Intersection of Race and Sexual Harassment Claims

Does race play a role in how women define sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace thereby influencing their decision to report such incidents?

Literature Review

Marshall, A. (2003). Injustice Frames, Legality, and the Everyday Construction of Sexual Harassment. Law & Social Inquiry, 28(3), 659-689. Retrieved from

This article explores the legal and interpretive frames women use and the set of objective standards deployed to determine the offensiveness of sexual harassment. The author combines two theories, legal consciousness, and social movement theory, to examine political disputes, and how legal norms and values shape daily experience and opportunity. From these two perspectives, how a person chooses to confront conflict can reflect and enact social change. The research centered on unwanted sexual attention at work by examining the beginning stages of disputes when women were deciding whether an incident was harmful and constituted sexual harassment. This article is useful in my research topic as Marshall analyzes the decision-making process in women interpreting an experience as sexual harassment. The main limitation of the article is that Marshall does not examine race as a contributing factor, but does set the foundation for cultural differences and influential factors in women’s definitions of sexual harassment. This article will form the basis for women’s interpretations of their experiences and provide case examples for my research on sexual harassment.

Baker, C. (2004). Race, Class, and Sexual Harassment in the 1970s. Feminist Studies, 30(1), 7-27. Retrieved from

Baker (2004) contrasts the leadership and contributions of working-class African American women in the formation of sexual harassment laws against more well-known efforts of white middle-class women. The author culls information from the EEOC, court records, and organizational histories to detail cases and concerns of African-American and working-class women in the workplace. Using this historical context, Baker asserts an individual’s background and identity shapes their experience of sexual harassment. African-American women who have direct experience with discrimination make no mistake in identifying sexual harassment. The main limitation of this article is that it only provides historical context, yet it gives a basic understanding of the movement and the perceptions of sexual harassment by women of color through a historical lens.

Welsh, S., Carr, J., MacQuarrie, B., & Huntley, A. (2006). “I’m Not Thinking of It as Sexual Harassment”: Understanding Harassment across Race and Citizenship. Gender and Society, 20(1), 87-107. Retrieved from

Welsh, Carr, MacQuarrie, and Huntley (2006) explore the way women talk about and define sexual harassment as their experience relates to their race, gender, and citizenship. The authors used data collected from focus groups examining workplace discrimination and the frequency of reporting offenses to determine how race and citizenship influences a woman’s definition of sexual harassment. The subjects were chosen specifically to compare race, class, and citizenship status against various definitions of sexual harassment. This article is useful as it provides a variety of examples of how identity intersects with sexual harassment. Welsh et. Al (2006) indicated more focus groups were needed to clarify their assertions as subjects introduced other such as age, disability, and language that the authors had not considered. The authors admit to being unable to use the data to generalize all women’s experiences. However, the data collected is useful in answering the question of how women of color define harassment. This article is helpful in my research as it provides personal accounts and analysis.

Richardson, B. K., & Taylor, J. (2009). Sexual harassment at the intersection of race and gender: A theoretical model of the sexual harassment experiences of women of color. Western Journal of Communication, 73(3), 248-272. doi:10.1080/10570310903082065

Richardson and Taylor (2009) use intersectionality and standpoint theory as an interpretive lens to analyze the experiences of African American and Hispanic women. The authors collected data from focus groups and a demographic survey. Interviews were found best to allow subjects to put their experiences into their own words. Richardson and Taylor (2009) also used a grounded theory approach to analyze the data through an elaborate coding procedure to categorize their findings. The scope of the research included African American and Hispanic women with at least one year of work experience. Their results concluded women of color experience sexual harassment in four stages: perceptions of the act, decision-making, resistance, and perceived organizational response; and by two contextual dimensions: social constructions of race and corporate culture. The research excludes white women; however, argues that most current feminist standpoints center around the experience of white women. The conclusion of this article supports the notion that sexual harassment for women of color intertwines with racial harassment and their decision-making process is influenced by the effects of intersectionality. This article will form the basis of race as a factor in how sexual harassment is perceived and reported.

Tinkler, J. (2008). “People Are Too Quick to Take Offense”: The Effects of Legal Information and Beliefs on Definitions of Sexual Harassment. Law & Social Inquiry, 33(2), 417-445. Retrieved from

This article explores how people categorize uninvited sexual comments, organizational prevention and response to sexual harassment, and norms of interaction. The author analyzed data from the 1994 U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board study, “Sexual Harassment in the Federal Workplace: Is it a Problem?” The data was analyzed through the lens of legal understanding, existing norms of interaction, and the role of values and beliefs to assess varying definitions of sexual misconduct. This research is useful in that is draws a direct comparison between legal information, personal beliefs, and workplace policy in a person determining sexual misconduct. It also illustrates a direct correlation of these attitudes as influenced by workplace sexual harassment training offering a male perspective of what constitutes as sexual harassment.