Work, Bodies and Boundaries: Talking Sexual Harassment in the New Economy

Publisher:
Wiley
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Gender, Work and Organization, 2014, 21 (5), pp. 459 - 471
Issue Date:
2014-09
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This article examines sexual harassment in the context of the new economy and highlights the manner in which the changing nature of work — and in particular the acknowledged rise of sexualized ‘body work’ — troubles conventional understandings of what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace and the means to address it. Using data from a small-scale qualitative study of service workers and professional employees, we explore the ways in which those definitions of sexual harassment now fail to match participants' accounts of their working lives. We examine sexual harassment in the context of the rise of service roles that require forms of increasingly sexualized ‘body work’ from employees, increased demands for workers to ‘self-manage’, and new flexible modes of employment that blur the boundaries between being ‘on’ and ‘off’ the job. We conclude that these ‘new’ modes of work may provide the conditions for the revival of ‘old’ stories which limit the capacity of individuals to recognize and label behaviours as ‘sexual harassment’.
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