Title IX and Gender Bias in Language

Title IX is a part of the US Education Amendments of 1972, Public Law No. 92-318, 86 Stat. 235 (June 23, 1972) according to which, “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 financial assistance. Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 tried to cater for ending discrimination based on religion, race, color or national origin, and gender discrimination in employment, however, it did not consider gender discrimination within public education and federal assistance programs. While Title IX is specifically known for its focus on eradicating gender discrimination in high school, college and university education (Title IX – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, n.d.). Legal authorities, educationists, human and gender right activists have regularly been in struggle to bring improvements in the way Title IX should best cater for discrimination problems at schools, colleges, and universities, by researching, criticizing, analyzing, and raising voice regarding different issues related to Title IX itself, and its effects around the academic world. Title IX has been focused to consider issues related to discrimination at educational institutions of different levels, based on gender. However, practically, Title IX has been understood and applied at different levels and in different institutions when issues like sexual violence against specific gender arise, or gender discrimination is observed in provision of rights, facilities, or choices at educational institutions. Studying the history of Title IX practices at institutions of education shows that it has been majorly discussed, observed, and practiced in cases where gender bias has been observed in terms of allowance of academic, non-academic, or financial opportunities for one gender while ignoring the other. Some of the examples include offering a particular program for one specific gender but prohibiting the other gender from attending that program, eliminating sports or academic opportunities for one specific gender only, and so on. However, literature helps identify a volume of discrimination issues at academic institutions which need special attention and immediate redressal and which otherwise can lead to enormous disadvantages to a specific group of individuals.

Gender bias, in the use of language is an example of discrimination which is a big issue but has always been ignored and given little importance. The purpose of this article is to explain the problem of gender discrimination in terms of use of gender biased language in education sector (schools, colleges, universities, textbooks etc.), its adverse effects on the ignored gender and study it in relation to Article IX. Article IX is also presented and analyzed if it provides any opportunities to cater for discrimination problems related to the use of gender biased language in the academia.

Problem of gender biased language in education and textbooks has been an important however a less privileged debate over past. There has been little focus on this issue since the researchers and educationists have focused more on gender bias and discrimination issues which direct in nature while, gender bias issues in textbooks and languages is of an invisible nature. Most of the research so far has focused on equal education opportunities irrespective of gender groups and more precisely have focused on female education to help them bring at par with the male folks. However, there are still examples of recent researches pointing towards the gender bias in language of education i.e. textbooks and classroom contents. Blumberg (2008 a) identified gender bias in textbooks to be a globally significant issue that hurdles gender equality in education. He argued that 80% of classroom time is spent with textbooks which contribute to lowering the role of females, promoting gender stereotyping and underrepresentation of females. Blumberg (2008 b) analyzed an analysis of gender disparity issues in Syria, India, and Romania and came up with the conclusion that when literacy rates of two genders are compared, the three countries are different, however, when it comes to the use of gender biased language in the textbooks, all the three countries show the same male biased language in the textbooks. Blumberg further added that United States of America has put enormous funding to eliminate gender bias in textbooks since 1970’s even before the inception of Article IX, however it has not yet effectively eliminated it. The struggles have been successful in eliminating the sexism from the textbooks but have failed to improve the role of woman within these books. However, they still consider it as a win against gender bias. Similarly, Brugeilles and Cromer (2009) also found the same phenomenon of gender bias within textbooks around several countries of the world and concluded that despite struggles it has not been yet eliminated effectively. Sadker and Zittleman (2003) analyzed 27 teacher education books published over three years (1998-2001) and found that gender related content was less than 8%. All these findings show how gender bias is rooted into the educational content and how adversely it can affect the ignored gender folk, because textbooks cover major part of the educational achievement and have permanent psychological impacts on the readers and learners thus promoting stereotyped and gender-biased patterns among the nations.

Questions and Answers on Title IX and sexual violence (2011) stated that many of the gender discrimination issues have been further explained and institutions have been directed to facilitate students by providing explanations in different languages, helping foreign students’ in case of harassment cases etc.

The wording and theme of Title IX obviously presents the intentions that this act was introduced to eliminate any kind of gender discrimination, in high school, college and university education, which may cause to hurdle enjoying equal opportunity rights to education among all genders. Since use of gender biased language in class instruction and textbooks as well as gender biased roles as contained in majority of the text books for decades represent the same situation that females are being deprived of equal opportunity to be represented in the textbooks and their achievements are less focused. This scenario calls for further amendments in Title IX to include gender bias in language as a significant issue. However, Title IX till now has no amendments regarding the use of gender biased language in textbooks and language of instruction used in classroom. The reason for ignorance to this particular focus is the fact that gender bias in language of higher education has remained invisible to many of the concerned. Blumberg (2008) also terms this issue as invisible yet significant because of its negative impacts on the role of females in the global as well as local context.

Since language not only represents a thinking, but it also guides the thinking and behavior of listeners, readers, and writers, therefore there is a need to emphasize on educational institutions to use language with very high degree of precision. Therefore, researchers and policy makers should come up with new amendments, to address the issues of gender bias with respect to language at the top priority and make sure that none of the two genders are ignored or discriminated in this regard. This will provide an opportunity to enhance the thinking and behavior of school, college and higher education learners as well as teachers. More importantly, Article IX must clearly state that use of gender biased language at any level in any educational institution must be eliminated and any such cases if reported must be dealt with strictly and effectively to take this dilemma out of education sector. In fact, Article IX is complete in all respects in terms of its statement and meaning, however, the various aspects of gender-based discrimination need further clarification and elaboration, and educators, textbook developers, and educational administrators need to be trained and made aware of this invisible issue. Thus, it can be clearly concluded that the problems are at the level of implementation of Article IX.