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

Biases may 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 had been harassed, they’re much less more likely to be believed, in response to analysis revealed 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,” mentioned Cheryl Kaiser, PhD, of the University of Washington and a co-author of the research revealed 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 drawback 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 response to Kaiser. 

“Perceiving sexual harassment involves noticing a behavior that might qualify as harassment and linking that behavior to gender-based group membership,” mentioned 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 typically perceived as engaging, skinny, comparatively younger and dressing in a female approach. Stereotypically female hobbies embrace purchasing, yoga or watching romantic films, moderately than stereotypically masculine hobbies such as fishing, contact sports activities or watching violent motion films. 

The researchers performed a sequence of 11 multi-method experiments, involving greater than 4,000 whole members, designed to research 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 situations 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 ladies, both by drawing what they thought the lady may seem like or deciding on from a sequence of images. Across all of the experiments, members perceived the targets of sexual harassment as extra stereotypical than those that didn’t expertise harassment.

In the subsequent 4 experiments, members had been proven ambiguous sexual harassment situations, such as a boss inquiring a couple of lady’s courting life. These situations had been paired with descriptions or images of ladies who had been both stereotypical or not. The members then rated the probability 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,” mentioned Jin Goh, PhD, of Colby College and one other writer of the research.

The closing two experiments discovered that sexual harassment claims had been seen 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, regardless that the claims had been similar.

“Our findings demonstrate that non-stereotypical women who are sexually harassed may be vulnerable to unjust and discriminatory treatment when they seek legal recourse,” mentioned 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, revealed on-line Jan. 14, 2021.

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