AbstractI 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 Award||2020|
|Supervisor||Patricia Easteal (Supervisor), Susan Priest (Supervisor), Sarah Ailwood (Supervisor) & Kate Holland (Supervisor)|