“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 of the Education Amendments of 1972
When Title IX became law I was only 8 and I though I recall hearing about it, I didn’t really understand it. I heard about a girl who wanted to play baseball, and another who wanted to join the football team, and somehow this was Title IX related. Even now when people think about Title IX they mostly think about how this legislation impacted sports programs, but it’s about more than sports.
By the time I entered junior high school a couple of years later, Title IX meant co-ed gym class (at least that’s why I assumed gym classes became co-ed). It also meant that the school was required to offer Shop class to girls as well as boys (and offer Home Ec to boys as well as girls). Of course in practice that wasn’t the case which I found out when I signed up for Shop; I already knew how to cook.
“All the girls take Home Ec,” my counselor said.
I tried to argue, “But I learned that stuff in Girl Scouts already,” I said.
“You’d be the only girl in the class,” he warned, not knowing that when I was younger I’d been the only girl my age in my neighborhood and I’d scrambled in and out of San Diego canyons chasing imaginary bank robbers, played with Tonka Trucks, and rode my bicycle with a pack of boys all over the neighborhood. Being the only girl would not have been a problem. In fact, it sounded like fun. Power tools and making things out of wood and metal sounded fun.
But I caved and in 7th grade I learned to make a jello salad, and a wrap-around skirt. Two not-so-usefull skills.
I never learned how to saw or weld or how to tune up my car … though there was a brief time when a 1957 Volkswagen sat in our garage. My dad bought it for a family project, but instead it collected dust in the garage. (There’s gotta be a metaphor for our family in there somewhere.)
So I don’t know where we are 42 years later. We’ve made some progress I suppose, but still, there is much progress to be made. Women may have better access to sports programs in school, but women’s professional sports are still perceived as “less than” and girls don’t sign up for today’s equivalent of Shop class at the same rate as boys. There is still a wage gap and women AND men are tied to rigid notions of gender roles for the most part.
Maybe we never understand history as it’s happening to us, but as I explore this project, as I SEARCH FOR ROSIE today I can’t help but wonder what my generation has done with the ball that was handed to us.