outed her to her mother and kicked her off the team?
The anniversary of Title IX means both celebrating how incredibly far we’ve come, and realistically assessing the steep road ahead to ensuring that every person can enjoy the educational experiences that lead to self-fulfillment. We may no longer live in a world where girls aren’t allowed to play the full basketball court, but we mustn’t take for granted how those gains were made—or ever stop imagining and fighting for the successes we’ll be celebrating forty years from now.
Amy Shebeck is a summer intern with Legal Voice and a rising 3L at the University of Washington School of Law. Title IX is directly responsible for her stint as catcher and clean-up hitter on various softball teams growing up, as well as several much-loved scars on her knees.