Tuesday, October 24, 2017
As sexual harassment dominates the news, a blog post here collecting some of the key sources for understanding the legal history of sexual harassment.
Lin Farley, NYT, I Coined the Term "Sexual Harassment." Corporations Stole It.
It wasn’t until April 1975 that women had a word for talking about what their male bosses were doing to them.
It was that month that I first used the phrase “sexual harassment” in public, during a hearing on women in the workplace by the New York City Human Rights Commission, at which I was testifying as an instructor at Cornell University. The New York Times covered the hearing in an article that was reprinted across the country. And thus, a concept was born.
Reva Siegel, A Short History of Sexual Harassment Law
As we have· seen, the practice and protest of sexual harassment have a long history, in which we can situate developments of the 1970s as a recent and relatively short chapter. But these developments nonetheless represent a dramatic turning point in social and legal understandings of the practice.
In the 1970s Catharine MacKinnon and Lin Farley and the many other lawyers and activists who represented women in and out of court were able to mount a concerted assault, of unprecedented magnitude and force, on the practice of sexual harassment. Responding on many fronts to the demands of the second-wave feminist movement, the American legal system began slowly to yield to this challenge, and for the first time recognized women's right to work free of unwanted sexual advances.
How did this come about? Sexual harassment law arose, first and foremost, from women acting as part of a· social movement speaking out about their experiences as women at work; the term "sexual harassment" itself grew out of a consciousness-raising session Lin Farley held in 1974 as part of a Cornell University course on women and work. But more was required for the American legal system to recognize this experience of gendered harm as a form of legal injury, when for centuries it had refused.
Carrie Baker, Sexual Harassment: Law for Women, By Women, in Feminist Legal History
Carrie Baker, The Women's Movement Against Sexual Harassment