Title IX as Pragmatic Feminism

35 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2008 Last revised: 25 May 2008

See all articles by Deborah L. Brake

Deborah L. Brake

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law


This paper uses Title IX as a vehicle for exploring the potential benefits of pragmatism for feminist legal theory. Title IX is unusual in antidiscrimination law for its eclectic approach to theory, drawing from liberal feminism, substantive equality, antisubordination and different voice models of equality at various points in the law's approach to gender equality in sports. This paper argues that Title IX, as a pragmatic approach to theory, provides a promising example of how feminist legal theory can draw from pragmatism to navigate the double-bind and the backlash.

Following an introduction in Part I, Part II of this Article examines legal pragmatism and its relationship to feminist legal theory, arguing that both schools of thought have the potential to enrich one another. Part III provides an account of the multiple forms of gender oppression in sports, following pragmatism's insight that any sound theoretical approach to a problem must be grounded in the particularities of the context surrounding that problem.

Part III argues that given the slipperiness of subordination and its shifting practices and ideologies, we should not expect a unitary, consistent theory of discrimination to address it. Finally, Part IV examines the plural approach to theory reflected in Title IX, arguing that Title IX's eclectic approach to theory explains why this law has been unusually successful in navigating the double-bind and shaping cultural norms to fend off a backlash. The Article concludes that, though far from perfect, Title IX provides a promising example of how pragmatic approaches can shape successful feminist legal strategies.

Keywords: civil rights, women/gender, discrimination law, sports, feminist legal theory

Suggested Citation

Brake, Deborah L., Title IX as Pragmatic Feminism. Cleveland State Law Review, Vol. 55, p. 513, 2007, U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2008-04, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1092584

Deborah L. Brake (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law ( email )

3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

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