ArticlesVolume 16, Number 3 (2007)

Perceiving Subtle Sexism: Mapping the Social-Psychological Forces and Legal Narratives that Obscure Gender Bias


In early January of 2007, the AALS Section on Women in Legal Education held a panel discussion on “Subtle Sexism in Our Everyday Lives” at the AALS Annual meeting in Washington, D.C. Such discussions about the barriers facing women in the legal profession often trigger a fatigue with talking about gender and a denial by some that gender remains worthy of attention. The denial of gender bias can occur at a collective level, in which detractors urge “getting past” gender in setting an agenda, and at an individual level, in which individuals deny the role of gender bias (or gender privilege) in their own lives. The denial of gender bias at theĀ individual level can fuel a collective denial of the importance of gender issues. This Article explores the complexity of perceiving gender bias at the individual level, which in turn affects understandings of the role of gender in society more broadly, and surveys some of the psychological processes that contribute to the denial of gender bias in everyday life. In this Article, I am concerned both with how women law faculty and women lawyers-the immediate subjects of the panel discussion-perceive gender bias, and with the more general forces that complicate perceptions of gender bias across professional lines.