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    Speaking Up for Title IX in the Age of Trump

    By Andrea Shorter

    This has been a time of cutting through a lot of “noise.” There’s the noise about a White House press secretary alarmingly deeming it a “fireable offense” for an ESPN African American female sports journalist to have called out the President for favoring, apparently being, and surrounding himself with white supremacists in the White House. There’s the bothersome, nattering chatter about whether or not former Secretary of State and the first almost first woman President Hillary Clinton—who handily won the popular vote despite Russia’s interference in our 2016 election to favor her opponent—should continue speaking up and out about “what happened” that led to her loss to a misogynist realtor and reality TV game show host.

    What is disturbing about the narratives surrounding Jemele Hill’s personal tweets and Hillary Clinton’s embarking upon her What Happened book tour is the similar treatment of U.S. Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren for being cut off in their allotted time for questioning in committee hearings or for address on the senate floor. The all-too-common response denominator: castigate women for speaking their own truths and truth to power.

    To me, the noise isn’t at all what these women are saying; the noise emits from the rapid shut- down response to what they are saying—especially if it is critical of harm caused by a famously sexist, thin-skinned authoritarian president. Whether or not Jemele should be fired (she shouldn’t), or Hillary should take more personal blame for a tragically failed bid for the presidency, the “how dare she speak her own mind” rapid response playbook dictates an immediate shut down to whatever she is actually saying or inferred to be saying.

    There’s plenty of other noise out there in the atmosphere surrounding all sorts of issues, as well as plenty of serious issues over which we should continue to make a great deal of noise to forward much-needed resistance to injustice. One such issue concerns the historic Title IX. Many recall a key origin of Title IX to literally level the playing field to provide equal opportunities and resources in men and women’s athletic programs. Title IX enacted that “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 finance assistance.”

    President Obama in 2011 augmented Title IX to address the need for academic institutions to take seriously, and better respond to, sexual violence and harassment. Now, upon this 45th Anniversary year of Title IX, Trump’s obsession to obliterate nearly all progressive policy testament to the existence of an Obama Presidency would appear to have a willing partner in U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to scrub away and roll back this much-needed provision.

    DeVos proposes to revise, or in effect, gut the historic Title IX of provisions concerning response to sexual assault and harassment on college campuses. Citing overreaching, confusing guidelines for on campus due process to hear complaints—or what right wing critics offensively refer to as Kangaroo courts—as presenting “unintended consequences” resulting in a financial burden to colleges, and potentially unfair treatment of accused perpetrators, DeVos plans to “course correct” to be fair to—here it comes—all sides.

    Under the administration of a President who has famously and long demonstrated a serious lack of respect for women, especially for the many who have stepped forward over the years to speak their truths as survivors of his serial sexual harassment and assaults, this so-called course correction to make sure all sides are treated fairly will be alarmingly interesting, to say the least. With nearly 57 percent of the accused being overwhelmingly male and white, the symmetry between Trump and this slice of his core fraternal constituency speaks stereo-phonic, level 11 volumes. It’s deafening.

    In 1972, Title IX was enacted to uplift the opportunities, experiences, and voices of women above the very real noise that amplified and codified sexism, inequality and injustice.

    Tomorrow (September 22, in select cities before wider 9/29 release) the biopic Battle of the Sexes will be released. The movie depicts the events surrounding the 1973 famous match waged by notorious chauvinist Bobby Riggs against now tennis goddess Billie Jean King to prove men’s superiority over women. We all know how that match went down, but we should still go see the movie. I expect it will remind those of us who were conscientious at that time—and demonstrate to those who came later—the importance of both Title IX and the women who, by refusing to have their voices shut-down, changed the world.

    We’ve come a long way in 45 years, but sexism still exists and persists, as we are regularly reminded by our President. We cannot allow the voices of survivors and allies be subject to rapid shut-down when speaking up and out to protect Title IX. Let’s make our own very real, and loud, noise by contacting our representatives and urging that they fight like Billie Jean King to protect Title IX.

    Andrea Shorter is President of the historic San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. She is a longtime advocate for criminal and juvenile justice reform, voter rights, and marriage equality. A co-founder of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, she was a 2009 David Bohnett LGBT Leadership Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government