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Sex Discrimination

Historical Background, Sex Discrimination And Title Vii: An Unusual Political Alliance, Sex Discrimination Laws

Discrimination on the basis of gender.

Women have historically been subjected to legal discrimination based on their gender. Some of this discrimination has been based on cultural stereotypes that cast women primarily in the roles of wives and mothers. In the patriarchal (male-dominated) U.S. society, women have been viewed as the "weaker sex," who needed protection from the rough-and-tumble world outside their homes. Such beliefs were used as justifications for preventing women from voting, holding public office, and working outside the home. In a culture that portrayed wives as appendages of their husbands, women have often been invisible to the law.

The ability of women to use the law to fight sex discrimination in employment, education, domestic relations, and other spheres is a recent development. With the passage of Title VII of the CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964 (42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e et seq.), discrimination in employment based on sex became illegal. In the 1970s and 1980s, the U.S. Supreme Court began to wrestle with the implications of sex discrimination in many contexts, often with conflicting or ambiguous results. Employers and social institutions have sought to justify discriminatory treatment for women on the basis of long-held traditions. In some cases the Court has agreed, while in others the justifications have been dismissed as cultural stereotypes that have no basis in fact.

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