Because of Sex: One Law, Ten Cases, and Fifty Years That Changed American Women's Lives at Work

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“Meticulously researched and rewarding to read...Thomas is a gifted storyteller.” —The New York Times Book Review

Best known as a monumental achievement of the civil rights movement, the 1964 Civil Rights Act also revolutionized the lives of America’s working women. Title VII of the law made it illegal to discriminate “because of sex.” But that simple phrase didn’t mean much until ordinary women began using the law to get justice on the job—and some took their fights all the way to the Supreme Court. Among them were Ida Phillips, denied an assembly line job because she had a preschool-age child; Kim Rawlinson, who fought to become a prison guard—a “man’s job”; Mechelle Vinson, who brought a lawsuit for sexual abuse before “sexual harassment” even had a name; Ann Hopkins, denied partnership at a Big Eight accounting firm because the men in charge thought she needed "a course at charm school”; and most recently, Peggy Young, UPS truck driver, forced to take an unpaid leave while pregnant because she asked for a temporary reprieve from heavy lifting.

These unsung heroines’ victories, and those of the other women profiled in Gillian Thomas' Because of Sex, dismantled a “Mad Men” world where women could only hope to play supporting roles; where sexual harassment was “just the way things are”; and where pregnancy meant getting a pink slip.

Through first-person accounts and vivid narrative, Because of Sex tells the story of how one law, our highest court, and a few tenacious women changed the American workplace forever.

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About the author

GILLIAN THOMAS is a Senior Staff Attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Women’s Rights Project. She previously litigated sex discrimination cases at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Legal Momentum (formerly NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund). Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, and Slate, and she has been interviewed by NPR and The Wall Street Journal, among others. She lives in Brooklyn.
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Additional Information

Publisher
St. Martin's Press
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Published on
Mar 8, 2016
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9781466878976
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Language
English
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Genres
Law / Civil Rights
Social Science / Women's Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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A lyrical memoir that identifies the pressure to conform as a hidden threat to our civil rights, drawing on the author’s life as a gay Asian American man and his career as an acclaimed legal scholar.

“[Kenji] Yoshino offers his personal search for authenticity as an encouragement for everyone to think deeply about the ways in which all of us have covered our true selves. . . . We really do feel newly inspired.”—The New York Times Book Review

Everyone covers. To cover is to downplay a disfavored trait so as to blend into the mainstream. Because all of us possess stigmatized attributes, we all encounter pressure to cover in our daily lives. Racial minorities are pressed to “act white” by changing their names, languages, or cultural practices. Women are told to “play like men” at work. Gays are asked not to engage in public displays of same-sex affection. The devout are instructed to minimize expressions of faith, and individuals with disabilities are urged to conceal the paraphernalia that permit them to function. Given its pervasiveness, we may experience this pressure to be a simple fact of social life.

Against conventional understanding, Kenji Yoshino argues that the work of American civil rights law will not be complete until it attends to the harms of coerced conformity. Though we have come to some consensus against penalizing people for differences based on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, and disability, we still routinely deny equal treatment to people who refuse to downplay differences along these lines. 

At the same time, Yoshino is responsive to the American exasperation with identity politics, which often seems like an endless parade of groups asking for state and social solicitude. He observes that the ubiquity of covering provides an opportunity to lift civil rights into a higher, more universal register. Since we all experience the covering demand, we can all make common cause around a new civil rights paradigm based on our desire for authenticity—a desire that brings us together rather than driving us apart.

Praise for Covering

“Yoshino argues convincingly in this book, part luminous, moving memoir, part cogent, level-headed treatise, that covering is going to become more and more a civil rights issue as the nation (and the nation’s courts) struggle with an increasingly multiethnic America.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“[A] remarkable debut . . . [Yoshino’s] sense of justice is pragmatic and infectious.”—Time Out New York
In Prejudicial Appearances noted legal scholar Robert C. Post argues modern American antidiscrimination law should not be conceived as protecting the transcendental dignity of individual persons but instead as transforming social practices that define and sustain potentially oppressive categories like race or gender. Arguing that the prevailing logic of American antidiscrimination law is misleading, Post lobbies for deploying sociological understandings to reevaluate the antidiscrimination project in ways that would render the law more effective and just.
Four distinguished commentators respond to Post’s provocative essay. Each adopts a distinctive perspective. K. Anthony Appiah investigates the philosophical logic of stereotyping and of equality. Questioning whether the law ought to endorse any social practices that define persons, Judith Butler explores the tension between sociological and postmodern approaches to antidiscrimination law. Thomas C. Grey examines whether Post’s proposal can be reconciled with the values of the rule of law. And Reva B. Siegel applies critical race theory to query whether antidiscrimination law’s reshaping of race and gender should best be understood in terms of practices of subordination and stratification.
By illuminating the consequential rhetorical maneuvers at the heart of contemporary U.S. antidiscrimination law, Prejudical Appearances forces readers to reappraise the relationship between courts of law and social behavior. As such, it will enrich scholars interested in the relationships between law, rhetoric, postmodernism, race, and gender.
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Over the past three decades, the transgender movement has gained visibility and achieved significant victories. Discrimination has been prohibited in several states, dozens of municipalities, and more than two hundred private companies, while hate crime laws in eight states have been amended to include gender identity. Yet prejudice and violence against transgender people remain all too common.

With analysis from legal and policy experts, activists and advocates, Transgender Rights assesses the movement’s achievements, challenges, and opportunities for future action. Examining crucial topics like family law, employment policies, public health, economics, and grassroots organizing, this groundbreaking book is an indispensable resource in the fight for the freedom and equality of those who cross gender boundaries. Moving beyond media representations to grapple with the real lives and issues of transgender people, Transgender Rights will launch a new moment for human rights activism in America.

Contributors: Kylar W. Broadus, Judith Butler, Mauro Cabral, Dallas Denny, Taylor Flynn, Phyllis Randolph Frye, Julie A. Greenberg, Morgan Holmes, Bennett H. Klein, Jennifer L. Levi, Ruthann Robson, Nohemy Solórzano-Thompson, Dean Spade, Kendall Thomas, Paula Viturro, Willy Wilkinson.

Paisley Currah is associate professor of political science at Brooklyn College, executive director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center, and a founding board member of the Transgender Law and Policy Institute.

Richard M. Juang cochairs the advisory board of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) in Washington, DC. He has taught at Oberlin College and Susquehanna University. He is the lead editor of NCTE's Responding to Hate Crimes: A Community Resource Manual and coeditor of Transgender Justice, which explores models of activism.

Shannon Price Minter is legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and a founding board member of the Transgender Law and Policy Institute.
The New York Times Bestseller

In May 2013, Glenn Greenwald set out for Hong Kong to meet an anonymous source who claimed to have astonishing evidence of pervasive government spying and insisted on communicating only through heavily encrypted channels. That source turned out to be the 29-year-old NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, and his revelations about the agency's widespread, systemic overreach proved to be some of the most explosive and consequential news in recent history, triggering a fierce debate over national security and information privacy. As the arguments rage on and the government considers various proposals for reform, it is clear that we have yet to see the full impact of Snowden's disclosures.

Now for the first time, Greenwald fits all the pieces together, recounting his high-intensity ten-day trip to Hong Kong, examining the broader implications of the surveillance detailed in his reporting for The Guardian, and revealing fresh information on the NSA's unprecedented abuse of power with never-before-seen documents entrusted to him by Snowden himself.
Going beyond NSA specifics, Greenwald also takes on the establishment media, excoriating their habitual avoidance of adversarial reporting on the government and their failure to serve the interests of the people. Finally, he asks what it means both for individuals and for a nation's political health when a government pries so invasively into the private lives of its citizens—and considers what safeguards and forms of oversight are necessary to protect democracy in the digital age. Coming at a landmark moment in American history, No Place to Hide is a fearless, incisive, and essential contribution to our understanding of the U.S. surveillance state.

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