How much can a woman sacrifice

Sexual harassment The victims' credibility is determined by clich├ęs

Women who appear less feminine are less likely to believe that they have experienced sexual harassment or even assault. This is the conclusion of a study by the University of Washington and Colby College (Waterville / Maine), in which more than 4,000 test subjects took part. On the one hand, they had to read stories in which women experienced sexual harassment or not. They then had to assess whether these women fit the idealized Western image of women: attractive, thin, relatively young and feminine dressed, with hobbies such as shopping, watching romantic films, yoga. To do this, they either had to draw them or choose from a series of photos. The result: the test persons assigned predominantly attractive women with female behavior to the stories in which sexual harassment took place.

In case of doubt against the less attractive woman

In further experiments, the participants were shown ambiguous scenarios of sexual harassment: for example, a boss inquiring about the dating life of an employee, for each of which there was a photo or a personal description. Participants were then asked to assess whether the incident was actually sexual harassment.

If the woman involved was less attractive and appeared feminine, the ambiguous scene was more likely not to be rated as sexual harassment.

Jin Goh, Colby College

Sexual harassment is a widespread phenomenon with consequences such as a decline in performance at work and at school. It harms body and soul and could even bring those affected into economic difficulties, according to co-author Cheryl Kaiser from the University of Washington. In order to be able to do something about it, one first has to notice behavior that could be regarded as harassment, according to the scientists.

We wanted to understand what happens when the victim doesn't look or act like a stereotypical member of that gender group.

Bryn Bandt-Law, University of Washington

The conclusion of the study (which you can read here as a pdf): Women who do not fit female stereotypes are less likely to be seen as victims of sexual harassment, although they are exposed to it more often, and if they claim to have been harassed, they will less likely believed. This paved the way for unjust and discriminatory treatment if those affected choose to take legal action.