Re: Equity: tennis vs war

Linda Purrington (
Thu, 23 Apr 1998 15:51:38 -0700

Jacqueline Zimmerman's comment that this is war, not tennis, is correct.
That is why the issue of single-sex schools is so charged. Let's look at
some of the reasons why it is war, rather than tennis:

Women do two jobs here, and throughout the world, at the workplace and
in the home. So you need to reduce your estimates of women's income in
that way, by half. (Make sure you do not undervalue thejob of homemaker
to the extent that it is undervalued on the current market, buy the
way.) Furthermore, only one-third of U.S. homes are
"traditional/nuclear/male headed"; the women heads of households receive
little or no child support; so divide their income by the number of
children they must support, and adjust their income accordingly. [If you
want to pursue this read Marilyn Waring; not easy, and not complete, but
a beginning at correcting the invisibility of women's labor and income
in the world.] It is manipulatory in the extreme to crop statistics like
a photograph and use only what suits you to "prove" that women are not
disadvantaged. They are: men have always had affirmative action, and it
is cheap to exclude others from the same franchise to life, liberty, and
the pursuit of happiness--and education, and employment, all pieces of
the same puzzle.

This is what the scramble for education means--a desperate bid by women
to find jobs that will keep them and their children alive; most don't
have a prayer of getting out of poverty as well, and incidentally that
is why the backlash has been so effective: women quietly voted with
their feet, out of marriage, and have been fighting for their lives ever
since; they have very little energy left over for political action.

And we are indeed linked to the rest of the world; the stage we are
looking at does not stop in some arbitrary way at the edges of
education, or the edges of the U.S. Turn on the audience lights--out
there Indian women are being branded if they have HIV (not the men). In
here we have people who trivialize the constant sexual harassment to
which girls and women are exposed in their education: we are talking
rape here, lots and lots of it, and stalking, and murder--these are not
vague. We are talking Paducah and Jonesboro. We are talking traditional
hate crimes against women on college campuses. We are talking the way
those boys (no, young men) chased Shannon Faulkner out of VMI). We here
have anthropologists who consider societies elsewhere egalitarian if the
men are equal; but the women are not only not allowed to divorce or even
return to their childhood homes if widowed, have no civil rights at all,
and may not own property. This is our education. Here in the U.S. we
have 100,000 girls at risk of having their clitorises cut off; is there
an outcry? No, because the leading college textbooks play games, calling
it circumcision; the women who are the lower echelons of publishing
fight desperately to have it correctly named, the men who write the
textbooks insist on having it their way: do you think that if there were
100,000 boys at risk of having their penises cut off there would be an
outcry? Of course there would, and every feminist I know would stand out
on streetcorners and wherever protesting such a crime. In our
educational system we need to have complete and accurate sex education.
And as for reproductive choice and the right to choose what one's body
will or will not do, we are not there yet--we are still enslaved. In
Afghanistan the Taliban stones women for adultery; the girls in their
segregated education system are not allowed out to play; the girls in
the state orphanage have not been outside since last December. The
Taliban forbids women to wear squeaky shoes--doesn't that enrage you?
And this is the wild ocean that is lapping at our feet as we play for
equal rights in the richest nation of the world--what goes on our
lighted stage is what the rest of the world sees. If we go down to
gender apartheid, the lights really will go out.

And still we play the fight by the rules of tennis. Listening to the
restrained, polite behavior by the women advocates of Title IX on this
list, I am reminded of fighting for my life once when a man I had just
met went ballistic at me--we were in his grandmother's house, a woman I
greatly respected and loved--and she had little glass knickknacks all
over the coffee table. As I wrenched my self free and ran for the door,
I was constantly conscious, like reading a line from a textbook, that
she would be greatly distressed to find her grandson had done this, and
if the knicknacks got broken she would know. I got away alive; and I
vowed never to be so polite again in a matter of life or death. And I
think women need to get angry and fight hard. I think the feminist
agenda is for all people, men, women, boys, girls, black, white--it is a
humanist agenda. And it is high time we all had such an agenda, because
the world is in trouble. Our population is exploding; we can't be
sitting in each others laps preaching violence and genocide and
superexploitation of resources any more. It's time to change our minds,
big time.

Of course we don't want a single child to commit suicide; each child
deserves love and freedom and happiness. But we also need to challenge
men to take away from their sons the gun culture and trigger-rage that
allow boys to so quickly act on their destructive impulses--and the
notion that girls are property. Sexism kills. Girls show three times the
amount of depressions, perhaps for good reason; but they are not taught
to pick up a gun. Increasingly, we see men and boys who kill themselves,
their ex-girlfriends, their wives, and their children. Men, look to your
sons. You have more status and power than women; you can control the
sexism and rape and violence that is so clearly male in this and all
societies. And don't say that women are responsible for your
violence--that's just too much. The credibility of the
mother-is-responsible-for-all-ills theory has run out.

Now look at some of the ways all this relates to single-sex schools. We
are talking about gender apartheid. About going backward to gender
segregation, not forward to gender segregation. And some of the reason
we are in danger of this is that we women tend to play tennis, very
politely. [Look at me, I apologized for a wisecrack. Nobody however,
has ever apologized to me for a life in which it was just part of the
game for me to be raped and burnt with cigarettes and beaten (nope, not
what you're thinking, not trash people--all by college postgraduates in
the most otherwise salutory of venues) and otherwise shoved over.]

We know the reason why many if not most girls are sometimes better off
in classrooms with no boys is that as the teacher from New Mexico
pointed out, you spend 80 to 90 percent of your time with the boys (not
all the boys; with many of the boys). But we are so polite that we have
excluded from consideration the solution to producing gender equitable
education without resorting to gender apartheid: we could demand that
sexism and racism be stopped in our schools. We could say, angrily,
loudly, clearly, what the courts have been increasingly saying that we
have a right to say: If someone disrupts the classroom, remove him or
her. That person should not be interfering with the education of the
rest of the students. We need to say--as the courts have been
increasingly saying to us we have a right to say--if you cannot control
the discrimination in your school district, school, classroom--you are
not competent. If that makes you angry, good--then get up there and
demand what it takes to make this nation's classrooms free of sexist and
racist terrorism. Fight for your jobs the ways those kids fight in some
cases for their lives. Get political. Don't just huddle over victims and
protect them--make sure you go up in public with some courage against
the aggressors. Why doesn't this happen? Because people are scared? why
don't people deal with the boys who disrupt classes? and kill their
girlfriends? Because we are scared. Because we are not supposed to wear
squeaky shoes. Because this is war. And we (both men and women,
because the war is not between men and women, but between aggression and
justice) are going to win it, and we are going to have a world where the
bullies are excluded from class, and have no seats in the Senate. Hey, a

Notes from all over:
[Does this speak to your concern about the ethic of care and the ethic
of justice? Because I think that is a false dichotomy. I think if we
pose the problem in the United States in 1998, that gender apartheid
will serve neither care nor justice for our children's children in the
year 2025 (a point chosen arbitrarily as long ahead as the passage of
Title IX is in the past--half a generation of memory and political

[And to the people who say this is about what is good for individuals,
well, no, I don't think so; it is about forming public policy for a
society. I am not in this just for my kid; I'm trying to stand up for
all the kids of the future. And let's discuss: what is the social
context we are talking about? What is the time frame for public policy
and changes of mind? I suspect that 50 years after women's suffrage we
got Title IX, and I'll bet that 50 years after Title IX we will not
really take single-sex schooling seriously at all--the notion will be as
antiquated as bloomers, if we're lucky.]

[And as for the harassment out of or disinterest of women in engineering
and science, you must consider that these fields have been dominated not
by men, but by sexism--women are not overly keen to spend their lives
fighting with sexual harassers over the right to kill yet another
watershed with inappropriate dams and development. Slowly but surely we
will get the right to spend our lives doing things we like, with people
whom we like, such as building homes for extended families, or mobile
hospitals, etc., or investigating the uses of chemical compounds to allow
sane reproduction.]

[And listen to P. Lerner; who points out that the rush to athletics
obscures physical education; and further, I'd add, the rush to athletics
obscures other uses of Title IX that may be more important--such as
blocking gender apartheid in education.]

[Jan Gray: it is still not clear to me why Title IX should not cover
elementary school. I know the students are younger. What is the
situation in terms of their civil rights? Or point me in the direction
of law articles that will elucidate this point. LP]

[Deborah Brake: you've done a great job, thank you! May we have the
title and bibiographic information on the case in Philadelphia
challenging the all-male school? Who has challenged the Harlem School
for Girls? What is the title and docket of that case? LP]

Linda Purrington
Title IX Advocates

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