Gender Rules

84 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2010 Last revised: 8 Apr 2010

See all articles by Meredith Render

Meredith Render

University of Alabama - School of Law

Date Written: February 8, 2010


Sex-stereotypes are of perennial concern within antidiscrimination law and theory, yet there is widespread disagreement about what constitutes a “sex-stereotype.” This article enters the debate surrounding the correct understanding of “stereotype” and posits that the concept is too thin to serve as a criterion for distinguishing “discriminatory” gender generalizations from non-discriminatory probabilistic descriptions of behavior. Instead, “stereotype” is a heuristic that has been used by courts and commentators to crudely capture judgments about the justness of applying sex-respecting rules.

In this light, the article argues for abandoning the stereotype heuristic in favor of a rule-centered analysis of sex-respecting generalizations. Arguing that courts and commentators have not objected to gender generalizations because they are descriptively inaccurate (as the stereotype heuristic suggests) but because they also exert unique prescriptive force, the article provides a new understanding of the theoretical basis for subjecting gender generalizations to antidiscrimination scrutiny.

Keywords: Civil Rights, Gender Discrimination, Gender, Rules, Conventions, Discrimination, Stereotypes, Jespersen, Sex Discrimination, Gender Identity, Employment Discrimination, Equal Protection, Title VII

Suggested Citation

Render, Meredith, Gender Rules (February 8, 2010). Yale Journal of Law & Feminism, Forthcoming, University of Alabama Public Law Research Paper No. 1549716, Available at SSRN:

Meredith Render (Contact Author)

University of Alabama - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 870382
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
United States
205-348-4347 (Phone)
205-348-5829 (Fax)


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