- Title IX: The Transformation of Sex Discrimination in Education by Elizabeth Kaufer Busch and William E. Thro
As U.S. universities reel in the wake of sexual harassment and sex-discrimination scandals and, in the same moment, are reconsidering long-held definitions of sex to accommodate transgender students, Title IX has become a flashpoint for the contemporary politics of civil rights and gender equity in higher education. In this timely and comprehensive contribution, Elizabeth Kaufer Busch and William E. Thro examine the transformation of the scope, goals, and enforcement of Title IX from 1972 to the present day.
Title IX: The Transformation of Sex Discrimination in Education traces shifts in the interpretation and implementation of the law on educational institutions to show its impact first on athletics and then on sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sex-based discrimination. In following these transformations, readers learn to view Title IX not as a static, moral decree but as a changing, and oftentimes problematic, policy that refracts struggles [End Page 81] over foundational U.S. legal principles of liberty and equality and role of government to regulate these principles.
The book is organized chronologically into five critical stages. These include the passage of the original law, introduction of policies for athletics, introduction of institutional liability for sexual harassment, introduction of campus-based adjudication for allegations of sexual assault, and, finally, the introduction of a proposed ban against transgender discrimination. Through each of these five moments, the authors identify Title IX expansions or changes made that remain consistent with Title IX’s “original public meaning” (2), as well as transformations or changes made beyond the original statutory language by “discretionary bureaucracy” (97). By differentiating between expansions and transformations, Busch and Thro show how Title IX continues to be a highly contested and controversial policy that has been shaped by presidential and congressional political cycles in addition to increased societal concern over the discrimination and harassment of women. The strength of this book is its unwillingness to deem Title IX a just and transparent success. Rather, readers gain a more critical appraisal of the law that culminates in relative nuance about both its practicality and constitutionality.
Busch and Thro write without jargon, and their narrative remains accessible to wide audiences, including undergraduate students. The inclusion of a timeline of major events and primary legal documents is particularly helpful for those seeking direct reference to the catalysts that are mentioned throughout the book. In addition, tables, figures, and text-box inserts help elucidate key legal policies and procedures for the reader.
While this book is more closely located within the field of U.S. legal history than the field of sports history, it nevertheless provides some useful insight, and sports historians will appreciate this account of the widening scope of Title IX legislation in higher education over the last fifty years. However, at best, the book is a well-organized reference for scholars working on the interface of sports and law, civil rights, or feminist social movements in an exclusively U.S. context. The second and fifth chapters provide the most substantial engagement with the topic of sex, gender, and sports. Chapter 2 covers the Three-Part Test used to determine equal opportunity in athletics, and chapter 5 covers the 2016 Dear Colleague Letter that established new guidance on transgender accommodations. Even so, this coverage remains limited to a cursory and broad-sweeping account of Title IX’s contested social definitions of the term “sex” and the term “discrimination” and their effects on sex-segregated sports.
While Title IX is already a familiar tipping point for historians of U.S. women’s sports, by highlighting the trajectory of Title IX over the late twentieth century and into the twenty-first, this book implicitly contributes to scholarship on how the history of women’s access to sports is transected by changing tides in the state regulation of gendered bodies and their labor. Busch and Thro refrain...