When I started college in 2012, I never imagined I would need to learn the law to graduate. Like many students, I took for granted my assumption that I would have access to an equal education free from sexual violence and gender discrimination. After I was sexually assaulted in 2015, alongside survivors and activists across the country, I suffered the realization that this was not the case. But as we learned the pain and frustration of fighting for our education in the face of sexual violence, we also learned about one powerful tool in our fight: Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Today, we celebrate forty-six years of protection under Title IX. Our celebration honors the gratitude and grief, pain and promise we feel as part of the Title IX advocacy space. Today, I am thinking about how we hold space for all these emotions and, more importantly, for the people for whom Title IX advocacy has not held space before.
Title IX has always meant demanding more. Patsy Takemoto Mink introduced and championed the idea at a time when she was the first woman of color to be elected to United States Congress. She believed that women deserved more educational opportunities, and she demanded that those opportunities be accessible. In its earliest days, Title IX mostly ensured that women had the same athletic opportunities as their male peers. Patsy Mink’s belief in demanding more opened doors for others to demand more, too: soon, thanks to the work of brilliant activists and advocates over the past 46 years, “let her play,” gave way to “let her learn,” and the fight for equal opportunities moved from the athletic field to the classroom.
When we learned that survivors of sexual violence were being denied their equal opportunity to learn, we demanded more. Survivors and activists across the country captivated our nation as we filed federal civil rights complaints, wrote op-eds, educated our communities, and demanded education free from sexual violence.
As we chart the years ahead before Title IX turns fifty, EROC will continue to use our platform and work to honor the spirit of those who have come before us by continuing to push for progress. This means using Title IX to recognize the communities that are often left out of the conversation about campus sexual violence. We demand that Title IX represents more than privileged cisgender white women in education. Instead, we must tap into its power to protect every student’s right to an education.
Title IX must protect transgender students in schools. It must ensure pregnant people can walk at graduation and attend class. It must ensure restrictive dress code policies do not push out girls, women, and gender expansive students who want to learn. It must provide protections and accommodations for students without housing, or who become homeless as a result of the violence they experience. It must insist on a safe and equal learning environment for children of all genders and sexualities, regardless of citizen status.
We must acknowledge that while Title IX is not the only way for survivors to seek justice and continue to level the playing field to create a world in which everyone can learn free from violence or harm, it remains key in our efforts to secure access to education for all and not just some.
This moment, and the 46th anniversary of this law, call upon all of us to not simply celebrate Title IX’s progress to date, but to double down in our collective protection not only of Title IX, but of all civil rights laws in this country.
I will honor Title IX by demanding more. And I hope you will, too.
As we continue this fight for equity, and the ongoing fight to protect the enforcement of Title IX, I hope you’ll remain by our side. In the coming months, you can protect Title IX by signing up for our action alerts to participate in the Notice and Comment period when the Department of Education issues new guidance. You can support our critical work by donating to our $46 dollars for 46 years of Title IX fundraiser. And, as always, I invite you to connect with us at endrapeoncampus.org.
Cheers to the progress of the last 46 years, and all the progress we will make together in the years to come.
Jess Davidson, Executive Director