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Unformatted text preview: ABLVol34Nol2008 47 Contributed Article Fighting Back: Workplace Sexual Harassment and the Case of North Country* Paula McDoriald and Sandra Backstrom** Abstract Sexual harassment in the workplace has been documented as a widespread and damaging phenomenon. Less well examined, however, are the tactics used by perpetrators to inhibit outrage about the harassment or the counter-strategies which can be used by women to oppose these tactics. This study, using the framework of backfire theory (Scott and Martin 2006), explores how a victim opposed sexual harassment in the film North Country (2005). In the course ofher employment, the main character in the film, Josie Aimes, and her female co-workers, were subjected to systematic and brutal sexual harassment ranging from name-calling to physical sexual assault. Consistent with backfire theory, the analysis revealed five specific strategies used by the perpetrators to inhibit outrage: cover-up, devaluation, reinterpretation, intimidation and use of official channels, as well as anti-harassment strategies that attempted to make these tactics backfire. The findings have implications for educating and empowering women to actively stand up to and oppose sexual harassment in the workplace. Introduction Although sexual harassment in the workplace has been documented as a widespread and damaging phenomenon and a serious social issue for some time, the problem continues to occur across a wide range of industries, occupations and locations. Sexual harassment costs organisations hundreds of millions of dollars per year in lost productivity and decreased efficiency (Faley et al. 1994). Prevalence rates vary across studies but are generally in the range of 20 to 50 percent (Crocker and Kalemba Ttiis and the next articie are based on a paper presented to a conference on Work, industriai Reiations and Popuiar Cuiture' tieid on 25 September 2006 at GrifTitt) University, Soutiibani<, Brisbane Queensiand University of Teciinoiogy 48 Australian Bulletin of Labour 1999, Guteket al.l990. Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission 2004, lilies et al. 2003). A number of negative outcomes of workplace sexual harassment have been documented, including job dissatisfaction, absenteeism, job turnover, low self-esteem and elevated stress (Kauppinen-Toropainen and Gniber 1993, McDonald, Backstrom and Dear, forthcoming; Schneider et al. 1997). The behaviours associated with sexual harassment include threats or coercion which are linked to tangible job benefits and/or those which involve unwelcome sexual conduct that interferes with an employee's work, including unwelcome remarks and comments, unwanted looks or gestures and unwanted touching or physical contact (Brant and Lee Too 1994, Halson 1989, Terpstra 1997). The processes and outcomes of legal and regulatory responses available to victims in Australia and elsewhere have also been well documented (see Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission 2004; Samuels 2003)....
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This note was uploaded on 10/02/2011 for the course GENDER STU 280 taught by Professor Vasquez-cruz during the Fall '11 term at Rutgers.
- Fall '11