The Stubborn Persistence of Sex Segregation

66 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2010 Last revised: 2 Aug 2010

See all articles by David S. Cohen

David S. Cohen

Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law

Date Written: February 24, 2010


Almost fifty years ago, Congress began protecting against sex discrimination in federal statutory law. Almost forty years ago, the Supreme Court expanded constitutional law to include protection from discrimination based on sex. Since then, guarantees against sex discrimination have proliferated in federal and state law, and societal norms of sex equality have become entrenched. Yet, in 2010, we still live in a society that is highly segregated by sex.

This article is the first part of a multi-part project that will analyze sex segregation as a systemic issue by exploring the contours of modern American sex segregation and what this phenomenon means for law, feminism, gender, and identity. In this first article, I set the stage for the entire project by providing a systematic account of sex segregation in America. In addition, I situate this empirical data within a broader doctrinal and theoretical framework. My goal in this piece and the others that will build upon it is to provide a comprehensive framework for thinking and dealing with the problem of sex segregation.

This article begins the argument in favor of an anti-essentialist theoretical approach that would prohibit all but the most private or necessary forms of sex segregation. Because of the various ways in which modern sex segregation plays a major role in limiting personal identity and overall equality by forcing people to fit into a strict sex/gender binary, I argue here and throughout this project for this anti-essentialist approach.

This project’s second article, which analyzes sex segregation’s impact on masculinity, is available at

Keywords: Sex Segregation, Anti-Essentialism, Gender, Feminist Theory

Suggested Citation

Cohen, David S., The Stubborn Persistence of Sex Segregation (February 24, 2010). Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Forthcoming, Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law Research Paper No. 2010-A-11, Available at SSRN: or

David S. Cohen (Contact Author)

Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law ( email )

3320 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
215-571-4714 (Phone)

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