Are masculine women sexually harassed more? I’m not sure

I’m planning to do posts about studies and books I read, and will tell what I find out. As I said before, feminism is pretty mainstream and when you first encounter the manosphere, you might get confused and not know what to believe. I don’t think there is any way out of that state, apart from reading and observing as much as you can. That’s what I’m doing, and if I was making few posts, it’s only because I’m busy reading (and preparing for exams…)

Recently I read a study,” The sexual harassment of uppity women”[1] Its goal was to check if it was the feminine or the masculine women that got sexually harassed more.  If it’s the former, then it’s likely sexual harassment is motivated by sexual desire. If the latter, then it’s motivated by hostility to those who don’t conform to gender roles:

“In 3 studies, the author tested 2 competing views of sexual harassment: (a) It is motivated primarily by sexual desire and, therefore, is directed at women who meet feminine ideals, and (b) it is motivated primarily by a desire to punish gender-role deviants and, therefore, is directed at women who violate feminine ideals.”

They conducted 3 studies. They found in those that masculine women are harassed the most. But lets look at the details.

First, the introduction brings up the fact that some harassment doesn’t seem to be about establishing sexual relationships with the harassed person, and goes against the hypothesis that all sexual harassment is about that. They call it gender harassment, or “a form of hostile environment harassment that appears to be motivated by hostility toward individuals who violate gender ideals”.

Examples like getting used condoms and vibrators in your mailbox were brought up. And someone even got this:

“Another includes the famous case of Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins (1989), in which an outspoken and extremely high-performing woman in a male-dominated professional accounting office was denied partnership and instructed to learn how to “walk more femininely, talk more femininely, dress more femininely, wear make-up, have her hair styled, and wear jewelry” (p. 235)”

I’m not sure if getting condoms and vibrators in your mailbox are necessarily sexual harassment, since in my childhood, I remember girls doing nasty shit to girls and calling them all sorts of sexual names, we usually call it bullying or teasing. I hesitate to call these things sexual harassment, as it’s not very sexual.

On the background of this information, we’ll see if they found out if masculine women really were the ones facing this type of harassment the most, as well as other typically sexual types of harassment.

Study 1: 177 students (77 men) were measured for femininity/masculinity and then asked about their experiences with sexual harassment. They were asked how often they had an experience listed on the list of the survey, at school, work, among family or friends. Now, they also admitted that some items on that list could potentially be fun and flattering, so the students were also asked how negatively they felt during it. An experience was defined as harassing when it happened at least once in the last 2 years and was evaluated negatively. I find this to be a bad mistake. They are, after all, trying to measure the intentions of the harassers, rather than what the students have found offensive. Because if women find the behaviors listed more bothersome in general and men are instead flattered by them, you will soon find that men are harassed much less. Which is exactly what they found:

Women averaged the equivalent of experiencing one item on the survey several times very negatively or six items once or twice somewhat negatively. Men averaged the equivalent of experiencing one item once or twice very negatively or two items once or twice somewhat negatively. Men experienced these behaviors more often than women did, but on average men evaluated them positively, whereas women evaluated them negatively. Because an experience had to be negatively evaluated to count as harassment, this meant that more women (76%) than men (53%) experienced some amount of sexual harassment”

I don’t know why they would define harassment by the feelings of the recipient. They say this:

“This approach was used here because it is more consistent with conceptualizations of harassment as behavior that threatens and bothers the recipient”

This could mean either

a)      They rely on the recipient of the harassment to be emotionally intelligent enough to see when someone’s intentions are evil, and when they are not. Since scientific studies are apparently being conducted to find out the intentions of the harassers, this might be unreliable.

b)      They define harassment as anything on their list of behaviors that recipient experiences negatively, regardless of intentions of harasser. My boyfriend said this is likely. “If we can have negligent rape that’s punished with jail, then we certainly can have negligent harassment”. Ah, it’s true. In Norway, we do have a law that says you are supposed to know a person doesn’t want sex, even if they are not resisting or doing much to let you know it’s a rape you’re doing.

Anyway, they found out that masculine women experienced 2 items on the list several times very negatively  and feminine women experienced 2 items (on average) a few times somewhat negatively. So masculine women were harassed more (except they also included this puzzling footnote: “This measure of harassment represents the product of the frequency and the negative evaluation of potentially harassing behaviors. Follow-up analyses revealed that women with relatively masculine personalities did not experience these behaviors more often than others or evaluate them more negatively but that, when these were combined into a measure of harassment, relatively masculine women were harassed more”). In study 2, they test out the whiner hypothesis – the idea that perhaps masculine women are more bothered by the same behaviors and are more likely to evaluate them negatively.

Study 2: 134 students (55 men) were asked to fill out a survey. Situations of harassing behaviors were listed, and the students were asked how negatively they would evaluate the situation if they happened to them. This time though, harassment scenarios revolved around the workplace rather than school, friends and family as well, like in Study 1. The reason behind this was this:

“Sexual behaviors are more likely to be seen as wrong and harmful in work than in social settings (cf. Gutek, 1985; Illies et al., 2003). Most students were upper level undergraduates with some work experience who planned to take full-time jobs after graduation. This scenario, therefore, was a more sensitive test of potentially negative reactions to these behaviors..”

They found out that masculine women weren’t more likely to evaluate the same scenarios as negative, and not more likely to evaluate them more negatively. Men evaluated the scenarios as much less negative, although still negative (note, an interesting change from their responses in Study 1 and Study 3, where they sometimes enjoyed the “harassment”)  My thoughts:

1)      This is a good test of attitudes. If masculine women were all patriarchy-obsessed feminists, their attitudes would be more negative to sexual actions of men, and this would be reflected in the data. So, no.

2)      It’s a somewhat crude test, since how you say you will feel in a particular situation might not be the way you will actually feel. But it’s a good place to start.

3)      I’m a bit bothered than men evaluated these negatively, since they tend to evaluate them positively too, when these things happen to them in real life. Who do the men imagine is harassing them?

Study 3: They now surveyed workers at a male-dominated workplace and a female-dominated one. Same survey as in study 1 was used. Only women in male-dominated workplace were harassed more than men, and masculine women in male-dominated workplace were the most harassed out of everybody. Now, the first fact might simply be coming out of more men per woman being available to harass, rather than punishment for taking on a man’s role. But, if their measurement of harassment number is legit, it means that masculine women are after all not being too sensitive, and are really more harassed!

Oh, and men again enjoy being “harassed” again, despite the fact that it’s on the job:

“As in Study 1, men (M  .47, SD  .51)experienced sexual behaviors more often than women (M  .20, SD  .32;   –.75, p  .001, d  –.63), but men evaluated them positively (M  .25, SD  .68), whereas women evaluated them negatively (M  –.50, SD  .76;–.66, p  .0001, d  –1.04).”

Their conclusions:

Sexual harassment is primarily directed at women who violate gender ideals. This highlights the role sexual harassment has as a form of sex discrimination that keeps sexes unequal and separate at work. But more research is needed to find out how gender roles are enforced to keep sexes unequal and different.

My conclusions:

1)About whether masculine women are harassed more, I have no conclusions yet. It does seem that masculine women get more hostile-environment harassment/bullying directed at them. But I’m not convinced it’s all due to people punishing them for acting too masculine. It could be, but it could also be:

a)      Guys often tease each other and have humor that when applied to a girl, might be hurtful. But they don’t take it that seriously when it’s applied to them. Perhaps when seeing a masculine woman that acts like a man, they think she will react to their jabs the same way a man would, and only allow themselves to exhibit that behavior with masculine women, and not the feminine ones. But as study 2 indicates (as far as hypothetical situation study can indicate anything), masculine women aren’t less sensitive or more sensitive. I can tell you from experience, guys CAN get rougher once they see you “get” them and don’t get easily offended, or at least pretend you don’t. Goes as far as demeaning woman jokes and physical wrestling.

b)      It’s possible that feminine women at work don’t appear as strong competitors and instead provoke a more indifferent response, while masculine women appear more as work competition.

c)       It could also be that they are aggressive rather than assertive, bringing more hostility onto themselves (I don’t believe that one myself, but hey, can’t be ruled out yet. I read a study once, saying transsexual prostitutes are the ones with most violence directed at them, often because they fail to disclose their real gender before inviting a client for sex and offering their services more aggressively than others).

d)      They didn’t say which type of harassment masculine women got the most, and which ones feminine ones got the most. They just said the former got same stuff happen more times and more negatively.  But to conclude masculine women get most sexual and non-sexual harassment, you’d have to look at these as well.

e)      Less attractive men hit on less attractive masculine women, and unwanted sexual attention is defined as harassment here.

2)Men enjoy the same behaviors that women find harassing, despite experiencing more of those behaviors. (EDIT: If I want to be completely pedantic and precise, conclusion should be that men SAY they enjoy the same behaviors that women find harassing)

3)Authors potentially define harassment as anything on the list, as long as it’s subjectively found offensive. Think of possible legal consequences this might have if this is the definition of punishable behavior, by law.

4)The study kinda has feminist dogma seeping out of its pores, but for now I will trust it, since the journal is not feminist.

What do you think? I’m open for criticism and new ideas and answers to what could be the likely reason for manly women receiving more harassing behaviors.

1.            Berdahl, J.L., The sexual harassment of uppity women. Journal of Applied Psychology, 2007.        92(2): p. 425-437.

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14 Responses to Are masculine women sexually harassed more? I’m not sure

  1. Firepower says:

    i hear your pregnant, congratulations, i guess

  2. YOHAMI says:

    Just by reading the title I was going to jump on that: “masculine girls resent sexual approaches. I’ts not that they get MORE sexual approaches, is that they resent them all”

    Other way of putting it, is that masculine women have intergender and socialization issues, self esteem issues, and so on. If the study was fair they would ask for overall happiness, friendships, characters, sense of humor, how do you treat people and how do they treat you back, relationships with your own gender, etc. Without it… well, you know. It’s just a bias deux machine.

    So I was going to say all that but then read the post and see you actually saw it happening. Good job.

    “Their conclusions:
    Sexual harassment is primarily directed at women who violate gender ideals. ”

    For starters, the definition of sexual harrasment, as far as I know, is unwanted sexual approaches. It might be very, very difficult to process, but men dont do sexual approaches on women they dont want to fuck, and, men dont use sex as a weapon the same way women use sex as a weapon. Well, some men do, but you get the idea. The portion of men who dont have enough numbers to make all those poor masculine girls uncomfortable.

    The current definition of sexual harrasment equals male sex drive with violent angry rapist drive. Far from true.

    So who benefits from that “study”?

    • Emma the Emo says:

      Well, they asked the participants to imagine harassment scenarios and asked how negative they would rate it, from +2 (very positive) to -2 (very negative). Then they say masculine women weren’t more sensitive to the thought scenarios. You’ll see the issues I have with that under Study 2. It COULD be a good test, but it could also have issues. Men in the test rated the experiences negatively, while IRL they tend to rate some harassing positively (probably sexual attention, possibly jokes that women would find offensive). If the harassing behaviors in study 2 and 1 and 3 are practically the same (which they should be, if they want to prove study 1 with study 2), then there is a discrepancy between results, which might make results of study 2 somewhat less aplicable to study 1 and 3. Since it’s kinda a mess, i will just read more studies and see what facts stand out everywhere. So far, it has been that reactions of men and women are different to the same acts 🙂 Not surprising. And that a study with feminism in the background is admitting it makes it even better.
      I’m not sure who benifits from the study, it was from the University of Toronto.

      • YOHAMI says:

        The only way to test that is with cameras.

        Create a fake seminar, or a fake two months office. Hire people. Film. Repeat in different cities.

        I mean. Asking “how negatively did you feel X” is not a measurement for anything, and there are other factors, like, when you FEEL good about something, you dont register it as an offense. I know. Mindblowing. Say, I ask a girl out in the middle of the workday, if she likes me, she’s gonna be all flattered. But maybe she marked that behavior as negative when she got asked on a test about sexual harrasment. So wtf.

        Film the damn thing and watch what people do, not what people say.

        Women are also more scared of walking alone at night… more scared than men are, however women are less attacked than men at night. So men should be more scared? eh. We wont.

        Asking and gathering what people say should be always be compared about what really happens. Most of the time what people, in general, think and feel is just out of touch with reality.

        And this was science right? measuring reality based on people’s subjective perceptions… it would pass if that was the title of the study.

  3. emmatheemo says:

    Yohami,
    I think you’re right if you were talking about study 2 .- where they give you a list of potentially harassing behaviors and ask them how negatively you WOULD feel about it if it happened. How you’d feel and how you think you’d feel might not be the same, esp. if the attractiveness of the harasser isn’t taken into account. And if you haven’t experienced all the items on the list, you might be forced to imagine something you’ve never had before, and how you would feel about it. Tell me, do you always predict accurately how you’d feel about things that happen to you afterwards? For me, I sometimes do, and sometimes don’t.

    “when you FEEL good about something, you dont register it as an offense.”

    Yes, but they asked to mark ALL the times a specific behavior happened to them, and they did. The flattering behavior was evaluated positively – that’s the source of the amusing conclusion that men actually get more “harassing” behaviors directed at them, but evaluate them a lot more positively more often than women.
    “I ask a girl out in the middle of the workday, if she likes me, she’s gonna be all flattered. But maybe she marked that behavior as negative when she got asked on a test about sexual harrasment. So wtf. ”

    Why would anyone mark the behavior as negative when they are allowed to rate it very positively (+2) to very negatively (-2)?

    The authors of the study also said that the masculine type of women might remember negative harassing experiences longer and would recall more of them on the test. But they haven’t tested that and I have no idea how they would.

    “Asking and gathering what people say should be always be compared about what really happens. Most of the time what people, in general, think and feel is just out of touch with reality. ”

    Ah, yes, that’s the problem I have with all these studies, I will have to look through many of them to conclude anything definite! They are a great way to measure how people are inside, but they might not give a clear picture of what happens. So far, I think this is what the study measured FOR SURE:
    1) Masculine women aren’t more affected by sexual harassment hysteria (their views aren’t different and not more polluted by that part of feminism)
    2) Men say they like the same behaviors women find negative.

    “And this was science right? measuring reality based on people’s subjective perceptions… it would pass if that was the title of the study.”

    Yes, I noticed that too. They defined a harassing behavior as what the “victim” finds harassing, and that is what they counted. I guess it’s ok if you’re doing it for comparison reasons between masculine and feminine women (esp. if they are equally likely to respond negatively to the same thing), but not if you’re gonna make sexual harassment statistics. I guess doing this is not a bad mistake after all, at least within this study.

    • YOHAMI says:

      “But they haven’t tested that and I have no idea how they would.”

      Cameras baby!

      I have this plan to really test this shit out someday. With lots and lots of control groups and no fixed premises, just a bunch of questions.

  4. Firepower says:

    ema, WHY do you think you are harrassed more than other girls?

    • emmatheemo says:

      I don’t feel harassed… But maybe because masculine traits can be so annoying in a woman. They don’t have to be. Hmm.. actually, this deserves its own post 🙂

  5. Vikingquest says:

    Masculine women have more testosterone and so have a higher sex drive and more interest in casual sex. Men looking for casual sex look for it where it is easiest and that is with masculine women. Men, and women, are also naturally protective of feminine women. It is instinctual in the same way being protective of children are. So unlike feminist theory that would say men would take advantage of feminine women that aren`t so good at biting back directly, we protect them instead and are more careful around them instead. More masculine women are perceived as tougher, less in need of protection and able to punch back directly (verbally that is) and hence able to protect themselves. Since they can take care of themselves we escalate sexually on them with far less care. I recognize this from night clubs, and I would also say masculine women tend to invite and start more combative aggressive flirting and testing and one up man ship comments. They are also the women who sometimes escalate aggressively themselves. With a small, uber feminine asian woman I am going to be much more careful and attentive. It is kind of like a vacuum of yang that I fill. SInce she does not have enough yang to protect herself I provide it for her.

    • emmatheemo says:

      Hmm, I considered this, but it seemed strange men would go for less attractive masculine women. But it seems logical they would see them as tougher and more like themselves – sexual. It’s another hypothesis 🙂 Thanks

  6. Vikingquest says:

    Since masculine women are more interested in casual sex I think we are wired to find them highly attractive as short term sex partners. Masculine does not mean ugly. Almost all the top runway models today have masculine faces and so does a lot of hollywood hotties.

  7. konoron says:

    There is another explanation for harassment: challenge. Men challenge their peers to establish rank. If a woman walks outside what is expected behaviour, her male peers will start challenging her to check whether she is the real deal. The easiest way of annoying a woman and look for her reaction is by sexual harassment.

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