Intersectionality and Identity: Revisiting a Wrinkle in Title VII

38 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2006 Last revised: 26 Sep 2017

See all articles by Bradley A. Areheart

Bradley A. Areheart

University of Tennessee College of Law


This article revisits intersectionality, a way of postulating legal identity. Simply put, intersectionality acknowledges that one person's identity can never be reduced to solely one characteristic, such as religion or sex. Rather, each person's identity is constructed of the various intersections of ways one might describe oneself.

In the legal context, intersectionality has typically arisen in cases of employment discrimination, where those who theoretically could file a claim under more than protected category are forced to choose only one for their claim - for example, parsing one's identity as either race or sex, even though a statute like Title VII provides legal recourse under both categories. Intersectionality provides a framework in which those who suffer multiple forms of discrimination can identify each of those forms, instead of pigeon-holing their discrimination as, for example, based solely on race or sex.

Courts have yet to achieve an adequate conceptual construct for examining discrimination on multiple grounds. There is currently great confusion in courts regarding how to reconcile the claims of intersectional plaintiffs with existing law. This article examines the various judicial contexts in which intersectionality has arisen and why different courts' treatments of the topic have failed to establish useful precedent.

Finally, this article advocates an amendment to Title VII that would cohere with its original legislative intent. Such an amendment would encourage intersectional Plaintiffs to bring their claims and help educate both courts and legal practitioners regarding how to effectively represent and rule on the claims brought by intersectional Plaintiffs.

Keywords: civil rights, feminism, race, intersectionality, intersection, Title VII, identity, discrimination, privilege, sex

JEL Classification: J70, J71, J78, J79, K31

Suggested Citation

Areheart, Bradley A., Intersectionality and Identity: Revisiting a Wrinkle in Title VII. 17 George Mason University Civil Rights Law Journal 199 (2006), Available at SSRN:

Bradley A. Areheart (Contact Author)

University of Tennessee College of Law ( email )

1505 West Cumberland Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37996
United States

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