Active Feminist? Say Hello to Harassment!

by Darcy Sturges

A new study from the University of Michigan shows a strong relationship between active feminism and gender/sexual harassment at work. Fun! According to Kathryn Holland, a leading author in the study, “Women openly engaging in activism for women’s rights may pose a more obvious threat to the existing gender hierarchy—a hierarchy that grants more power to men than women…men may therefore feel greater motivation to sexually harass women who endorse feminist ideology.”

Immediately, Lewis’ Law comes to mind. Helen Lewis, a British journalist whose writing often tackles misogyny, tweeted “Comments on any article about feminism justify feminism.” While she was referring to responses to print and electronic publications, it is easily applicable to everyday verbal comments made towards feminist behavior. Women who are harassed at work are getting complete justification for their feminist efforts.

Lewis’ tweet was quoted in a Wired magazine article by Alice Marwick entitled “Donglegate: Why the Tech Community Hates Feminists,” that looked at how the tech community views feminists in specific regards to the scandal created when Adria Richards tweeted a picture of two male colleagues at a conference. The men had been making multiple lewd and sexist remarks. Richards’ tweet and the following scandal brought about the firing of both the two men and Richards herself—as well as bringing a slew of internet fury against her. Marwick points out that often there is no conversation or discussion involved with gender and sexual harassment. Attacks are made, fingers are pointed, and no one seems to be able to sit down and discuss anything. While this may be true from both sides (I admit that my feminist beliefs and desire for equality sometimes manifests itself in aggressive ways), it is nothing but frustrating.

“War: what is it good for?”

Sadly, as a feminist, I expect to get into arguments. And yes, I have experienced harassment because of it. In an odd way it’s comforting: it reminds me why I believe what I believe and why I need to fight for it. Yes, confronting gender/sexual harassment is uncomfortable, but the only other option is to…what, be quiet? Be docile? Let it all slide and hope it stops? Yeah…I’d rather be fired. Happily, the study also shows that feminist activism helps women cope with harassment and overcome its trauma more effectively. Awesome! If you want a painful, ironic, Lewis’-Law appropriate read, look at the comments on this article about the University of Michigan’s study.

A big thanks to Alice Marwick’s Wired article.

images via Esquire,


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