New Turf Battles in Ongoing Title IX Debate
Women’s E-News reports on the most recent battleground in the ongoing Title IX war: high schools. A Michigan mother-on-a-mission is attempting to bring a class-action lawsuit against the Michigan High School Athletic Association, claiming that the association “denies female high school students equal facilities, scheduling, and treatment” in athletic opportunities. Whatever the merits of this particular case, the trend towards expanding Title IX to high schools is not encouraging; unfortunately, until the federal government corrects the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’ wrongful, quota-style implementation of this statute, more lawsuits are likely to be filed. Donna Lopiano, executive director of the feminist Women’s Sports Foundation, expressed excitement about seeing “much more action” in the form of lawsuits filed against high schools. But as we’ve seen with sexual harassment law, when extended to elementary and high schools, it is school districts — and hence, taxpayers — that end up footing the bill for these frivolous claims.

Always a Glass Half Empty
College-Age Women Incapable of Rational Thought! This could have been the alternative headline for two recent dispatches from the National Organization for Women’s (NOW) Legal Defense and Education Fund about women in higher education. In a recent Women’s E-News dispatch, NOW ponders “why women seem to be pigeonholed and channeled into certain branches of professions, such as pediatrics or human resource management.” But who is engaging in this nefarious “pigeonholing”? NOW does not tell us. Could it be that women themselves are choosing to pursue fields in which they have the most interest? Not according to NOW. In addition, NOW claims — with no evidence, mind you — that women who want to pursue educational opportunities in math and science face “an inflexible curriculum, lack of role models…gender bias on the part of faculty, and challenges in obtaining academic guidance.”

In fact, the real challenge is faced by NOW and other mainstream feminist organizations. At a time when women are outperforming men educationally, the gals need a new bogeyman. Evidently even the irrefutable facts about women’s educational progress won’t force them to call off the search.

Bridget Jones: Friend or Foe?
British novelist Doris Lessing is not the only writer feeling peevish about her sex (see last week’s news round-up). British novelist Beryl Bainbridge, who is favored to win this year’s Booker Prize, attacks “chick-lit” such as the best-selling Bridget Jones’s Diary as so much meaningless froth. Lessing concurred with Bainbridge’s assessment, telling the Associated Press that “it would be better, perhaps, if they wrote books about their lives as they really saw them and not these helpless girls, drunken, worrying about their weight and so on.” This does seem like a bit of piling on. Many of the women who read “chick lit” do so for pleasure — just as they used to catch the latest episode of “Melrose Place.” But that doesn’t mean they don’t also read “serious” fiction. Writing in the Guardian, chick lit novelist Jenny Colgan defended her readers, reminding her censorious older sisters that many of these novels are superbly comedic and that “young women aren’t stupid. We do actually know the difference between literature and popular fiction.”

Where the Boys (and Reasonable Debates) Are
Writing in the on-line magazine, Salon, Wellesley grad Theresa Rusho tells of her experience of a “junior year abroad.” The uncharted land she explored? The co-ed college classroom. Two years after having happily enrolled at the all-female Wellesley, Rusho found that the charm of being an empowered woman on her particular campus had worn thin, “as thin as the public service announcements about eating disorders that greeted me outside of nearly every bathroom door.” By the time she was a sophomore, Rusho realized that Wellesley really was all-woman — female viewpoints, female commentary, female opinions — and she began to wonder if something wasn’t missing from her education. She even began to question some of the tenets of that education, such as the call from her political science professor to “theorize about the needs and experience of women in the context of a multicultural society and postcolonial world.” Five years after graduating from Wellesley, Rusho is still sometimes “overwhelmed with regret” that she missed out on a potentially less empowering — but probably intellectually richer — college experience.