Fighting Back: Workplace Sexual Harassment and the Case of North Country
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Sexual harassment in the workplace has been documented as a widespread and damaging phenomenon. Less well examined, however, are the tactics used by perpetrators to inhibit outrage about the harassment or the counter-strategies which can be used by women to oppose these tactics. This study, using the framework of backfire theory (Scott and Martin 2006), explores how a victim opposed sexual harassment in the film North Country (2005). In the course of her employment, the main character in the film, Josie Aimes, and her female co-workers, were subjected to systematic and brutal sexual harassment ranging from name-calling to physical sexual assault. Consistent with backfire theory, the analysis revealed five specific strategies used by the perpetrators to inhibit outrage: cover-up, devaluation, reinterpretation, intimidation and use of official channels, as well as anti-harassment strategies that attempted to make these tactics backfire. The findings have implications for educating and empowering women to actively stand up to and oppose sexual harassment in the workplace.