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Sexual Harassment Claims by “Less Feminine” Women Perceived as Less Credible

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Biases might stop non-stereotypical girls from authorized protections, research says

WASHINGTON — Women who don’t match feminine stereotypes are much less more likely to be seen as victims of sexual harassment, and in the event that they declare they have been harassed, they’re much less more likely to be believed, in keeping with analysis printed by the American Psychological Association.

“Sexual harassment is pervasive and causes significant harm, yet far too many women cannot access fairness, justice and legal protection, leaving them susceptible to further victimization and harm within the legal system,” stated Cheryl Kaiser, PhD, of the University of Washington and a co-author of the research printed within the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “Our research found that a claim was deemed less credible and sexual harassment was perceived to be less psychologically harmful when it targeted a victim who was less attractive or did not act according to the stereotype of a typical woman.”

Sexual harassment is a widespread social downside with a broad vary of dangerous penalties, together with decreased engagement with and efficiency in work and college, worse psychological and bodily well being, and elevated financial instability, in keeping with Kaiser. 

“Perceiving sexual harassment involves noticing a behavior that might qualify as harassment and linking that behavior to gender-based group membership,” stated co-author Bryn Bandt-Law, a doctoral scholar on the University of Washington. “We wanted to understand what happens when the victim does not look or act like a stereotypical member of that gender-based group.”

In Western societies, stereotypical girls are usually perceived as enticing, skinny, comparatively younger and dressing in a female manner. Stereotypically female hobbies embody purchasing, yoga or watching romantic motion pictures, fairly than stereotypically masculine hobbies such as fishing, contact sports activities or watching violent motion motion pictures. 

The researchers performed a collection of 11 multi-method experiments, involving greater than 4,000 whole members, designed to analyze the impact a sufferer’s match to the idea of a typical lady had on members’ view of sexual harassment and the results of that psychological affiliation.
In 5 of the experiments, members learn eventualities through which girls both did or didn’t expertise sexual harassment. Participants then assessed the extent to which these girls match with the idealized picture of girls, both by drawing what they thought the lady may appear to be or deciding on from a collection of photographs. Across all of the experiments, members perceived the targets of sexual harassment as extra stereotypical than those that didn’t expertise harassment.

In the following 4 experiments, members have been proven ambiguous sexual harassment eventualities, such as a boss inquiring a couple of lady’s courting life. These eventualities have been paired with descriptions or photographs of girls who have been both stereotypical or not. The members then rated the chance that the incident constituted sexual harassment. 

“We found that participants were less likely to label these ambiguous scenarios as sexual harassment when the targets were non-stereotypical women compared with stereotypical women, despite the fact that both stereotypical and non-stereotypical targets experienced the same incident,” stated Jin Goh, PhD, of Colby College and one other creator of the research.

The closing two experiments discovered that sexual harassment claims have been considered as much less credible and the harassment much less more likely to be acknowledged as psychologically dangerous when the accuser adhered much less to the feminine stereotype, despite the fact that the claims have been equivalent.

“Our findings demonstrate that non-stereotypical women who are sexually harassed may be vulnerable to unjust and discriminatory treatment when they seek legal recourse,” stated Bandt-Law. “If women’s nonconformity to feminine stereotypes biases perceptions of their credibility and harm caused by harassment, as our results suggest, it could prevent non-stereotypical women who are sexually harassed from receiving the civil rights protections afforded to them by law.”  

Article: “Narrow Prototypes and Neglected Victims: Understanding Perceptions of Sexual Harassment,” by Jin Goh, PhD, Colby College: Bryn Bandt-Law, BA, and Cheryl Kaiser, PhD, University of Washington; and Nathan Cheek, MA, and Stacey Sinclair, PhD, Princeton University. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, printed on-line Jan. 14, 2021.

Full textual content of the article is accessible on-line at https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-pspi0000260.pdf.

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