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What Is Sexual Harassment?

What Is Sexual Harassment?: From Capitol Hill to the Sorbonne

Abigail C. Saguy
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 252
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  • Book Info
    What Is Sexual Harassment?
    Book Description:

    In France, a common notion is that the shared interests of graduate students and their professors could lead to intimate sexual relations, and that regulations curtailing those relationships would be both futile and counterproductive. By contrast, many universities and corporations in the United States prohibit sexual relationships across hierarchical lines and sometimes among coworkers, arguing that these liaisons should have no place in the workplace. In this age of globalization, how do cultural and legal nuances translate? And when they differ, how are their subtleties and complexities understood? In comparing how sexual harassment—a concept that first emerged in 1975—has been defined differently in France and the United States, Abigail Saguy explores not only the social problem of sexual harassment but also the broader cultural concerns of cross-national differences and similarities.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93697-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  6. INTRODUCTION: The Making of a Concept
    (pp. 1-18)

    During the two years that Teresa Harris worked as a manager at Forklift Systems, an equipment rental company, Charles Hardy, the company’s president, often insulted her and made her the target of unwanted sexual innuendos. Charles asked Teresa on several occasions, in the presence of other employees, “You’re a woman, what do you know?” or said things such as “We need a man as the rental manager”; at least once, he told her she was “a dumb-ass woman.” Again in front of others, he suggested that the two of them “go to the Holiday Inn to negotiate Teresa’s raise.” Charles...

  7. ONE Sexual Harassment Law on the Books: Opportunity Loss v. Violence
    (pp. 19-49)

    After Forklift Systems’ president Charles Hardy’s sexist and sexually demeaning behavior drove Teresa Harris to quit her position as manager, she sued the company under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (CRA 1964), claiming that Hardy’s conduct had created an abusive work environment for her because of her gender. The United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee found this to be “a close case,” but held that Hardy’s conduct did not create an abusive environment. The court found that some of Hardy’s comments “offended [Harris], and would offend the reasonable woman,” but that they...

  8. TWO Sexual Harassment Law in Action: Legitimacy and Liability
    (pp. 50-72)

    What effect do the laws discussed in the preceding chapter have on people’s lives? For “Nancy,” a human resource manager at an American branch of an American multinational company known to be progressive in diversity and sexual harassment training (“AmeriCorp”), sexual harassment is one of the most important workplace issues facing the company. Although sexual harassment–related calls are rare, Nancy considers them so serious that she addresses them promptly when they do arise: “I have a lot of balls up in the air; when one of these issues comes in, everything else stops. Sometimes I just have to make...

  9. THREE Sexual Harassment in the Press: National Scandal, Pride, or Superiority?
    (pp. 73-95)

    In 1991, the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the United States Supreme Court met an important obstacle when Anita Hill, a law professor and one of Thomas’s former employees, publicly affirmed that Thomas had sexually harassed her when they worked at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the governmental agency responsible for enforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.¹ The mass media was key in publicizing Hill’s accusations. Beyond the question of Thomas’s guilt or Hill’s credibility, the mass media’s discussion of these proceedings led people to talk about this relatively new concept of “sexual harassment.” “What...

  10. FOUR Discrimination, Violence, Professionalism, and the Bottom Line: How Interview Respondents Frame Sexual Harassment
    (pp. 96-127)

    What is sexual harassment? According to Nancy, the United States–based AmeriCorp manager cited at the beginning of Chapter 2:

    Sexual harassment is any unwelcome or unsolicited behavior that makes an individual feel uncomfortable. Sexual harassment generally is more focused around the way that someone looks at somebody [or] the way that someone touches somebody. And I haven’t seen this, but it could [also refer to when a supervisor says to a subordinate], “if you sleep with me [I’ll give you certain job benefits],” thequid pro quo[variety].

    Note that, unlike American law, Nancy did not say that the...

  11. CONCLUSION: Institutions, Framing, and Political Power
    (pp. 128-142)

    In 1998, a French psychiatrist and psychoanalyst published a book that captivated the nation.¹ EntitledHarcèlement moral, or “moral harassment,” it drew on clinical cases involving bosses who use their authority to humiliate subordinates or coworkers who gang up on an individual.Harcèlement moraldocumented the abuse and often tragic implications “moral harassment” had for employees. Though the author, who studied in the United States (and France), referred to American discrimination laws in her book, she framed “moral harassment” as a form of interpersonal violence and perversion, as the subtitle, “Perverse everyday violence,” reveals. Presented in such individual terms and...

  12. EPILOGUE: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose
    (pp. 143-164)

    As this book was going to press, French lawmakers modified French sexual harassment statutes, which previously limited sexual harassment to sexual coercion from professional hierarchical superiors, to apply also to sexual pressure from coworkers. Around the same time, the first student mobilization on sexual harassment and the first lawsuit in higher education generated a series of articles in the French press. At first glance, these events seem to signal that French and American approaches to sexual harassment are converging and, indeed, in some ways they are. However, upon closer examination, these developments also reveal persistent national differences in legal and...

  13. APPENDIX: Methodological Details
    (pp. 165-176)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 177-208)
    (pp. 209-222)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 223-235)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 236-236)