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Mainstream neglect of sexual harassment as a social problem.

Abstract. Coverage of sexual harassment was analyzed through articles published in twenty journals between 1986 and 1994. The analysis covered 914 issues and over 4,500 articles from Canada and the US. Results showed a clear neglect of the topic in the mainstream, while sexual harassment articles appeared almost exclusively in gender-based journals. Androcentric biases and traditional fears about claims-making activities are offered as reasons for this neglect. Some authors of published articles recalled gatekeeping by the reviewers/editors of the mainstream journals. Others admitted to avoiding the mainstream themselves. The dangers involved in covering sexual harassment solely through gender-based journals are highlighted.

Resume. Les reportages sur le harassement sexuel ont ete analyses dans les articles publies dans vingt revues entre 1986 et 1994. L'analyse porte sur 914 numeros de revue et plus de 4500 articles publies au Canada et aux Etats-Unis. Les resultats montrent une negligence evidente de ce sujet dans les publications d'interet general, mais la question du harassement sexuel est debattue presqu'exclusivement dans les revues feministes. On suggere ici que la raison de cette negligence se trouve dans les partis-pris "androcentriques" et la peur traditionelle pour les sujets contentieux. Certains auteurs d'articles publies mentionnent le role de triage exerce par les critiques et les editeurs des revues d'interet general. D'autres reconnaissent avoir evite eux-memes ce genre de publications. Finalement on met en evidence le danger de la negligence et le probleme de limiter les articles sur le harassement sexuelaux publications feministes.

Introduction

This paper explores the response of mainstream social sciences to sexual harassment as a social problem. First, social problematization and the role of gender in this process are discussed. Then, the sexual harassment literature is reviewed. Third, discrepancies between mainstream versus gender-based coverage of this problem is compared and reasons and implications are explored.

Although there are variations, early definitions of social problems entail 1. objective situations of social disorganization, 2. social values of a sizable population endangered by this disorganization, and 3. recognition of the need for social action (Laskin, 1964; Freeman and Jones, 1973). Social problems hinder personal goals and frustrate people in their prevailing relations (Raab and Selznick, 1959; Merton and Nisbet, 1961). The above criteria explicitly assume the factual nature of social problems. Implicitly, it is expected that such problems will summon social scientific attention. In Laskin's (1964: 9) words, "The problem could not be too severe if not much is written on it; it is likely to be severe if a great deal is written on it."

Other views on social problems emphasize the social construction aspect that earlier definitions had missed (Spector and Kitsuse, 1977). Constructionism underscores the socially fabricated nature of social reality as opposed to assessment of facts devoid of their social meanings. More recent approaches to social problems also take into account the power of some groups in the claims-making activities. Even the so called "neutrality" of academics as observers within the claims-making process is questioned (Gordon, 1993; Holstein and Miller, 1993; Smith, 1990). "The days when we could naively assume that knowledge and truth presented themselves in unadulterated form to scholars who simply and neutrally recorded the phenomena around them are long since past" (Spender, 1981: 193).

Gillespie and Leffler (1987: 491) poignantly show the road blocks set against social problem claimants when they receive "more critical scrutiny than those in favour of the [status quo]." Using sexual harassment as a case in point, the authors demonstrate how methodology (generalizability, operational definitions, etc.) can be used as an intellectual weapon to scrutinize and even alter the nature of the problem, which eventually gets reflected in the literature (Gillespie and Leffler, 1987: 498). At a more abstract level, Hilgarten and Bosk (1987) also highlight the dynamic competition among social problem claimants, the environments in which they compete, and the powerful networks that promote or block the visibility or salience of the problem.

In accordance with the dynamics of power in social problematization, it is argued in this paper that social construction overlaps with gendered priorities. To parallel Gillespie and Leffler's (1987) analysis, sexual harassment is used as a case in point. Despite the fact that sexual harassment has gained a social problem status in the mass-media, government and business alike since the 1970s, a persistent neglect of the topic in mainstream social science will be demonstrated, and possible reasons behind this academic blind spot will be explored.

Tensions Between Gender and Academe

According to Harding (1983), gender is an "organic" variable which determines daily life, the character of social institutions as well as all patterns of thought. Feminist scholars focus on who defines reality, for whose benefit and to what end (Smith, 1974, 1978, 1987; Stanley and Wise, 1985). Thought, theorizing, and research are seen to be under the hegemony of men (Eichler and Lapointe, 1985; Harris, 1991; Keller, 1983; Sydie, 1987), where "power and knowledge are intricately and intimately imbricated with one another" (Gordon, 1993:320). Historically, women were systematically excluded from institutions that propagate knowledge just like their problems were excluded from mainstream inquiry. Traditional gatekeepers in the academic community are more likely to be men (Smith, 1978:287). As editors, reviewers, advisers to publishers or referees, they set the standards, produce social knowledge and decree the discipline boundaries and values (Spender, 1981). On the one hand, one may convincingly argue that an intellectual galvanization occurred since the grassroots Women's Movement of the 1970s. As a result, more women are doing research and developing new theories and thus eroding the patriarchal grip on social sciences. There is little doubt that recent inquiries are more gender inclusive than earlier ones that reflected the vested interests of men. Nevertheless, one may also argue that mainstream social inquiry is still quite dismissive of women. The term "chilly climate" refers to this amorphous reality that renders invisibility to women as it marginalizes their problems and experiences (The Emily, 1993, Chilly Climate Issue). Often, progress is pocketed outside of the mainstream, and appears in parallel (but not equally esteemed) women's studies and feminist journals. In other words, inquiry into women's issues are carried out by feminist social scientist, yet their efforts are contained and localized, rather than infiltrate into the mainstream (Heald, 1989; Lewis and Simon, 1986; Pagano, 1990). In sum, mainstream social science may still be tainted by androcentric biases and social problematization is rigged by gender (along with race, class, etc. [Gordon, 1993: 316]).

Academic Artifacts as a Measure of Mainstream Stagnation versus Change

Professionally sanctioned, peer-reviewed journal publications demarcate the scope of disciplines and legitimize methods of inquiry. Publications also confer recognition and esteem upon scholars, pave the way for research funds, and contribute to tenure and promotions (Spender, 1981). Thus, the artifacts of intellectual activity provide empirical evidence for a better understanding of what mainstream scientists see as problems, and more importantly, what they omit (Spender, 1981). In Kipnis's (1988: 158) words, "visibility is a complex system of permissions and prohibitions, of presence and absence, punctuated alternately by apparitions and hysterical blindness." How gender governs apparitions or blindness can be deciphered from academic artifacts. In this paper, the coverage of sexual harassment in mainstream journals is used as an index of change versus stagnation. Sexual harassment is chosen because it is rooted in power dynamics, and because it is recently established as a social problem both through facts and through social constructions. It also received unprecedented media coverage through Hill/Thomas Senate hearings (1990), making the analysis of mainstream response to this explosion of interest relevant for this paper.

Factual Bases of Sexual Harassment as a Social Problem

The Canadian Supreme Court defines sexual harassment as "the gamut from overt gender based activity ... to more subtle conduct such as gender based insults and taunting" (Canadian Human Rights Annual Report, 1991: 39). Feminist scholars propose similar definitions and see sexual harassment as a means for men to subordinate women (Backhouse and Cohen, 1978; Collins and Blodgett, 1981; Crull, 1982; Glass, 1988; Grahame, 1985; Kadar, 1982; MacKinnon, 1979; Schneider, 1985). Although sexual harassment is pervasive in many situations and can corrupt relations among tenants/landlords (Novac, 1990), professionals/clients (Shepard, 1971), etc., the form that has received the most attention occurs in the workplace and in education (Sumrall and Taylor, 1992). For example, in a study of the US Merit System Protection Board files, 42% of women reported having been sexually harassed at work in the preceding 24 months (Tangri, Burt and Johnson, 1982). A 1981 Women in Trades study found that 92% of women felt that they were sexually harassed on the job (Kadar, 1982: 171). Likewise, an Angus Reid survey found that 37% of working women believe to have suffered some form of sexual harassment (Canadian Human Rights Annual Report, 1991: 39). In a Canadian study, 61.4% of a representative sample of over 1,200 women claimed that they were sexually harassed at work over the past year, a staggering 78.8% reporting sexual harassment at work in their life-time (Smith, 1993). The problem also afflicts universities (Benson and Thomson, 1982; McDaniel and Roosmalen, 1991; Osborn, 1992). Investigations show that even female professors experience a variety of sexually harassing behaviours (Grauerholz, 1993; McKinney and Crittenden, 1992).

The effects of sexual harassment range from depression, irritation, and sleeplessness, to substance abuse, physical or mental health problems, and difficulties in sustaining relationships (Crull, 1982; Hadjifotiou, 1983; Pryor and Day, 1988). When absenteeism, employee turnover and lost productivity are factored in, sexual harassment costs millions (Canadian Human Rights Annual Report, 1992: 47).

The Social Construction History of Sexual Harassment as a Social Problem

As Spector and Kitsuse (1977) warn, mere facts do not suffice to define issues as social problems. For example, although sexual harassment has a long history as a problem for women (Alcott [1874] cited in Weeks et al., 1986), it had no label to make it visible. It is only within the past few decades that it has been transformed from a private ill to a public problem. Weeks and her colleagues (1986: 432) meticulously trace the history of this transformation, first in attempts to call the practice to public attention, then in labelling it as "sexual harassment," and finally in defining it as deterimental in work and day-to-day life. According to Weeks et al., (1986: 433), an internal controversy in the American Psychiatric Association (about a book by Shepard, 1971) spawned the aforementioned process. The book documented sexual relations among psychiatrists and their patients. Two succeeding books promulgated the pervasiveness of the problem, although neither coined the term sexual harassment (Korda, 1972; Olsen, 1972). These efforts set the stage for American women's claims-making as well as lead to media agitation. The end result was legislation that linked sexual harassment to Civil Rights violations, elevating the issue to a social problem since the early 1970s (Weeks et al., 1986).

In Canada, interest in sexual harassment may not be clearly dissociable from these south-of-the-border developments. Within academic circles, few would doubt the impact of Farley's (1978) and MacKinnon's (1979) cornerstone works in social problematization of sexual harassment. While the former succinctly profiled the relevant issues in work situations, the latter synthesized the disjointed developments in the area and anchored them to sex discrimination. A prominent Canadian work coincides with these feminist efforts (Backhouse and Cohen, 1978).

A decade later, interest was again jolted when Professor Anita Hill brought sexual harassment charges against Judge Clarence Thomas (in 1990). Despite the androcentric resolution of the Senate Committee, the unprecedented coverage of this event reaffirmed the social problem status of sexual harassment in Canada and in the United States. Propelled by renewed comprehension, almost every University in North America now has sexual harassment policies and procedures. Government agencies, professional organizations and reputable businesses are instituting similar measures. For instance, the Ontario Worker's Compensation Board now identifies sexual harassment as a legitimate cause for workplace injury (Canadian Human Rights Annual Report, 1991: 34). Also, there is a sharp increase in sexual harassment complaints (see Ontario Human Rights Annual Reports 1989-90: 33; 1990-91: 45; 1991-92: 64). Since only perilous cases reach this forum, the rise in complaints is telling.

Thus, the facts as well as their social constructions identify sexual harassment as a social problem. The question is the mainstream academic response to this. In 1971 Bart bluntly asked, "Who really gives a damn about reading studies, particularly feminist studies about women, their dilemmas, their problems, their attempts at solution?" (1971: 735). To provide a current answer to Bart's question, the number of sexual harassment articles in mainstream journals are compared to the number in journals that focus on women. The aim is to assess the importance mainstream social science accrues to this issue.

Methods

This study is an analysis of sexual harassment articles published in selected academic journals over a nine year period. A sexual harassment article is operationalized as the use of the term "sexual harassment" 1. in the title or 2. as a key-word in the CD-ROM version of the Social Sciences Index or 3. in the abstract. Since not all journals have book reviews, they are excluded from this analysis.

Overall, 20 journals were analyzed. (2) Journals were either mainstream (sociological or social/psychological) or gender-based, from Canada or the US. In Canada, Canadian Journal of Sociology (CJS), and Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology (CRSA), Canadian Journal of Psychology, and Canadian Psychology constituted the mainstream while Atlantis and Canadian Woman Studies represented the gender-based category. In the US, American Journal of Sociology (AJS), American Sociological Review (ASR), Human Relations, Journal of Social Issues: Social Forces, Social Problems, Sociological Inquiry and Sociological Quarterly were selected from the mainstream of sociology while Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (JPSP), Journal of Social Psychology (JSP) and Social Psychology Quarterly (SPQ) were used from mainstream social-psychology. Psychology of Women Quarterly, Sex Roles, and Signs represented the gender-based category. Although this list is by no means exhaustive, it includes officially recognized and well-respected journals from the American and Canadian disciplinary associations.

Aside from the frequency of sexual harassment articles, the number of issues published per year is also recorded. The number of issues range from 2 (Atlantis) to 12 (JPSP and Human Relations). The total number of articles per issue varies substantially from journal to journal. Some publish four to five articles per issue (i.e., CJS, SPQ), some 10-20 articles (i.e., JPSP, Atlantis), and some 50 or more per issue (i.e., Annual Convention issues of Canadian Psychology; Canadian Woman Studies). I will use a conservative average of five articles per issue and a more realistic average of 10 articles per issue as estimates of the total number of publications. The period of investigation covers all issues of the listed journals from January 1986 to December 1994, and roughly apportions four years on each side of the Hill/Thomas case in 1990.

To gain further insights into the publication process, a short questionnaire was sent to 28 first authors whose mailing addresses were reported in their publications. (3) Of primary concern was their first choice as well as the total number of submissions to mainstream versus gender-based journals, and the type of journal their publications finally appeared in. Fourteen responded (50%), provided valuable information on 24 sexual harassment articles they have published.

Results and Discussion

Tables 1 and 2 summarize the number of sexual harassment articles published between January 1986 and December 1994 in 20 scholarly journals (14 American and 6 Canadian). The analysis includes 720 American, and 194 (4) Canadian journal issues for a total of 914. Using the conservative estimate of five and the more realistic estimate of 10 articles per issue, the reported results summarize anywhere between 3,600 to 7,200 US and between 970 to 1,940 Canadian articles. Even with the extremely conservative estimate of five articles per issue, the present study spans more than 4,500 scholarly publications.


[Part 1 of 2]

Table 1. Frequency of sexual harassment articles in American Journals by
type and year.

                                                Year
         Type           1986  1987  1988  1989  1990  1991  1992  1993


Mainstream
American J. of Soc.       --    --    --    --    --    --    --    --
(6 issues per year)
American Soc. Review      --    --    --    --    --    --    --    --
(6 issues per year)
Human Relations           --    --    --    --    --    --    --    --
(12 issues per year)
J. of Social Issues       --    --    --    --    --    --    --    --
(4 issues per year)
Social Forces             --    --    --    --    --    --    --    --
(4 issues per year)
Social Problems           --     1    --    --    --    --    --    --
(4 issues per year)
Sociological Inquiry       1    --    --    --     1    --     1    --
(4 issues per year)
Sociological Quarterly    --    --    --    --    --    --    --    --
(4 issues per year)

Social/Psychology

J. Pers. and Soc. Psy.    --    --    --    --    --    --    --    --
(12 issues per year)
J. of Social Psych.       --    --    --    --    --    --    --     1
(6 issues per year)
Social Psych. Quart.      --    --    --    --    --    --    --    --
(4 issues per year)

Gender-Based

Psych. of Women Quart.    --    --     1     1     1     3    --     2
(4 issues per year)
Sex Roles                  5     3     4     1     3     4     8     2
(6 issues per year)
Signs                      1    --     1    --    --    --    --    --
(4 issues per year)

TOTAL                      7     4     6     2     5     7     9     5

[Part 2 of 2]

Table 1. Frequency of sexual harassment articles in American Journals by
type and year.


         Type           1994  Total


Mainstream
American J. of Soc.       --      0
(6 issues per year)
American Soc. Review      --      0
(6 issues per year)
Human Relations           --      0
(12 issues per year)
J. of Social Issues       --      0
(4 issues per year)
Social Forces             --      0
(4 issues per year)
Social Problems           --      1
(4 issues per year)
Sociological Inquiry      --      3
(4 issues per year)
Sociological Quarterly    --      0
(4 issues per year)

Social/Psychology

J. Pers. and Soc. Psy.    --      0
(12 issues per year)
J. of Social Psych.       --      1
(6 issues per year)
Social Psych. Quart.      --      0
(4 issues per year)

Gender-Based

Psych. of Women Quart.    --      8
(4 issues per year)
Sex Roles                  3     33
(6 issues per year)
Signs                     --      2
(4 issues per year)

TOTAL                      3     48

[Part 1 of 2]

Table 2. Frequency of sexual harassment articles in Canadian Journals by
type and year.

                                             Year
      Type         1986  1987  1988   1989   1990  1991   1992  1993  1994


Mainstream
Canadian J.
of Soc.              --    --  --     --       --  --       --    --  --
(4 issues
per year) (2)
Canadian
Review S.A.          --    --  --     --       --  --       --    --  --
(4 issues
per year)
Social/Psychology
Canadian J.
of Psych.            --    --  --     --       --  --       --    --  --
(4 issues
per year)
Canadian
Psychology           --    --    (1)    (1)    --    (1)    --    --    (1)
(4 issues
per year)
Gender-Based
Atlantis             --    --   1     --       --   2        2    --  --
(2 issues
per year) (3)
Canadian Woman
Studies              --    --  --     --        1   1        1     1  --
(4 issues
per year) (4)

TOTAL:               --    --   1      0        1   3        3     1  --

[Part 2 of 2]

Table 2. Frequency of sexual harassment articles in Canadian Journals by
type and year.


      Type         Total


Mainstream
Canadian J.
of Soc.                0
(4 issues
per year) (2)
Canadian
Review S.A.            0
(4 issues
per year)
Social/Psychology
Canadian J.
of Psych.              0
(4 issues
per year)
Canadian
Psychology             0
(4 issues
per year)
Gender-Based
Atlantis               5
(2 issues
per year) (3)
Canadian Woman
Studies                4
(4 issues
per year) (4)

TOTAL:                 9

(1) These are entries that are not journal articles. They are one-paragraph
summaries (among hundreds of summaries) of papers on sexual harassment
presented at the Canadian Psychological Association Meetings (One each in
1988,1989,1991 and 1994).

(2) In 1987 and 1988, issues 1 and 2 were combined.

(3) In 1992, issues 1 and 2 were combined, in 1994, issues were not


published.


(4) In 1986, 1988 issues 1 and 2, and in 1989, issues 2 and 3 were


combined.

In American journals, a total of 48 articles (1.3% of the conservative estimate of 3,600), and in Canadian journals, 9 articles (.9% of the conservative estimate of 970) appeared on sexual harassment. Five articles in the US and one in Canada appeared in 1990 (year of the Hill/Thomas hearings). The number of sexual harassment articles four years before and four years after 1990 was 19 versus 24 in the US, and one versus seven in Canada. Despite the rise, the total number of sexual harassment articles is negligible. What is most disturbing is the scarcity of sexual harassment articles in the mainstream journals.

In the US, only five articles over a nine year span appeared in three main-stream journals (two before, one in 1990, two since, see Table 1). Eight of the 11 mainstream journals had no coverage whatsoever. The neglect of sexual harassment issue sharply constrasts with the coverage of other work-related issues since mainstream journals have published a myriad of articles covering diverse topics like unemployment, mobility, alienation, pay equity, work-related stress, burnout, absenteeism, and turnover. (5) Yet, only five articles have addressed sexual harassment which ails anywhere between 35% to 90% of working women (Kadar, 1982; Tangri, Burt, and Johnson, 1982; Smith, 1993), not tallying those harassed in other settings. The forum consists of Sex Roles, Psychology of Women Quarterly, and Signs (17 before, 4 in 1990, and 19 since). The three gender-based journals (of 14) account for 84% of all sexual harassment inquiries in Table 1.

Canadian mainstream coverage appears even more grim (Table 2). There is not a single article over the nine years. Similar to the US pattern, the Canadian forum for sexual harassment has been women's journals (Atlantis and Canadian Woman Studies). Moreover, the coverage is new (one before, one in 1990, 7 since).

Some qualitative observations: An in-depth content analysis of all sexual harassment articles falls outside the modest aims of this paper although it beckons future exploration. Nevertheless, a rudimentary perusal of the articles shows some interesting patterns. First, sexual harassment appears as the core inquiry in both the mainstream and gender-based publications, in all but two articles. In the latter two, sexual harassment findings are serendipitous, but amply discussed. These observations add validity to how a sexual harassment article is operationalized in the study. Second, women more frequently than men appear as the first authors, regardless of the journal type (mainstream versus gender-based). Third, in cases of multiple authorship, women and men equally appear as the first author. Fourth, when there are many authors (four or more), the majority consists of women. Fifth, psychology is stated as the predominant disciplinary affiliation of the authors, distantly followed by sociology, business administration and women's studies. Sixth, new crops of authors are the norm. Only three names appear more than once in the nine year span.

The author survey also produced interesting results. Fourteen respondents provided information for 24 articles on sexual harassment published during the target years. As the first submission choice, mainstream journals were identified in 11 (46%), gender-based in 10 (42%), and other choices such as criminology or education in 3 (12%) cases. Interestingly, only seven (29% of 24) were published in the mainstream, while 13 (54% of 24) were published in gender-based journals. Thus, although slightly more authors chose the mainstream as their first choice, only one third of their articles were published in the mainstream. More than half (54%) surfaced in the gender-based forum.

Implications and Conclusions

The present analysis clearly shows the long-term neglect of sexual harassment in selected mainstream journals, both in Canada and the US. Although the real reason behind the systematic neglect cannot be deciphered from the current findings, many plausible reasons can be offered.

One reason could be a lack of interest in the area and thus a lack of article submissions. However, the previous review shows a sharp rise in interest if one considers the mass media coverage of the Hill/Thomas case and the rise in preventative efforts undertaken by universities, business and government alike. In Canada, hundreds of scholars, lawyers, university administrators and status of women/sexual harassment officers are gathering at sexual harassment conferences (CAASHHE) to share their work and experiences. In the US, similar sexual harassment conferences are held in conjunction with the American Sociological Association meetings (SASH). Ergo, lack of interest hardly accounts for the neglect.

Other potential reasons may be the fact that sexual harassment is a fairly new social problem, and to complicate the matter, one which alludes to "sex." There may be a usual social scientific lag in responding to new problems, and social scientist may tend to see "sex" as not in need of analysis. (6) However, the historical review shows that the problematization dates back to the early 1970s, with a discernible surge in the 1980s. Weeks et al. (1986: 440), for example, report 56 academic and professional publications in 1981, shortly after the publication of MacKinnon's (1979) book. These details cast doubt on a usual delay explanation. Moreover, sexual harassment is more about power than sex (Kadar, 1982; McDaniel and Roosmalen, 1991), and analyses of power are pivotal to social scientific inquiry.

Instead, the neglect may reflect a self-imposed avoidance of the mainstream journals by potential contributors. The track record of these journals on sexual harassment (Tables 1 and 2), may signal a cold reception for even a hot topic and possible alienation of the contributors. As one of the survey respondents who has submitted and published only in a gender-based journal wrote: "Publication seemed more likely in this journal. I didn't (sic) bother with certain mainstream journals." Another respondent mentioned a "self-fulfilling prophecy" and said "I may be less likely to send S.H. (sic) research to mainstream journals because I don't see such journals publishing such articles."

A much more cynical explanation may be the lingering biases of the mainstream journals in defining the scope of the disciplines. Some gatekeepers may still be hesitant to see sexual harassment which disproportionally victimizes women as deserving mainstream journal space. (7) The results from the author survey provide some empirical support for the possibility of gatekeeping. As already mentioned, although slightly more authors prefer the mainstream as their first choice (11 versus 10), the majority of their work end up in gender-based journals (13 versus 7). The following excerpts also hint at gatekeeping by reviewers or editors and occasionally by both:

one reviewer did not like our statistics, forcing us to repeatedly revise to please him (I'm (sic) almost positive it was a "him"). Also, he wanted more emphasis on sexual harassment of men. (parenthesis and emphasis in original)

Reviewers seemed to be searching desperately for trivial reasons to reject, when ultimately I sensed that their reasons were ideological/political.

The editor ... refused to even send out the article for review. He stated that he felt the topic (sexual harassment) was not of interest to his readers. (parenthesis in original)

I had to convince ed/revs (sic) at [name of actual journal] that sex har. (sic) was a relevant topic! (an oversized exclamation point in original).

I think that S.H. (sic) is more contentious now than it used to be.... There has been a strong backlash and it may be even more difficult to get an S.H. (sic) paper into some mainstream journals.

However, the reasons for the long-term neglect of sexual harassment may even be more complex than author selectivity versus gatekeeping practices. The void in coverage may stem from discomfort with all claims-making activities. From the time of Becker's (1963: 9) definition of deviance as "behaviour that people so label," social scholars are weary of the labelling attempts of moral entrepreneurs (Ben- Yehuda, 1986). Stanley Cohen's cornerstone work on labelling hypes and moral panics crystallizes this stance when he warns "the students of deviance must question and not take for granted the labelling by society... of certain behaviour as deviant or problematic" (Cohen, 1972: 13). Ever since, social scholars often question the claims-makers, rather than feeding into their exaggerated, distorted, manufactured prophecies of doom (Cohen, 1972:31, 41, 53). Ironically and despite its critical utility and wide use, the Becker/Cohen stance may have abated some social problems (such as sexual harassment) from reaching a receptive academic audience. Rigid positivistic prerequisites of a cut and dry methodology (generalizability, operational definitions, instruments, etc., see Gillespie and Leffler, 1987) may have also contributed to disregarding an issue which is amorphous and gender-based in nature.

Which one of the stated reasons accounts for the enduring absence of sexual harassment publications in mainstream journals is anyone's guess. However, I argue that in this particular case, the reason is less important than the consequences. Even in the mid-1990s, the mainstream seems to be quite oblivious to a social problem that injures countless women, resurrecting feminist questions about who constructs the boundaries of disciplines and for whose benefit? How is gatekeeping apportioned in these designations? Who decides which social problems are worthy issues for all? These mandates were gleaned over by traditional theorists and methodologists alike who erroneously assumed that "objectivity" was possible and social science ought to proceed outside of social action (Holstein and Miller, 1993). We are increasingly cognizant that "objectivity" is relative and social science is not necessarily devoid of social responsibility. After all, identifying social problems have implications such as prefiguring some solutions and removing others (Emerson and Messinger, 1977). Through selective attention, mainstream social science can bestow legitimacy upon certain topics, and proscribe ways to ameliorate them. By selected omission, it can condemn problems to social, political and intellectual neglect (Spender, 1981: 188).

As an attempt to justify the mainstream void identified in this study, some may argue that social problems of women are best served in journals that cater to women. However, this argument collapses when mainstream inconsistencies in embracing other social problems are considered. For illustrative purposes, during the nine year span analyzed, the same mainstream journals published 32 racism and 20 environmental concern articles. (8) The mainstream has considered these issues worthy of its journal space, notwithstanding the fact that there are "specialized" journals on these topics. Obviously, the existence of specialized journals does not, and need not thwart mainstream coverage.

Besides, leaving the study of sexual harassment exclusively to gender-based journals has other predicaments. First, the constituency of such journals are likely to be aware of the problems women face, whereas those who ought to be aware of such issues may never read such journals. Spender (1981: 197-198) expresses this dilemma as "if feminists do not ... seek publication outside feminist channels, then men and women [will] have good grounds for pleading ignorance when it comes to feminist analysis and insights." Mainstream coverage is an insurance against claims of ignorance in the academic circles. Second, relegating problems arising from the power relations between men and women to women's journals alone makes them appear to belong to women. This is a form of marginalization. After all, sexual harassment involves at least 95 male perpetrators for every 100 victims (Frize, 1993). The mainstream has a responsibility to address such a widespread social ill. The responsibility also involves confronting its own gatekeeping where it exists, as well as counteracting the alienation of authors who work on topics such as sexual harassment. The latter may involve active recruiting for special issues.

There are other dire implications to be considered. For example, funding agencies may be reluctant to support topics such as sexual harassment with little mainstream precedence. The tension between the amorphous nature of the topic and rigid methodological demands may further hinder research and publications. Qualitative research on small samples may be particularly vulnerable to rejections, although they are a must in sensitive areas. Scholars competing for research funds may themselves avoid areas with little mainstream exposure. Reviewers may be particularly harsh in their criticisms due to their general fears about claims-makers. Last but not least, sexual harassment is not gender-neutral, and may be too close a problem for comfort for academics themselves (Benson and Thomson, 1982; Grauerholz, 1989; McDaniel and Roosmalen, 1991; Osborn, 1992).

Although caution is essential, the qualitative observations about the publications are telling. For example, frequency of first authorship seems near equal for men and women in cases where there are multiple authors. Since gender-based journals are home to the vast majority of these articles, it is reasonable to conclude that male academics are permeating women's journals, while harassment remains invisible in the mainstream. This pattern may signify the egalitarian practices of gender-based journals as well as the enlightenment of men who study the issue. Could it also signal the birth of a new route to status attainment for some men reminiscent of the "white-ribbon" campaign? In the latter, prominent men involved in the campaign received more coverage than the issue itself (violence against women).

Another question is why are many more psychologists publishing on the topic than sociologists? Does the disciplinary dominance mirror the lingering tendency to see sexual harassment as interactional, intrapersonal, and sexual rather than a social problem firmly rooted in power discrepancies?

In conclusion, the present findings raise many more questions than they answer. The arising questions signal a need for reflexivity in the otherwise taken-for-granted aspects of the mainstream social science. Although the present study was singularly concerned with sexual harassment and its chronic neglect in the mainstream, much can be asked about the adequacy of coverage of dilemmas faced by other groups (i.e., people with disabilities, gays/lesbians, etc.). If mainstream social science systematically overlooks problems that hurt and injure large numbers of people, can it avoid being obsolete itself?

(1) . I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers of The Canadian Journal of Sociology for their insightful suggestions. Special thanks to Ayse Sibel Tuzlak, Jean-Louis de Lannoy, and David Hillock for their much appreciated help. Please direct all correspondence to Aysan Sev'er, Department of Sociology, Scarborough College, University of Toronto, 1265 Military Trail, Scarborough, ON M1C 1A4.

(2) . Only two Canadian journals in the study are indexed on the CD-ROM. The remaining four were individually searched for the occurrence of articles with "sexual harassment" in their titles, abstracts or subject indexes for annual editions.

(3) . I am grateful to the reviewer who suggested the survey to reconstruct the publication process. Although I searched for the addresses of the first authors of all publications identified in Tables 1 and 2, I was able to find addresses for 28. There are three reasons for not being able to reach all authors. First, earlier issues of some journals provide very little information about the authors. Second, some authors have multiple publications during the study period, necessitating a single contact letter. Third, some of the authors appear to be graduate students at the time of the publication. In the latter case, stated institutional affiliation was not an accurate representation of their whereabouts. In one case, the author was in Europe.

(4) . This number takes into account the fact that some volumes of the Canadian Journals publish combined issues. For details, see notes 1-3 in Table 2.

(5) . The following information contrasts sharply with the total omission of sexual harassment coverage. During the same nine year span, there were exactly 185 articles that used the key-word "employment" in the American mainstream sociological journals alone (36 in AJS; 41 in ASR; 22 in Human Relations; 8 in Journal of Social Issues; 31 in Social Forces, 16 in Social Problems, 7 in Sociological Inquiry, and 24 in Sociological Quarterly). Moreover, 49 articles used the key-words "women and work" (16 in AJS; 3 in ASR; 8 in Human Relations; 12 in Social Forces; 6 in Social Problems, and 4 in Sociological Quarterly.) In the Canadian mainstream, CRSA published 10 articles in "employment" and 6 that used the key-words "women and work" during the 1986-1994 span, while CJS published 11 articles addressing "women and work." Overall then, eight American and two Canadian mainstream journals extensively dealt with different dimensions of labour force participation. These unmistakably contrast with the number of sexual harassment articles (see Tables 1 and 2). They also contrast sharply with the fact that only four articles among the sociology mainstream dealt with "pay-equity" during the nine year span (1 in AJS; 1 in Journal of Social Issues; 1 in Social Problems (US), and 1 in CRSA (Canada). More pointedly, in the nine year study period, there were only two articles published on gender-based job discrimination (1 in AJS; 1 in Human Relations) among all the mainstream sociological journals investigated, and only one directly addressing gender inequality (CJS).

(6) . I thank the anonymous reviewer for suggesting the natural delay and sex linkage as possible explanations for the neglect.

(7) . There are still those who prefer that women were not seen or heard, shrouding their biases under the veil of preserving "academic excellence." A few express their misogyny with no apparent consequences (see a letter to CAUT Bulletin (June, 1993). More restrained defenses of the status quo appear under the banner of "academic freedom" (i.e., the New Jersey based group called the "National Association of Scholars."

(8) . The distribution of 32 "racism" related articles over a nine year period of mainstream publications is as follows: 8 in AJS; 3 in Human Relations; 3 in Journal of Social Issues; 2 in Social Forces; 4 in Social Inquiry; 2 in JPSP; 6 in Journal of Social Psychology; 2 in SPQ. The 20 "environment" related articles are distributed as: 1 each in AJS; ASR; Human Relations; Canadian Journal of Psychology; 2 each in Social Forces and Journal of Social Psychology; 4 in Journal of Social Issues; 8 in CRSA.
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Author:Aysan Sev'er
Publication:Canadian Journal of Sociology
Date:Mar 22, 1996
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