Law’s Gendered Subtext: The Gender Order of Restaurant Work and Making Sexual Harassment Normal
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Analysing sexual harassment law in British Columbia, this paper argues that in highly sexualised work environments, in which practices including sexual ‘jokes’ or innuendo may be common, law embodies and (re)creates the gendered subtext of the workplace. When a complaint of sexual harassment from a sexualised workplace is raised in a legal forum, a complainant has an obligation to clearly object to the sexual remarks, ‘jokes,’ banter, etc.—which may be the ‘norm’—to show the conduct in question was unwelcome. At the same time, however, a workplace may be structured, in part by law, in a way that restricts employee resistance to uncomfortable sexual experiences. This is the case, I argue, for women working in full-service restaurants when it comes to sexual interactions with customers. This paper explores how restaurant work, in the Canadian context with a focus on the province of British Columbia, is organised in a manner that makes women vulnerable to enduring sexually harassing practices as a routine part of their jobs.