Sex and Secularism

How gender inequality is built into the conception of modern secular nation-states


Nov 12, 2019
5.5 x 8.5 in.
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Joan Wallach Scott’s acclaimed writings have been foundational for the field of gender history. With Sex and Secularism, she challenges one of the central claims of the “clash of civilizations” polemic—that secularism guarantees gender equality. Drawing on a wealth of scholarship, Scott shows that the gender equality invoked today as an enduring principle was not originally associated with the term “secularism” when it first entered the nineteenth-century lexicon. In fact, the inequality of the sexes was fundamental to the separation of church and state that inaugurated Western modernity. Scott reveals how the assertion that secularism has been synonymous with equality between the sexes has distracted our attention from difficulties related to gender difference—ones shared by Western and non-Western cultures alike.

Awards and Recognition

  • One of The Guardian’s Best Books of 2017