KALEY MACDONALD

SENIOR THESIS
 

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments
Abstract
Introduction
Method
Results
Discussion
References
Appendices



Acknowledgements

I really do not know how to write a thank you that is so important yet can only be expressed in words. There is no way I could possibly reflect my gratitude to all those who helped and supported me through one of the most significant experiences I have ever gone through. But without certain individuals in my life, I never would have accomplished this research, and felt as proud and exhilarated as I do.

The professors in the Psychology department are the most encouraging and intelligent team I have ever seen. The unending patience, constant support, and expertise throughout this whole semester was truly remarkable. I know it must be as trying for them to deal with us, as it is for us to finish our thesis. A special thanks to Professor Finn who always made me smile even when I was near tears ... why don't you take your coat off and stay a while?! And to Professor Ossoff, my life-saver when I really thought I might die, thank you for being so understanding and helpful. Your time and effort throughout the four years I have known you has been overwhelming. Thank you. Thanks and congratulations to those in my Experimental 11 class. It was really fun getting to know people I had not known before, and working together to accomplish this research project. And thanks Barbara, you are the constant supporter to all seniors.
 

Thanks to all my friends who could not have been more understanding throughout my constant whining, crying and yelling in frustration. A special thanks and again, congratulations to my two roommates who accomplished their English senior theses as well. You girls are the best and I will never forget the laughs. And without a very talented actor and actress, as well as two wonderful friends of mine, I would not have been able to complete this project. Thank you Rich Hynes and Sarah O'Connor, I think the video is a great start to a movie career!

Lastly, and the most difficult to express, is my unconditional love and thanks to my family. Without my parents I would not even be here, and my semester abroad in Italy would not have happened, which is where this whole thesis topic was conceived. I feel so lucky and privileged to have parents like you, words could not do justice. My brother and sister are my two best friends and without them I would not be the person I am today. I love all of you, and Mogul, for everything you have given me and taught me, but most of all for supporting me in everything I do. Each one of you has influenced me in a way I could never imagine. You are so special. Thanks and I love you.

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Abstract

The present study examined the differences between American and non American cultures interpreting possible sexual harassment situations. Research has shown that differences do exist between the perceptions of sexual harassment in the United States compared to those from another culture. Research has also shown that gender differences are present when examining the interpretations of sexual harassment situations. It was hypothesized that because different societies place dissimilar values on the female population, interpretation of sexual harassment may differ from culture to culture, with America having become more sensitized to such behavior. It was also hypothesized that a gender difference would be evident in the interpretation of these situations. Methods for determining cross-cultural attitudes towards women were by a series of scales. Th~e~ three measurements used were the Ambivalent Sexism Scale, the Attitudes Towards Women Scale, and the Modern Sexism Scale. There was also a video depicting four possible sexual harassment scenes in which subjects had to answer a questionnaire evaluating their interpretation. There were no overall cross-cultural differences on thescales assessing attitudes towards women. Males, however, generally scored higher on the attitudes towards women measure, indicating more sexist beliefs. Women reported more equalitarian attitudes throughout the scales. Analysis of the answers on which the questionnaire assessing one's interpretation of a possible sexual harassment situation suggested that international women may be desensitized toward any inappropriate men. Scores revealed that males in both the American and non-American group were more critical than females in their perception of sexual harassment situations. This finding may be explained by American males heightened awareness of sexual harassment concerns. Future research suggestions are made.

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Introduction

The act of misperceiving in situations such as sexual harassment is unfortunately not an unusual finding, especially in the case of men misperceiving womens behaviors. But this is not the only factor to be explored in the area of perceptions and sexual harassment. There is also a cross-cultural effect to be examined. Interpersonal relationships vary around the world, and because of this diversity, interpretations of social encounters vary as well. The sexual harassment issues that promote a little more controversy are those occurring in everyday living. There appear to be more defined standards pertaining to sexual harassment in the workplace, but when the situation exceeds the office, ambiguities are evident. These ambiguities are interpreted differently depending on what standards one's culture, adhere t). The differences among cultures in perceptions of sex harassment situations and attitude towards women in general is the object of this study. The differences in male and female perceptions and attitudes will be examined as well.

Sexual harassment is a ongoing, chronic health problem in countless work environments. Seventy to ninety percentage of working women in the 1970's experienced unwanted, repetitive, and coercive sexual the 1970's experienced unwanted, repetitive, and coercive sexual advances (MacKinnon, 1979). These indecent acts do not only occur in the work-place but in everyday situations around the world. The standard definition of sexual harassment illustrations the legal violation and consequences of this behavior. "Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when submission or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment" (Facts About Sexual Harassment, 1992, p.48). I Sexual harassment can be defined in one of two ways: the more severe definition includes the idea of male domination and female subjugation, and is usually viewed as the radical theory of sexual harassment. The other definition includes a limited illustration of sexual harassment and is gender neutral (Paul, 1998). The former type of definition is a more common view of sexual harassment known as quid pro quo. The content of this type of harassment is sexual advances or request of sexual favors that are unwanted, and any other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is undesirable. This conduct, having the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating a work/learning place of intimidation, offense, or hostility is considered quid pro quo (Cole,1986). The typical quid pro quo scene involves a male supervisor attempting to receive sexual favors from a female subordinate in exchange for employment, promotion, salary, or any other job related benefit. Retaliation occurs if this behavior is met with objection (Paul, 1998). The reward and punishment factor in the workplace for sexual favors makes this type of harassment more blatant. When there is a clear perpetrator and a definite victim, accusations and charges can be made with certainty. There is little in question with this scenario and the credibility is not often disputed. But harassment does not only occur in the workplace.
The latter type of definition focuses on the subject of this investigation more sufficiently. "Hostile environment" sexual harassment has the same general purposes as quid quo pro but does not have such definite grounds (Paetzold & O'Leary, 1993). Examples of this scenario would include offensive comments, uncomfortable sexual discussions, or inappropriate jokes to the opposite sex. The interpretations of these conditions vary from each individual, but to the person that it is harassment, there is an issue to be add. In this case, it is the issue of hostile environment sexual harassment. This definition of sexual harassment presents more ambiguities and is more difficult to establish in the legal system (Stockdale, 1996). It is the hostile environment situations that broadens the definition of sexual harassment to occurring outside the workplace. This view acknowledges sexual harassment as extremely prevalent in everyday living. A large percentage, but not the majority of sexual harassment cases involve ambiguous situations. The ambiguities stem from differing interpretations. For example, there are gender differences regarding these interpretations. Abbey (1992), examined how the friendliness of the opposite sex was perceived or misperceived. A difference was found between males and females interpretations friendliness. Males perceived female's friendliness as being seductive and promiscuous, whereas females did not interpret the friendliness of males to be seductive or promiscuous. This study clearly demonstrates how complicated interpretations of male and females social encounters can be.

Studies have also shown that males have a higher tendency to harass than females. Research conducted by Kulik, Perry, and Schmidtke (1998) revealed that men score higher than women on the Likelihood to Sexually Harass Scale (LSH); an instrument developed by psychologist John B. Pryor (1987). The LSH is used to measure men's propensity to commit the most severe forms of sexual harassment and sexual exploitation. Sexual impropriety involves the use of power to evoke sex usually by threats of punishment or promise of reward (Kulik, Perry, Schmidtke, 1998). This is an example of quid pro quo. Gender differences related to this have been detected in a number of studies.

In a study by Stockdale (1993) it was found that tendencies to perceptually distort friendly behavior may be due to both an attitudinal and a belief system that justifies sexual harassment. She found that women will perceive other women's behavior more precisely than men do. Stockdale also indicates that misperceiving sexual encounters may be linked to traditional sex-role attitudes, an acceptance for sexually harassing activities, and nonacceptance of liberal views about sexual harassment (Stockdale, 1993).

Katz, Hannon, and Whitten (1996) also examined gender differences and sexual harassment issues. This study showed that men and women rated harassment conditions the same; meaning the scores on the tests assessing feelings on sexual harassment situations did not vary significantly among males and females. These results were only evident provided the male was harassing and the female was the victim. When it was the female harassing the male, men gave much lower ratings than the women; meaning the scores revealed that the subject felt the description in which to evaluate was 'definately not sexual harassment.' This finding indicated that men felt the women's behavior was just being friendly, not offensive, whereas women found the same description to be offensive behavior. The outcome of this study suggested that men base their perceptually distort friendly behavior may be due to both an attitudinal and a belief system that justifies sexual harassment. She found that women will perceive other women's behavior more precisely than men do. Stockdale also indicates that misperceiving sexual encounters may be linked to traditional sex-role attitudes, an acceptance for sexually harassing activities, and nonacceptance of liberal views about sexual harassment (Stockdale, 1993).

Gender differences are definitely an important aspect of examining the problem of sexual harassment. But there are not only gender differences to study in this area, there are cultural differences as well.

Gender differences are one factor in exploring sexual harassment but cross-cultural differences are another factor that need to be examined. There is a substantial difference in the behavior of a male American citizen in the presence of a female from the behavior of a male nonAmerican citizen in the presence of a female (O'Donohue, 1997). This is evident due to the differences in interpersonal relationships around the world. Men in one culture may be reserved and inferior in the company of a women but in another culture men may be loud and superior in the company of a woman. The behavior of men and women depends on the culture they were raised. The standards, therefore, differ from what is acceptable and not acceptable behavior in relation to interpersonal relationships.
  The issue of women's liberation is a significant aspect of sexual harassment as well. If there had been no movements towards equal treatment of men and women, sexual harassment would not exist as a 'problem' but as merely an 'action.' But women in America have fought for justice since the early nineteen-hund reds. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, protests were made against the legal and political limitations on women's rights (Johnson, 1998). In the work-place as well as in everyday living, women have made great progress in being treated with respect and justice. In 1964 a significant movement towards the legal recognition of equality occurred in the form of the Civil Rights Act which banned discrimination in the workplace as well as in places of

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