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.
KeywordsSexual harassment Law Restaurant work Gender Canada
I would like to sincerely thank my research participants for sharing a part of their lives. This research would not be possible without them. Thank you to the anonymous reviewers and the editorial board for their considerate feedback on earlier drafts of this paper. I am also so grateful to Judy Fudge, Hester Lessard, and Dorothy Smith for the support they provide me with in my doctoral studies, including reading earlier iterations of this work. This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Interuniversity Research Centre on Work and Globalization (CRIMT).
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