EVANSTON, IL — When Melissa Isaacson set out to create an event that not only educated people about why Title IX legislation was passed 50 years but also inform them of the inequities that still exist between men and women today, she admits that the undertaking was a bit overwhelming.
But considering the importance of an issue that has wide-ranging implications today five decades after Title IX became federal law, Isaacson — the first woman to cover the Chicago Bulls and Bears for the Chicago Tribune – knew that in the end, the effort would be well-worth her time.
Isaacson is now an assistant professor at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and has overseen the organization of a free three-day event that focuses on Title IX and what it means today. Title XI At 50: Past, Present and Future will be held on Northwestern’s campus on Oct. 27 and 29 and will feature a number of panel discussions and other events featuring experts on the legislation along with plenty of participants, Isaacson included, who have had a front-row seat for how the federal law has affected women and their efforts to gain equality with men in a number of arenas, athletically speaking and otherwise.
The event is open to the public and interested residents are encouraged to register on the event’s website.
Isaacson says she has gotten full support from university officials who essentially provided her with a green light to make the three-day event as full and wide-ranging as possible. And heading into a mid-term election season in which a number of women’s issues have become prevalent and at a time when women’s sports leagues and athletes, especially of color, continue to struggle to be treated fairly compared to their male counterparts, Isaacson said the timing for the upcoming event could not be better.
Fifty-year anniversary or not.
“There is a lot of terrible statistical evidence that gender equity is not where it should be,” Isaacson told Patch recently.
“There’s a lot of important issues in our country and over 50 percent of us are women and people should be interested. I promise it will be compelling for men and women for sure.”
Isaacson points to the low percentage of women who are being hired to coach sports or serve in administrative roles compared to men and to the number of girls who participate in high school sports being still lower than the number of boys who played high school sports in 1972. As these issues continue to arise, Isaacson said that more conversations need to take place about Title IX violations and the struggles that women are still experiencing now.
She hopes to have many of those conversations at the Northwestern event, which will also include a screening of a new film chronicling the journey of Lucy Harris, the daughter of Mississippi sharecroppers who scored the first basket in U.S. Olympic women’s history. The event will also discussions on the current plight of transgendered athletes who are running into obstacles at a time when sexual assault and other gender-based abuse continues to be experienced by athletes, including women’s professional soccer players playing in American pro soccer leagues.
The event is being financed by the Medill School of Journalism and the Northwestern Provost’s office but has garnered support from a number of other university departments, which Isaacson characterizes as a something like “small, fierce band of colleagues across the campus.”
The hope of the event, Isaacson said, is to create meaningful dialogues that can turn into more difference-making in the community and around the country.
Paring down the panels into a schedule that would fit into three days was “ridiculously hard” for Isaacson and other organizers, who have assembled an impressive cast of speakers and contributors for the conference. Charles Whitaker, dean of Medill’s School of Journalism, told Isaacson to “shoot for the moon” when it came to planning the event, which has led Isaacson to create an event that she believes can leave a meaningful impression on those who attend.
“We’ve brought together top scholars and policy-makers and people who are very big voices (in Title IX),” she said. “I hope people are drawn to it because we have these really important sources of information — and current information — and I hope (attendees) go away more educated thinking of things they may have not thought of before.”
Get more local news delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for free Patch newsletters and alerts.