What is ‘real’ sexual harassment and a ‘good’ complainant? : views from the legislation, judicial officers and the media

  • Keziah Judd

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    I use a feminist lens and a qualitative analysis of media coverage of 14 high-profile sexual
    harassment cases from 2010 to 2017. I compare the media coverage to previous scholarship
    about how the courts and legislation characterise sexual harassment.
    I find that, although some of the coverage is nuanced and legally accurate, the coverage also
    often trivialises the issue and presents sexual harassment as an isolated event rather than an
    example of systemic gender discrimination in the workplace. There is also gender
    stereotyping of the complainant, including an idealised conception of how a ‘good’
    complainant should behave. A ‘good complainant’ is a stereotypical ‘strong woman’ or
    helpless victim and physical injury is the most ‘real’ form of harm. A ‘bad’ complainant lacks
    credibility and may have an ulterior motive for bringing a sexual harassment claim.
    These misleading messages convey a narrower view of harm and credibility than is drafted in
    legislation. However, a positive finding is that stories are often presented through a legal lens,
    enabling understanding of the law. This is achieved through using expert legal sources.
    Therefore, I conclude by recommending improved training and guidelines for the media to
    better promote community understanding of sexual harassment and the law.
    Date of Award2020
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorPatricia Easteal (Supervisor), Susan Priest (Supervisor), Sarah Ailwood (Supervisor) & Kate Holland (Supervisor)

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