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Situation, Frames, and Stereotypes: Cognitive Barriers on the Road to Nondiscrimination
Michigan Journal of Gender & Law (2010)
  • Marybeth Herald, Thomas Jefferson School of Law

The psychological literature enhances our understanding of discrimination. This essay discusses three examples of how that literature can contribute to limiting destructive gender bias in the workplace, in private interactions, and in the courtroom. First, situational pressures have a powerful influence on our actions and must be taken into account in combating employment discrimination. A workplace designed for traditional male needs (limited parenting and home responsibilities) will continue to pressure females out of the workplace or childbearing despite formal equality rules. Second, the use of the term “disorder” as a frame for describing persons with an intersex condition may not achieve the ultimate goals of the movement, despite its perceived short-term advantages for communicating with the medical community. This frame may provoke reflexive images that hinder communications with a number of other groups, including parents and the community at large. Finally, although transsexual plaintiffs have been able to take advantage of Title VII under the Supreme Court’s “sex stereotyping” theory in Price Waterhouse, that theory ultimately reinforces stereotyping by requiring the plaintiffs to set up stereotypes for comparison, and that condition may ultimately reinforce the stereotypes. Rooting out gender inequality requires an understanding of how these inequalities are embedded in our thinking processes.

  • gender,
  • sex,
  • intersex,
  • transsexual,
  • discrimination,
  • cognitive bias,
  • employment,
  • stereotype
Publication Date
Citation Information
Marybeth Herald. "Situation, Frames, and Stereotypes: Cognitive Barriers on the Road to Nondiscrimination" Michigan Journal of Gender & Law Iss. 17 (2010)
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