Uniform TitleChasing justice, challenging power: legal consciousness and the mobilization of sexual harassment law
NamePatterson, Sasha (author), Junn, Jane (chair), Carroll, Susan (internal member), Hawkesworth, Mary (internal member), Paris, Michael (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
Sexual harassment of women
DescriptionThis project examines the legal consciousness of women who have filed sexual harassment complaints against their employers. I chose to focus on sexual harassment because I am particularly interested in the intersection of law and social attitudes about gender and sexuality. Examining the experiences of women who turn to the law in response to sexual harassment helps uncover the ways in which power in American law and social structures is suffused with understandings of gender and sexuality. My project attempts to understand the viewpoint of those who would challenge the existing power dynamic, and explore how the social structures of gender, sexuality and patriarchy are implicated in women's conceptions of legality.
The analysis is based on interviews with a dozen women who experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. These women have distinguished themselves from their peers by filing a formal complaint, lawsuit or grievance. The interview subjects, unlike the majority of women who are sexually harassed, have decided to invoke the law on their behalf.
In order to understand how legal consciousness informs the understanding, expectations and experiences of my respondents, I develop a theoretical framework based on legal consciousness literature and feminist analysis of sexual harassment law. I explore the questions of how my respondents view the law, the expectations they have of law and how their interaction with the legal system influences their legal consciousness.
The interviews paint a vivid picture of the experience of harassment and the implications of trying to use the law as a means of empowerment. The stories of these individual women illustrate the power of law to constrain individual action, and emphasize how patriarchy establishes and maintains gender inequality in the social and economic structures of the workplace and the legal system. However, they also show how individuals will resist the hegemonic power of the law and seek to use the law to empower themselves, despite an awareness of the challenges and limitations of law.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references (p. 186-194).
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.