ArticlesVolume 16, Number 3 (2007)

The Subtle Side of Sexism


Sexism is not a term often encountered in polite company. In conventional usage, it conveys discrimination based on sex and seems to require some conscious action. Yet there is also a subtle side of sexism: a cluster of social expectations and practices that reinforce sex-based inequality. They are the focus of discussion here, particularly as they affect the everyday lives of even well educated and economically privileged women, including those in the legal profession.1 This focus is important, neither because sexism has no effect on men nor because these women bear the greatest costs of gender inequality. Rather, this emphasis is important because privileged women often have the greatest resources and incentives to challenge such inequality. Making those who occupy positions of influence more aware of unintentional biases and subtle sexism is a necessary step in the creation of a just society.