America Is from Venus, France Is from Mars: Pinups, Policing, and Gender Equality
29 Pages Posted: 26 Jan 2017 Last revised: 31 Mar 2017
Date Written: January 1, 2017
Professor Tristin Green shows in this Essay that current portrayals of differences between American and French harassment law are incomplete. They overlook important history of harassment law in the United States and miss the extent to which American law has been and continues to be shaped by concerns very similar to those articulated by the French in devising their harassment law. To reveal the common thread of concern, Professor Green uncovers the seeds of the limits placed on employer liability for harassment by the United States Supreme Court in the 1980s and 1990s, and digs beneath the doctrinal cover of “because of sex” in Title VII cases today. She shows judges in the United States relying on the “because of sex” requirement to prevent Title VII from disrupting exclusionary and subordinating work cultures for the very same reasons that French law was originally narrowly conceived. American judges in these cases see harassment as a problem of interpersonal intrusion (if not violence) first and of workplace discrimination second. Most fundamentally, they see employers as mere police officers of individuals who engage in harassment, and they resist a construction of the law that would require employers to alter male-dominated work cultures.
Seeing this similar thread of concern and how it restricts the reach of harassment law in the United States is important to understanding the equality project in both countries. France and the United States both face significant hurdles to developing a harassment law that will alter workplace cultures in ways that further integration and equality. If equality advocates cannot disrupt the pervasive sense that workplace harassment is a matter solely of interpersonal behavior to be policed, whether by employers or by the state, then the harassment laws of neither country are likely to be effective.
Keywords: sexual harassment law, gender equality, inequality, workplace, 'because of sex,' Title VII, employment discrimination, comparative law, France, French harassment law, United States
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