When former Indiana Senator Birch Bayh* wrote Title IX forty years ago, his goal was very simple: to make sure women could get a good education. He wanted to force schools to accept women as students, let them into classes, and hire them as professors. And he wanted to make professions that require higher education accessible to women.As the law, which prohibits educational programs that take federal money from discriminating on the basis of sex, celebrates its fortieth birthday on Saturday, the changes Bayh was after have, to a stunning degree, happened—women have been earning more undergraduate degrees than men since 1996 and in 2009 overtook them in the attainment of doctoral degrees; 47 percent of legal degrees and 48 percent of medical degrees were conferred on women in 2010, compared to 7 percent and 9 percent, respectively, in 1972. Title IX has become most famous for ushering female athletes onto the playing field—an application of Bayh’s law that he told me didn’t cross his mind when he was defending it in the Senate.Another of the most lasting—and most controversial—legacies of Title IX is, likewise, in an area referenced nowhere in its 37 words: sexual harassment. The law made national headlines once again last spring when the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights announced that it would investigate whether Yale was violating Title IX by allowing a hostile sexual environment. How did a law written to open the doors of classrooms become the staging ground for lawsuits over sexual misconduct?
"Wearing Nothing but Attitude" --New York Times, May 1, 2005 Was this trite phrase part of an ad campaign for a new Calvin Klein perfume or was it a headline for an article in the "Sunday Styles" section?
If you have been feeling closely scrutinized at work lately, you are not alone. The most recent study of electronic monitoring in the workplace, conducted earlier this year by the American Management Association, found that more than half of the large U.S. firms surveyed monitor the Internet activity of their employees. Two-thirds monitor e-mail messages, computer files, or telephone conversations, up from 35 percent three years ago. The companies gave several reasons for these intrusions, including concerns about employee performance and productivity.
In Harm's Way: The Pornography Civil Rights Hearings edited by Catharine A. MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin (Harvard, 496 pp., $24.95) Heterophobia: Sexual Harassment and the Future of Feminism by Daphne Patai (Rowman & Littlefield, 288 pp., $22.95) I. In February, Yale Law School sponsored a conference to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Catharine MacKinnon's Sexual Harassment of Working Women.
At the Supreme Court last week, during the argument in Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, the justices seemed skeptical of the shipping company's claim that same-sex harassment could never be illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Joseph Oncale, the oil-rig roustabout whose supervisor allegedly put his penis on Oncale's head, had sued for harassment, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that sexual harassment doesn't include men behaving badly with other men.
Your legal correspondent has been doing his part to keep this magazine 100 percent O.J.-free. My resolution to miss each moment of the trial of the century began out of indolence and has now blossomed into a ripe affectation. The truth is that I've always had an aversion to celebrity trials: the soap operatic narratives spun out to arouse the passions of jurors leave me alternately indifferent and uncomfortable; and the messy particularity of actual human experience tends to obscure the abstract legal principles that make my heart race.
The lingering questions of the Thomas and Ginsburg hearings anxiously converged in a sexual harassment case before the Court this week. Can sexual banter in the workplace be punished if it offends women without affecting their job performance? And are men's and women's perspectives about sex so vastly different that women need special protection from the vulgarity of men?