“It still brings a tear to my eye,” writes Mark Schmitt, discussing how moving the sight of his daughter playing Little League is. “I didn’t expect to be much of a Little League dad — I never played organized baseball myself and don’t have much of a competitive streak. But I’m very much a Title IX dad.”
Schmitt’s poignant article, featured in The American Prospect, argues that Title IX’s implications in our culture extend far beyond women and girls’ sports, to the state of modern liberalism in America. He writes:
As one watches these kids round the bases and cheer one another on, it’s also obvious that there’s a lot more to it than just athletics. This generation of children is unfailingly decent to one another, respectful of one another’s different personalities, and attentive to and proud of one another’s successes. The petty cruelties of childhood are rare. Political scientists have marveled at the distinctive attitudes of “millennials,” born roughly between 1982 and 2003….They are characterized above all by tolerance but also by cooperation, liberal political views, and respect for public institutions. They form the basis not just for the Obama Democratic coalition but for the hope of a progressive politics in the future. And the kind of equality promoted by Title IX surely has had something to do with that.
Schmitt points out that people who have grown up with Title IX are more likely to support equality and progressive politics in other areas. His point is similar to the idea that if having an LGBT family member or friend makes a person more likely to support LGBT rights, and that fathers who have daughters are more likely to be liberal, because they see that ours is not yet a society that values all people equally. Likewise, men and women who have grown up with the benefits of Title IX, who have played sports with girls or cheered them on from the sidelines, are more likely to support progressive action that is necessary for women’s equality in our society.
Schmitt furthermore uses the passage of Title IX to make a point about the fact that people tend to resist necessary social change by saying that our culture is ‘not ready.’ He writes:
[M]any liberals have become wary of getting too far ahead of the culture. We know that same-sex marriage will eventually be legal everywhere, and we fight efforts to ban it, but many of us are also hesitant about pushing the point too hard in areas of the country that don’t seem ready. Sensible liberal legal scholars worry that Roe v. Wade (1973) got ahead of changing attitudes on reproductive rights. If we were transported back to 1972, some of us might worry that schoolchildren and their parents weren’t ready for such an abrupt transformation as Title IX. […] But as I watch my daughter do something that would have been unlikely for a girl of my generation, and see all that goes with it, I’m endlessly thankful to those litigators and legislators of the early 1970s who weren’t at all afraid to give the culture and its assumptions a shove in the name of fairness.
Schmitt unfortunately never mentions the fact that the status of women’s and girls’ sports is not yet equal to that of men and boys, but his main argument is well-taken.
The argument that our society is not yet ready for specific social changes holds no weight if what it really means is that our society is not ready for men and women, heterosexual and LGBT, black and white, to be equal in this society.