Not a laughing matter: Sexual harassment as "material" on workplace-based situation comedies

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In her book Sexual Harassment of Working Women Catherine MacKinnon (1979) suggested that "Trivialization of sexual harassment has been a major means through which its invisibility has been enforced. Humor, which may reflect unconscious hostility, has been a major form of that trivialization" (p. 52). In other words, making jokes at women's expense and treating sexual harassment as not serious have contributed to its persistence. Situation comedies can be seen as gauges for what is considered humorous in American culture. To explore the tone of and mood toward sexual harassment in contemporary American society, themes and content of "humorous" material on 56 episodes of five workplace-based situation comedies were examined. Results showed that although sexual harassment is rarely discussed on situation comedies, gender harassment is frequently used as "material," which leads to further trivialization of a serious social problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)433-445
Number of pages13
JournalSex Roles
Issue number9-10
StatePublished - May 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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