No Such Nonsense

A little of this, that and... what was I talking about again? It's TV, sports, pop culture and politics - all the stuff that really matters in life.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Women and Power

A recent study by Jennifer Berdahl at U of T suggests that our perception of what sexual harassment is, and why it happens, may be seriously askew. Not Demi Moore putting the moves on Michael Douglas in Disclosure askew, but askew nonetheless.

Seems the majority of cases of sexual harassment in the workplace are not, in fact, quid-pro-quo propositions between a superior and an attractive subordinate. This happens, of course. But Berdahl suggests that in most cases, harassment is not about someone hitting on someone they find sexually attractive. If this were the case, the most attractive women - the most classically feminine (pretty, sweet, submissive) - would be the primary targets. But Professor Berdahl's studies suggest that, rather, the women most likely to face harassment are those who dare to transgress traditional gender roles - women who overreach, who work in traditionally male roles, who work in male-dominated companies or who have 'masculine' personalities (for 'have masculine personalities', read 'are assertive bee-yotchs'). The men they work with, it seems, feel it incumbent to put these uppity women in their place. It's not through overt sexual overtures, but by creating an environment in which the woman is made to feel unwelcome or is demeaned on the basis of gender. Interesting finding, I'd say, and not all that surprising.

As an uppity women myself, I tend to think that discrimination based on gender is real, but often subtle and insidious. I was once told that I was too ambitious - by a guy who would have slit his mother's throat to get ahead and who, incidentally, had at least in some degree slept his way to the top. It wasn't harassment - but man did it piss me off.


  • At 7:21 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hmmmm. I bet I can guess who said that infuriating comment to you . . .

  • At 6:03 a.m., Blogger Jen said…

    Really? Because it was sooooo out of character for him...


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