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"IT COMES WITH THE TERRITORY": WOMEN RESTAURANT WORKERS'
EXPERIENCES OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND SEXUAL OBJECTIFICATION
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Trevor, you have been my best friend since the fourth grade.
I would like to thank Joe Feagin and Connie Shehan for being such excellent
"academic parents." They both have been tremendous mentors to me and I cannot thank
them enough. I can only hope that my career will mirror the successes they have both
achieved on so many levels.
I would also like to thank my family and dear friends for being so wonderful and
supportive. Also, I would like to thank Hernan Vera, Tanya Koropeckyj-Cox, Kendal
Broad, Charles Gattone, Milly Pena, and the many kind and insightful individuals in the
Department of Sociology who have helped me along the way whether they are aware of
that or not. Kanitra Perry, Emily Troshynski, and the staff of the department have also
been invaluable resources, and I appreciate the help and laughter they have provided.
Finally, I would like to thank the participants in this study, as well as the many
women who endure sexism in their everyday lives as part of their j ob. It is unfortunate
that such a thesis topic can exist.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENT S .............. .................... iv
AB STRAC T ................ .............. vii
1 INTRODUCTION ................. ...............1.......... ......
2 LITERATURE REVIEW .............. ...............3.....
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace ................. ...............4............ ...
Women as Workplace Sex Obj ects ................. ........... ......... ......... ...... 5
Sexual Harassment and Sexual Objectification in Service Work............... .................7
Institutionalized Sexual Harassment and Sexual Obj ectification ................. ...............9
Sexual Harassment in Restaurant Work ................. ...............11........... ...
Purpose of the Current Study............... ...............12.
3 M ETHODS ................. ...............14.......... .....
Feminist M ethodology ................. ................ ...............16.......
Rationale for Engaging Feminist Methodology .............. .....................1
Sexual Harassment as a "Sensitive Topic" ................ ................ ......... .18
Feminist Focused Group Interviews ................. ...............19........... ..
Feminist Individual Interviews ................. ...............21................
Participants .............. ...............22....
M ethods .............. ...............23....
4 RE SULT S .............. ...............26....
Institutionalized Forms of Sexual Obj ectification ................. .......... ...............26
Bodies for Hire .................... .. ...............26
Body as Uniformed Sex Obj ect ................. ...............28...............
Restaurant Language and Labeling of Women .................. .... ...... ..... ........._..29
Women' s Experiences of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Obj ectification ................3 1
Sexual Harassment and Sexual Obj ectification by Coworkers ................... ........3 1
Sexual Harassment and Sexual Obj ectification by Customers. ................... ........33
Sexual Harassment and Sexual Obj ectification by Management. ................... ....36
Women' s Self-Obj ectification in Restaurant Work ................. ................. ......42
Selling One' s Self ................. ...............42................
Selling One' s Body............... ...............44..
Women' s Coping and Responses .............. ...............47....
Dishing It Back ................. ...............48................
Firing and Quitting ............... ...............49....
Why Women Do Not Report ................. ...............51........... ...
5 DI SCUS SSION ............. ...... .__ ...............54..
Summary of Results............... ...............5
Lim stations ............. ...... ._ ...............56...
Im plications ................ ...............59...
Research Implications .............. ...............59....
Policy Implications ............. ...... ._ ...............60...
Conclusion ............. ...... ...............62...
LIST OF REFERENCES ............. ...... .__ ...............64..
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .............. ...............69....
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts
"IT COMES WITH THE TERRITORY": WOMEN RESTAURANT WORKERS'
EXPERIENCES OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND SEXUAL OBJECTIFICATION
Chair: Joe R. Feagin
Major Department: Sociology
Sexual harassment and gender discrimination have emerged as important social
issues over the last two decades. In fact, some authors have suggested that approximately
half of all American women will be targets of sexual harassment either in school or in the
workplace over their lifetimes. As a number of researchers have suggested, women who
work in the restaurant industry may be at an increased risk of being harassed or
discriminated against given the informal work atmosphere and "highly sexualized nature"
of this type of customer service work.
Women who work in customer service industries not only face harassment in the
forms of coworker and employer-employee harassment, but also as a result of having to
deal with customers. Given the levels of sexual harassment and obj ectification faced by
women restaurant workers and the restaurant industry's documented history of racial
harassment and discrimination, women' s experiences of harassment and objectification
need to be explored in the context of an industry that is plagued with both sexism and
racism. These experiences also need to be explored in relation to women's lived
experience as targets of sexism, sexual harassment, and sexual obj ectifieation in the
The purpose of the current study is to investigate the extent to which women
experience sexual harassment and sexual obj ectifieation in their current and/or previous
employment while working as managers, servers, bartenders, and hostesses in a variety of
restaurants. Further, this study aims to examine the organizational culture by which
sexism, sexual harassment, and sexual objectifieation coexist as institutionalized factors
shaping women's workplace experiences. Using snowball sampling methods, 25 women
participated in feminist focused group interviews or individual interviews to share their
experiences of and thoughts on sexual harassment in the restaurant industry.
Findings indicate that the restaurants represented in this sample typically mirror the
broader sexist, capitalist society in which women' s bodies are obj ectified and used as
commodities in the service sector. As a result, the women in this sample faced
institutionalized and interpersonal forms of sexual harassment and sexual obj ectification
from coworkers, customers, and managers. Women's treatment as sexualized and
racialized bodies was thus linked to their self-obj ectifieation in their restaurant work and
this may perhaps explain how women's bodies thus become the service in the restaurant
industry. Policy implications and ideas for further research are also discussed.
"I 'll buy you a pair of breasts if you sleep a ithr me! "
Recently while dining at a seafood restaurant, my friends and I chatted with the
young white woman who was serving us that evening. As everyone at the table talked
with her, I mentioned that I had just finished up a study on racial relations in restaurants.
She asked me how the study went, and I briefly summed the results for her and
mentioned that a peculiar phenomenon occurred while interviewing the women in the
study: nearly all of the women shared their experiences of sexual harassment while
working in restaurants, even without being solicited for such information. At this point, I
mentioned to her that I also had worked in a number of restaurants and had seen and
experienced a great deal of sexual harassment while working. It was then that I shared
with her that I always thought it would be an interesting topic to explore.
She then nodded her head in agreement, and went on to explain that she had
recently been "propositioned" by a male customer earlier that month. She said that this
man was a regular customer, often coming in during the week for lunch. On this
particular occasion, he was drinking at the bar at night in the restaurant when he said to
her: "I'll buy you a pair of breasts if you sleep with me!i" Shocked, she nervously laughed
and walked away from him, not knowing what to make of such a comment. The next day,
this same customer returned to the restaurant during lunch, and feeling unsettled, the
server approached him and asked, "You know, you were probably pretty drunk when you
were in last night, but do you remember what you said to me?" The customer quickly
replied, "Yeah, and the offer still stands!" At this point, the server again walked away,
and at the time of the sharing this story, she had not talked to him since.
In telling her sexual harassment narrative, this server offered her own analysis of
the event: "First of all, he's a married man! How do you just go around offering to buy
women breast implants and hide that from your wife? Second, (looking down at her
chest) I think I'm doing just fine! I don't need bigger breasts! Sorry that they're
apparently not to his liking, but how could he assume that I am dissatisfied with what I
have? And how do you just go around saying things like that to people?" Hearing this
woman's narrative, and viewing the many stories of sexual harassment I have been
witness to and heard about in my work in the context of women' s persistent sexual
harassment and sexual obj ectification in the broader sexist society, I decided at that
moment that I must do a study on this.
Sexual harassment and gender discrimination have emerged as important social
issues over the last two decades. In fact, Fitzgerald (1993) has suggested that
approximately half of all American women will be targets of sexual harassment either in
school or in the workplace over their lifetimes. As a number of researchers have
suggested, women who work in the restaurant industry may be at an increased risk of
being harassed or discriminated against given the informal work atmosphere and "highly
sexualized nature" of this type of customer service work (Chia-Jeng & Kleiner, 2001;
Giuffre & Williams, 1994; Hall, 1993a; Hall, 1993b; Hughes & Tadic, 1998; Loe, 1996;
Rusche, 2003; Woods & Kavanaugh, 1994).
Women who work in the service sector of society not only face harassment in the
forms of coworker and employer-employee harassment, but also as a result of having to
deal with customers as well (Hughes & Tadic, 1998; LaPointe, 1992; Loe, 1996; Rusche,
2003). Given the levels of sexual harassment and sexual obj ectification faced by women
restaurant workers and the restaurant industry's documented history of racial harassment
and discrimination (Dirks & Rice, in press; Feagin, Vera, & Batur, 2001;Watkins, 1997),
women' s experiences of harassment and obj ectification need to be explored in the context
of an industry that is plagued with both sexism and racism. These experiences also need
to be explored in relation to women's lived experience as targets of sexism, sexual
harassment, and sexual obj ectification in the broader society.
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Although sexual harassment in the workplace was made "theoretically illegal" with
the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a legal definition for sexual harassment did not exist until the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) set out to define two types of
sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile environment (Crouch, 2001; EEOC, 1980;
Fitzgerald, 1993; Welsh, 1999). Quid pro quo partially characterizes how sexual
harassment was originally thought of: as the attempt to extort or bribe sexual cooperation
with the use of subtle or explicit threats of employment related consequences. Hostile
environment captures the pervasive sex-related verbal or physical conduct, such as sexual
jokes, comments, and touching, that interferes with one's ability to do one's job or
creates an "intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment" even absent the
threat of employment related consequences (EEOC, 1980).
Although gender harassment and sexual harassment are defined differently, the
EEOC guidelines include gender harassment as a form of sexual harassment as it
represents sexist and derogatory comments, jokes, and gender-based hazing directed
toward or about women (Welsh, 1999). While there exists some unresolved debates about
what constitutes sexual and gender harassment, Sev'er (1999) writes, "What is clear is
that sexual harassment is a pervasive, serious, and injurious form of violation of a
person' s right to a safe or any other living environment" (471).
The extant literature on workplace sexual harassment suggests that varying
conceptualizations of sexual harassment as well as the sampling technique and the type of
workplaces in which the study was conducted may account for the diverse prevalence
rates among samples (Ilies et al., 2003). However, incident rates from one of the most
cited study by the U. S. Merit Systems Protection Board (1981, cited in Fitzgerald, 1993)
suggests that women working for the federal government experienced a wide range of
harassing experiences including unwanted sexual remarks (33%), physical touching
(26%), and pressure for dates (15%). In the same sample, some 12,000 women reported
that they were victims of rape or attempted rape by supervisors or coworkers in a period
of two years. Also, sexual harassment was also persistent, with a number of women
reported extended periods of continuing sexual harassment in their government
Given that the type of workplace that is studied provides varying degrees of
reported sexual harassment, incidence studies have focused on the factors that may
indicate higher rates of sexual harassment. For example, Gutek (1985) suggested that
workplaces in which women are underrepresented have the highest incidence rates of
sexual harassment. More recently, researchers have begun closely examining the
organizational aspects of workplaces as well, indicating that workplaces where sexuality
reigns serve as breeding grounds for sexual harassment (Folgero & Fjeldstad, 1995;
Hughes & Tadic, 1998; Williams, Giuffre, & Dellinger, 1999). Customer service oriented
positions within the service sector also may have cultural norms that institutionalize
sexual harassment or disregard sexual harassment as a problem (Folgero & Fjeldstad,
1995; Giuffre & Williams, 1994; Hughes & Tadic, 1998). Certain organizations- such as
restaurants, may also enhance women's working roles as sex objects, thus
institutionalizing sexual harassment and sexual obj ectification in the service sector.
Women as Workplace Sex Objects
Very few researchers have commented on the fact that as a victim of sexual
harassment, a woman essentially becomes an obj ect of attention. Gutek (1985) stated that
there are three traditionally female roles that women can be (either by choice or force) in
the workplace: pet, mother, and sexual obj ect. With regard to the role of sex obj ect, she
writes, "Women workers are likely to be regarded as sex obj ects when two conditions are
met: 1) when the occupation and the job are numerically dominated by women, thereby
facilitating sex role spillover and 2) when these women are in work groups with more
men who may emphasize the sex obj ect aspect of the female sex if they wish" (13 5).
"Sex role spillover" occurs when the sexuality aspect of the female "sex" role
merges into workplace roles in which women are expected to be sex obj ects: "cocktail
waitresses, receptionists in some engineering and manufacturing firms or actresses" for
example (Gutek, 1985, 135; Spradley & Mann, 1975). A key point here is that women as
sex obj ects cannot be viewed beyond that. That is, when a woman is viewed as a sex
obj ect (either by personal choice as an achieved status or by force as an ascribed status by
those around her), this role overpowers other aspects about her person: her ability, her
skill, and her competence, and she is only seen as an obj ect-a body. Women often
choose not to be sex obj ects and actively resist being labeled or viewed as sex obj ects in
their workplaces. However, women are often hired specifically to fulfill the role of sex
obj ects in a number of positions- especially those in the service sector, including
Bartky (1990) provides some of the key features of being viewed as a sex obj ect.
She writes, "A person is sexually obj ectified when her sexual parts or sexual functions
are separated out from the rest of her personality and reduced to the status of mere
instruments, or else regarded as if they were capable of representing her" (26). The notion
that sexual harassment obj ectifies women- that is, treats them as sexual obj ects to be
viewed, harassed, or harmed, has not been discussed extensively in the sexual harassment
literature although sexual obj ectifieation is certainly a key aspect of sexual harassment
Thus, workplace sexual harassment serves not only to remind women that they
exist in subordinate positions in the workplace, but in the larger society as well. As
Fitzgerald (1993) explains,
Like rape and sexual assault, sexual harassment simultaneously arises from and
reinforces women's subordinate position in society. Women who experience it are
frequently faced with choices that hardly constitute choices at all: to comply or
resist, to report or be silent, to submit or be ostracized, demoted, fired, or worse.
Koss (1990) describes some of the more insidious aspects of how the processes of sexual
harassment and sexual objectifieation operate together: "sexual harassment defines
women as obj ects, sometimes turns them into victims, and frequently changes their lives"
(cited in Fitzgerald, 1993, 1071). Given the intertwined nature of sexual harassment and
sexual harassment, it is important to identify how, "making a woman the obj ect of sexual
attention can also work to undermine her image and self-confidence as a capable worker"
(Schultz, 1998, cited in Welsh, 1999, 170). For a growing number of positions in the
service sector specifically seek to use hire women as sex obj ects, these processes are
increasingly important topics of study.
Sexual Harassment and Sexual Objectification in Service Work
In a theoretical piece by Williams (1997), she writes, "Some of the behaviors that
researchers define as constituting sexual harassment are in fact requirements of some
jobs. A great many jobs in the service and entertainment industries require that
employees submit to hostile or degrading sexual stares, language, and even occasional
touching" (22, italics in original). For individuals who enter service work, they may or
may not be aware that they by agreeing to work in certain j obs, that they will be subj ected
to obj ectification, harassment, and other sexualized behaviors as part of their j obs. Hired
to be sex obj ects, Adkins (1995) writes that dominant notions of sexuality are so highly
embedded into many service positions, that women are largely seen as "sexual
commodities." And as a result, "the actual work of women [becomes], in part, the work
of being and dealing with their location as sexual obj ects" (134). In her study of the
British tourism industry, she found that women employees were often subj ected to verbal
harassment, physical harassment, and gaze. As such, women became obj ects of male gaze
in "which the observer has the right to gaze at for as long as, and in whatever way,
pleases [them]" (129). As part of their j obs, they were also expected to engage in sexual
interactions with men as if were part of their j ob. Women in such service institutions are
also told that they must accept this behavior as one woman manager explained, if the
women, "complain, or say things like they can't cope, I tell them it happens all the time
and not to worry about it ... it' s part of the j ob ... if they can't handle it then they're not
working up here" (Adkins, 1995, 130).
In another study of service workers in Canada, Hughes and Tadic (1999) found that
a majority of the 83 women in their sample reported being sexually harassed not only be
coworkers and managers, but by customers as well (in retail and security sectors). As a
result of the inherent unequal power dynamics that shroud service work, women felt
"highly constrained" in regard to dealing with such behavior. The authors of the study
argue that service work 1) privileges the customer; 2) emphasizes customer satisfaction;
and 3) as a result, women are very reluctant to seek redress. The women in the sample
reported engaging avoidance behaviors of male customers, as well being less friendly,
thus jeopardizing their work roles and inviting job related consequences as a result. These
findings present the many dilemmas faced by women in service work in light of customer
Folgero and Fjeldstad (1995) in a study of Norwegian service workers, found that
five themes emerged from their study: 1) a reluctance to admit to experiences of sexual
harassment, 2) an obligation to keep the guests happy at all costs, 3) submission to
persons of power, 4) role playing, and 5) the "uniqueness of the work setting" (306).
Their most interesting contribution to the literature on service work sexual harassment is
their examination of the cultural norms that exist in the workplace. "In a cultural setting
where sexual harassment is generally accepted as part of the j ob, feelings of harassment
may be suppressed to the degree where the victim actively denies that the problem exists
Perhaps even more interesting, was that they found that coworkers actively
discouraged those who complained about sexual harassment and told others to "take it or
leave it" as part of the sexual demands of the j ob. These results may begin to examine
then how institutionalized forms of sexual harassment and sexual obj ectification set forth
in service work organizations shape cultural norms of disclosing- or not disclosing
experiences of sexual harassment. This is important given the organizational norms
where sexual harassment and sexual obj ectification are considered "part of the j ob."
Institutionalized Sexual Harassment and Sexual Objectification
Some of the best examples of organizations that institutionalize sexual harassment
and sexual objectification can be seen in the restaurant literature. One of the most cited
prime examples of this type of organization is Loe's (1996) ethnography of "Bazooms"
as described below:
Bazooms is an establishment that has been described both as "a family restaurant"
and as a "titillating sports bar." The name of the restaurant, according to the menu,
is a euphemism for "what brings a gleam into men's eyes everywhere besides beer
and chicken wings and an occasional winning football team." Breasts, then, form
the concept behind the name .... the O's look like breasts [in the displayed name]
It may not be surprising then, that with the institutionalized sexual obj ectification of
women's breasts, that the sexual harassment policy includes this statement: "In a work
atmosphere based upon sex appeal, joking and innuendo are commonplace" (Loe, 1996,
400). Loe's analysis is an interesting one, in that she hopes "to show that women are not
merely 'obj ectified victims' of sexualized workplaces, but are also active architects of
gender, power, and sexuality in such settings" (400).
However, the fact that "The slang term Bazooms is usually used in the context of
male desire and breast fetishism; it is a term that treats one part of the female body as an
obj ect of sexual desire" (407) points to the sexual obj ectification that occurs to all women
in the workplace. Being subj ected to harassment, obj ectification, and gaze by male
customers hardly constitutes power in such settings where women's experiences
epitomize Bartky's (1990) definition of feminine domination.
This work however is an excellent example of how women come to be viewed and
treated as obj ects, and then come to self-obj ectify themselves as a result of internalizing
an outsider perspective on their bodies. This outsider perspective is largely enhanced by
the constant appearance and body surveillance that women workers undergo as it is
created and reproduced by the men in economic and social power in the restaurant-
employers and customers. Perhaps most interesting (or perhaps most dangerous) about
the processes of these women' s obj ectification and resultant self-obj ectification is that
women not only incessantly monitor their appearance, but that this appearance is so
inextricably linked to their feelings of self-worth as employees and as women. This may
be one possible explanation for the high turnover rate for restaurant workers. Other
authors in the restaurant literature have also focused on less formal means of
institutionalized workplace sexual harassment and sexual obj ectification, and how
women cope with these in the restaurant industry.
Sexual Harassment in Restaurant Work
In one of the most well-cited sexual harassment studies on labeling, Giuffre &
Williams (1994) found that in a qualitative study of restaurant workers, that both waiters
and waitresses engaged in a great deal of flirting, sexual banter, and some playful
touching, although they often do not label these experiences as sexual harassment if the
coworkers were similar to them in terms of age, class, sexual orientations, and
race/ethnicity. In other words, those that were viewed as "others" or "outsiders" were
more likely to be labeled as sexual harassers in the context of restaurant work. Although
this study only focuses on sexual harassment that occurs among coworkers, the current
study begins to apply some of these ideas to customer sexual harassment in the
In the Folgero and Fj eldstad (1995) study, they noted, "In customer contact j obs,
women' s appearance is typically of great importance. Strictly enforced dress- and
grooming codes are found in all kinds of service operations, particularly evident in
airlines, hotels, restaurants, banks, health services, and personal care services; and
"attractiveness" is always at the core of these codes" (3 03). This may have particular
consequences for women whose bodies are placed at the center of their employment in
the restaurants they work. Because cultural norms in service organizations thus allow
sexual harassment to be institutionalized in treating women as obj ects, perhaps inviting
sexual harassment, this may disallow women in restaurants to 1) see sexual harassment a
as problem, and 2) allow women to see themselves as victims of sexual harassment.
In an ethnographic study by LaPointe (1992), she points out that women restaurant
workers can "resist" sexual harassment in their j obs, "By defining abuse as part of the
job, waitresses can continue to work without necessarily internalizing or accepting the
daily hassles and degradations as aspects of their self-definitions or sense of self-worth.
In other words, if women enter into a waitressing j ob expecting crude remarks, degrading
uniforms, and unnecessary management-based power plays, they may prepare themselves
for the worst by setting personal boundaries, with conditions attached" (391). Coming to
view sexual harassment as a normalized aspect of restaurant work is one way of coping
with sexual harassment and obj ectification as Williams, Giuffre, and Dellinger (1999)
write, "Thus, in work contexts where subjection to sexual harassment is part of the j ob,
the concept of "consent" is problematic, yet many workers tolerate and even endorse
these features of their j obs. In these cases, the boundary between sexual harassment and
sexual consent is often blurred, from the vantage points both of employees and of
researchers interested in documenting and ultimately eradicating sexual harassment"
(Williams, Giuffre, & Dellinger, 1999, 77). Thus, restaurant sexual harassment and
sexual objectification need to be viewed and explored in the contexts in which they exist.
Purpose of the Current Study
As Welsh (1999) suggests, there is a serious need for qualitative studies of the
organizational and more ambiguous aspects of sexual harassment. Although there has
been some focus on sexual harassment in the restaurant literature, very few researchers
have examined the links between sexual harassment, sexual objectification, and women's
subsequent self-obj ectification in the workplace. The purpose of the current study is to
investigate the extent to which women experience sexual harassment and sexual
obj ectification in their current and/or previous employment while working as managers,
servers, bartenders, and hostesses in a variety of restaurants. Further, this study aims to
examine the organizational culture by which sexism, sexual harassment, and sexual
obj ectification coexist as institutionalized factors shaping women' s workplace
experiences. As mirrors of a sexist, capitalist society, restaurants may provide an
excellent opportunity to explore women' s lived experience of sexual obj ectification and
The aim of much feminist research has been to "bring women in," that is, to find
what has been ignored, censored, and suppressed, and to reveal both the diversity
of actual women's lives and the ideological mechanisms that have made so many of
those lives invisible. A key method for doing so--drawn in part from the legacy of
consciousness raising--has involved work with the personal testimony of
individual women. (Anderson et al., 1990; DeVault, 1996, 32-33)
The feminist sociologist, in her formulation, must refuse to put aside her experience
and, indeed, must make her bodily existence and activity a "starting point" for
inquiry. From this beginning, the inquiry points toward an analysis of the social
context for experience, the relations of ruling that organize daily life and connect
all members of a society in systematic interactions. (DeVault, 1996, 39; Smith,
In speaking to a number of women about sexual harassment both personally and
professionally, I have noted that women experience and think about issues of harassment,
obj ectification, and gender oppression in incredibly diverse ways. For the purpose of this
study, I desired to explore women's experiences of sexual harassment in the restaurant
workplace for a number of reasons. First, my own experiences as a restaurant worker
(mainly as a hostess) shaped my knowledge of the pervasive nature of sexual harassment
in restaurants. From an organizational standpoint, I have always questioned what it is
about restaurants that makes them "anything goes" types of establishments in regard to
the overt sexism and racism that ostensibly coexist without resistance or question. This
has lead to a research agenda trying to examine this question, beginning with a
preliminary study on racial relations in restaurants (Dirks & Rice, in press).
The interview data from this study helps explain the second reason for wanting to
explore sexual harassment among women who work in restaurants. During the racial
relations study, I found that a number of the white women I interviewed shared their own
personal experiences of sexual harassment with me, even without being solicited for such
information. The breadth of information these women offered indicated that sexual
harassment and gender discrimination appeared to be rampant in the restaurants they
worked in, offering a host of new questions to be explored with regard to gender
When I asked the male coauthor of the study if he too was receiving information
about sexual harassment, he stated that he had not, which may not be surprising given
some of the literature on gender effects and interviewing (Padfield & Proctor, 1996).1 It
could be possible that the women in the racial relations study felt more comfortable
sharing sexual harassment information with me as a result of 1) sharing the same gender,
2) sharing the same racial background, and 3) sharing the experience of working in
Hearing the experiences of these women and recalling my own experiences of
sexual harassment (even as an adolescent and as a teenager), allowed me to view the
issue of restaurant sexual harassment in the broader context of girls' and women' s daily
experiences of sexism- including sexual harassment and obj ectification, as a worthy topic
of study. It is here that I believe a feminist approach to the theoretical development and
methodological approach of this study is well suited. By using feminist focused group
interviews and individual interviews, women's experiences of sexual harassment can be
SMaureen Padfield and Ian Proctor did an empirical study to compare data from interviews conducted by a
man and by a woman. Attempting to minimize the impact of gender between interviewers, they found no
significant differences in responses to direct questions in their interviews with 39 women. However, for the
woman interviewer, women were markedly more likely to voluntary offer personal experiences (e.g. having
had an abortion) with her than with the male interviewer.
explored in a qualitative manner to provide meaningful analysis, critique, and directions
Feminist researchers have long placed women's lived experience at the center of a
field of inquiry rooted in consciousness raising, feminist activism, and feminist critique
of standard social science practices. While there is no universal "feminist methodology,"
feminist researchers have been pioneering in their efforts to create an interdisciplinary
scholarship generally based on the following principles: 1) including (all) women's lived
experiences in the study of society; 2) minimizing the harms and consequences of
research; and 3) supporting changes that will improve the status of all women (DeVault,
1999; Montell, 1999; Reinharz & Davidman, 1992; Smith, 1987).
A number of researchers have outlined the basic elements of what a feminist
methodology should look like (DeVault, 1996; DeVault, 1999; Fonow & Cook, 1991;
Maynard & Purvis, 1994; Nielsen, 1990; Ramazanoglu & Holland, 2002; Smith, 1987).
Some of these principles involve 1) highlighting the significance of gender in research
and the broader society (Cook & Fonow, 1986; Montell, 1999); 2) challenging the
positivistic norm of obj activity and the divide between the researcher and the researched
(Smith, 1987); 3) using consciousness raising and women's standpoint as methodological
tools in transforming and deconstructing patriarchy (Mies, 1983; Smith, 1987); 4)
emphasizing and understanding the role of and politics surrounding feminist research as
an empowerment tool (hooks, 1989; Opie, 1992); 5) paying close attention to the ethical
implications of research (Kirsch, 1999); and 6) perhaps more recently, deconstructing the
notion that there is a universal women's experience, while recognizing the diverse
intersectionality of all women's experiences (Collins, 2000 ).
With these in mind, some feminist researchers have extolled the virtues of feminist
methodology, suggesting that, "Feminist researchers are more likely to grant the
interviewees the status of 'expert' on the topic or discussion, in keeping with the feminist
principle that women are experts on their own experience" (Montell, 1999, 46; Reinharz,
1992). Using the standpoint of women as Smith (1987) suggests, allows women' s
personal narratives and testimony to be placed at the center of research, thus "giving
voice" to women's diverse lived experience. Some feminist researchers have noted that in
creating a space for women' s voices as participants, researchers may also be able to make
sense of their own voices and experiences as well. As a woman who has experienced and
been witness to a great deal of sexual harassment over my lifetime, a feminist
methodology aimed at elucidating the patterns and shared experiences of women' s lives
is very appealing.
Rationale for Engaging Feminist Methodology
Mies (1983) emphasized that feminist researchers should shift from individual
interviewing to group interviewing to not only obtain more diverse and complex data, but
to aid in revealing and deconstructing women's structural isolation in understanding the
shared nature of their collective experiences. In a similar vein, group interviews can also
serve as consciousness raising platforms in encouraging women to recognize patterns in
their shared experiences (Montell, 1999). With this in mind, I decided to employ both
feminist focused group interviews and individual interviews to explore women's
experiences of sexual harassment in a manner that may be supportive of building
collective understanding and collective resistance to experiencing, dealing with, and
coping with sexual harassment.
Sexual Harassment as a "Sensitive Topic"
Before launching into a more exhaustive discussion of the methods employed, I
want to explore the risk that sexual harassment could be viewed as a "sensitive topic" of
research. Although the term "sexual harassment" has gained more visibility in the last
two decades, sexual harassment itself still remains a controversial topic as its legal and
empirical definitions are imprecise and the parameters of what constitutes sexual
harassment are not agreed upon (Crouch, 2001). As a result of sexual harassment
involving both "political and moral views about the proper relationships between the
sexes and the proper role of the law in sexual matters," (Crouch, 2001, 4) the controversy
surrounding sexual harassment does not appear to be nearing a foreseeable end.
Beyond legal and societal controversies, sexual harassment often involves
unwanted sexual attention, unsolicited sexual remarks, unwanted sexual touching or
coercion, and sexual violence that can be threatening, hostile, degrading, and offensive
(Fitzgerald, 1993). A growing body of literature has begun to document the dire
consequences to women's psychological, emotional, physical health and well-being as a
result of the severity, duration, and frequency of sexual harassment (Gutek & Koss, 1993;
Koss, 1990; Schneider, Swan, & Fitzgerald, 1997; Sigal et al., 2003; Stockdale, 1998; see
Fitzgerald, 1993 for more detailed discussion). Given this, talking about sexual
harassment may trigger some of the more uncomfortable aspects of remembering
incidents in group interviews as well as individual interviews, and this was considered in
keeping with the feminist principle of reducing the harm of research.
As Morgan (1996) points out, "Because group interaction required mutual self-
disclosure, it is undeniable that some topics will be unacceptable for discussion among
some categories of research participants" (140). With this in mind, I 1) let women whom
I asked to participate know up front that the study would be about sexual harassment and
their experiences as women working in restaurants, and 2) offered the option of
participating in an individual interview or a focused group interview (with similar peers)
based on what they thought would feel most comfortable for them.
Interestingly, none of the women whom I asked to participate stated a preference
or declined to participate, with only one woman sharing that she had indeed not
experienced sexual harassment while working in a restaurant.3 That is, for every woman
whom I asked to participate, they indicated that they had experienced sexual harassment,
with many of them sharing their most recent experience with me openly. In the
interviews, every care was taken to ensure participants were comfortable with the topics
being discussed, and perhaps unsurprisingly, women in group interviews were
remarkably supportive of each other' s experiences.
Feminist Focused Group Interviews
As Sim (1998) suggests, "Focus groups tap a different realm of social reality"
(350). Although traditional focus groups have long been a tool for collecting qualitative
data, feminist focused group interviews have proved to be a valuable resource for
studying women's lives (Montell, 1999; Morgan, 1996). Morgan (1996) defines focus
groups with the following:
2 For women who chose to do individual interviews, this was more a result of scheduling difficulties for
scheduled focus group dates and times rather than a personal preference for an individual interviews
3 While she stated this in the beginning, during her participation in a group interview, she later recalled that
she was harassed and stalked by a regular customer; management was notified and responsive. Reporting
no sexual harassment and then later describing or recalling sexual harassment experiences is similar to a
qualitative study by Folgero & Fjeldstad (1995) in which 6 of their 10 participants at first denied having
experienced sexual harassment but then later described unwanted and unpleasant episodes of sexual
...a research technique that collects data through group interaction on a topic
determined by the researcher. This definition has three essential components. First,
it clearly states that focus groups are a research method devoted to data collection.
Second, it locates the interaction in a group discussion as the source of the data.
Third, it acknowledges the researcher's active role in creating the group discussion
for data collection purposes (130).
Focused group interviews though have been defined somewhat differently, "if they:
1) are conducted in informal settings; 2) use nondirective interviewing; or 3) use
unstructured question formats" (Morgan, 1996, 131). Both of these techniques were
employed in the current research, keeping in line with feminist methodological
Beyond collecting a lot of data in a short amount of time, feminist researchers have
noted the appeal of focus groups because they allow participants to exercise a fair degree
of control over their own interactions (Morgan, 1996; Montell, 1999). In allowing women
to be experts about their own experiences, "group interviews may allow the researcher
subjects to be experts to a greater extent than one-on-one interviews" (Montell, 1999, 50).
Instead of the researcher acting solely in framing issues and composing questions,
"Group interviews allow for a more egalitarian and less exploitive dynamic than other
methods, and the interaction among participants produces a new and valuable kind of
data (Montell, 1999, 44).
In fact, as Montell (1999) indicated in her work on sexuality, that, "people can and
do challenge and contradict each other. They ask each other questions, provide examples
from their personal experience, and collectively produce accounts that would be difficult
if not impossible to elicit in individual interviews" (51). In the three focused group
interviews for this study, women certainly queried each other, attempting to explore and
compare the experiences of others with those of their own. These lines of questioning
produced thoughtful and provocative interactions, while creating a space for meaningful
self-reflection and openness among participants.
In this respect then, the collective narratives that arise in focus groups are products
of a particular group context, just as individual narratives are products of an individual
interview context (Rose, 2001). The narratives that women provide in a group context
thus allow participants to interact with each other more so than with the researcher, thus
providing a broader understanding of the issues at hand. Feminist focused group
interviews provide a meaningful way of exploring what women have to say, but also
provide a means of shaping questions and issues to explore in more in-depth individual
interviews. For example, using these two methods together in the current research
allowed the issue of sexual obj ectification to be explored further in depth in individual
interviews as a result of it being a relevant theme in the focused group interviews.
Feminist Individual Interviews
"Investigators' reasons for combining individual and group interviews typically
point to the greater depth of the former and the greater breadth of the latter" (Crabtree et.
al, 1993; Morgan, 1996, 134). Thus, many researchers have used the combination of both
methods to explore specific experiences in more depth, as well as to gather narratives to
explore the continuity of personal experience among those individually interviewed.
While it may be difficult for researchers to negotiate both professional and personal
identities while conducting individual interviews (as well as other methods), feminist
researchers offer some means of resolving these dilemmas. DeVault (1996) asks us to
view the researcher as a "resource rather than contaminant" in the research process (42).
Smith (1987) has argued that feminist researchers should embrace subj activity to center
women's experiences (as well as one's own experiences) in the research process, rather
than attempt to view obj activity as the legitimate authority in research.
Often in the individual interviews, women would ask how I became interested in
studying sexual harassment in restaurants. Relying on my own experience of having
worked in restaurants for over a decade (beginning at the age of 10 in a family friend's
restaurant as a "busgirl"), I often shared my own thoughts and experiences with
participants who queried me on my own experiences. Given that nearly all women
revealed uncomfortable experiences of sexual harassment, I often would share some of
my own harrowing experiences of sexual harassment with these women. To not do so, in
my opinion, would have created an incredibly exploitive dynamic between the
"researcher" and "researched," thus thwarting any notion of feminist research. The self-
revelatory and self-reflective nature of the individual interviews therefore provided a
platform similar to the consciousness raising that occurred in the focused group
interviews. My own experience as a restaurant worker provided some preliminary
contacts to begin recruiting participants, as well as provided some insight into the
development of the questions posed to women.
Twenty-five women between the ages of 19 and 46 participated in either focused
group interviews or individual interviews.4 All but six women were in their twenties.
Twenty-three women identified as white American and two women identified as Asian
American (one Filipina American woman, one Chinese American woman). All but three
4 The mean age for all participants was 23.36 years (without the outlier of 46 years of age, the mean was
women had at least the experience of attending either a community college or a
university; two women had earned a GED.
This sample is partially unique in that unlike much of the restaurant literature
available, this study includes current and former restaurant workers. Twelve women were
currently working as managers, chefs, hostesses, servers, cocktail servers, and bartenders;
thirteen women had formerly worked in these positions in a variety of restaurants across
the Southeast and Northeast regions of the United States. Participants' experience
working in restaurants ranged from four months to 25 years.' Women reported working
in a variety of restaurants including chain, non-chain, family owned, fine dining, country
clubs, and "gentlemen' s" establishments. Given that women provided an estimate of the
number of restaurants they had worked in, one could estimate that approximately 80
restaurants are represented as workplaces in this sample. This is important given the
organizational context and reasons women provided for why they believed sexual
harassment existed in the restaurants they worked in.
I was able to recruit a number of participants who had restaurant experience
through personal contacts and word of mouth via snowball sampling (Babbie, 2001).
Using focused group interviews also aided in the addition of participants through a type
of snowball sampling in which I asked participants to ask women friends or coworkers
with restaurant experience if they would also like to participate. Although this proved to
be very helpful in recruiting additional participants, it also produced a sample that was
very homogeneous in terms of racial background, age, and education level. Very much
5 The mean length of working in restaurants was 6.4 years (without the outlier of 25 years, the mean length
was 5.63 years).
like the restaurant literature available (Giuffre & Williams, 1994; Hall, 1993a; 1993b;
LaPointe, 1992; Loe, 1996; Rusche, 2003), this sample primarily consisted of white
American women. I will discuss these issues further as serious limitations of this research
in the discussion section. As Smith (1987) argues however, the validity of findings in
feminist research should not necessarily refer to how much the research participants
represent the some larger population, but how well the data represent the particular
experiences of larger social processes for those particular participants.
Two focused group interviews similar to focus groups were conducted in a room at
a university. Food and drinks were provided. A third informal group interview was also
conducted in the home of one of the participants (this group included friends who knew
each other). I usually began the focus groups with sharing the example in the
introduction, and then saying, "I know this may be an extreme example, but has anyone
ever seen or experienced anything similar while working in restaurants?" Usually women
would quickly pipe in, sharing that they had either been witness to or experienced some
form of unwanted sexual attention, comments, or touching in the restaurants that they
worked in. Once women began talking, participants in the group interviews often asked
excellent questions of each other, thus guiding this process. I rarely interrupted the
dialogue, and only asked new questions informally when I felt the conversation lulled
after a lengthy discussion of a topic.
In nearly every one of these "group conversations," the topics of discussion
touched upon the sexualized nature of restaurant work in comparison to other
workplaces, the experiences of sexual harassment (including when it was labeled "sexual
harassment" and when it was not) from coworkers, customers, and managers, the
processes of hiring and working, and how women cope or resist sexual harassment in
their workplaces. In keeping with a feminist framework, I attempted to follow these
words of advice: "While it is difficult to assess, a proj ect will be empowering to the
extent that a researcher is attentive to the ways her proj ect can provide not only a critique
of conditions that exist, but also a vision of alternatives for the future (DeVault, 1996,
56). I made it a point to ask toward the end of interviews, 1) if participants thought the
restaurant industry could change, and 2) what we could do to make change in the industry
regarding sexual harassment. I must admit that this line of questioning produced some
disheartening dialogue in the group and individual interviews.
During the group interviews, I often took notes, and these notes later served to
guide a more in-depth line of questioning for the individual interviews. The individual
interviews were conducted in a number of places, with most being done in the
participant' s home or in a room reserved on a university campus. The only substantial
difference in the questioning between group and individual interviews was that the
individual interviews included questions directly about sexual obj ectification as part of
the job. This in-depth line of questioning provided richer detailed data in regard to how
women' s bodies are placed at the center of the restaurant working experience. All
interviews were audio-taped and transcribed. All transcriptions were then read and coded
for relevant themes using a grounded-theory approach.
"Restaurants are like, open places, like you can get away 0I ithr anything! I mean,
the way everybody talks to each other, it's- you don 't see it anywhere else. Like,
any other job I've ever done. Donna
The results of the current study focus on four relevant themes that came out of the
group and individual interviews: 1) how restaurants institutionalize sexual objectification
as part of women' s gendered work; 2) how this sexual obj ectification is linked to
women's extensive experiences sexual harassment and sexual objectification from
coworkers, customers, and management; 3) how women' s treatment as sexualized and
racialized objects in the restaurant fosters women' s own self-obj ectification; and 4) how
women cope and respond to the pervasive sexual harassment and sexual obj ectification
they experience as "it comes with the territory" of working in restaurants. Overall, the
findings suggest that women' s restaurant work is persistently characterized by the threat
and reality of sexual harassment as a result of both the organizational and interpersonal
aspects of the work.
Institutionalized Forms of Sexual Objectification
Bodies for Hire
Recall that Bartky's (1990) definition of sexual obj ectification suggests that it
"(occurs when a woman's sexual parts or sexual functions are separated out from her
person, reduced to the status of mere instruments, or else regarded as if they were capable
of representing her" (35). Women in the study shared that women's workplace
experiences neatly represent these aspects of sexual obj ectification in the hiring,
uniforms, and language in the restaurant. Many of the women in the study indicated
women' s bodies and appearance were of the utmost importance in being hired and
working in the restaurant industry. Interestingly, women often cited that this was no
coincidence on the part of restaurant owners and managers who strategically desired to
hire front of the house (FOH) staff (those who deal directly with customers such as
hostesses, servers, bartenders, and managers) who were thin, attractive, young, outgoing,
and mostly white.
As Kirsten explained, "they only hire really attractive people, and I started when I
was a lot thinner, like, I would never get hired now." Interestingly, Kirsten sustained a
work-related injury at the chain restaurant that she worked in, and consequently "gained a
lot of weight" as a result of her back injuries. She notes too, the psychological harm
caused by being viewed as a body rather than a skilled person,
I had a customer once told me that he wanted a "pretty girl" to take him to his table
.. instead of me. And I told him that we were fresh out of them, so he was out of
luck and stuck with me. And so, I guess at that point I guess I got the first inkling
that I was starting not to fit in anymore as far as being in the attractive crowd ...
Yeah, I guess that was the first time I started kinda thinking like that it didn't
matter how good of a hostess I was, like that' s what that man wanted ... [I: So,
how do you cope I guess with the fact that people look at you, or say comments
like that one rude comment?] I used to cry. Like, I used to take it really
personally, and now, I'm just kinda like whatever. I mean, like, I am on a diet and
I'm going to the gym to try and kinda fit better .... It gets upsetting and stuff, like
my parents have huge issues with it, because of all my injuries. So, I feel like I'm
still trying to conform, but now I'm like, I don't care. I don't get upset about it, but
um, I haven't had any problems with customers in a long time.
Other women noted the role of management in only hiring people deemed attractive, thus
highlighting the fact that restaurants may be attempting to portray a certain image to
entice customers to the restaurant. Loe' s (1996) ethnographic work in the euphemistically
named "Bazooms" is one example of such, in that attractive women and breasts
characterize the restaurant' s theme. Here, women' s breasts are the center of attention, and
are even reflected in the name of the restaurant. Kirsten' s example reflects this and
Gutek' s (1985) assertion that women' s role as workplace sex obj ects subj ects women to
gaze, thus making viewed as obj ects rather than skilled employees.
Body as Uniformed Sex Object
With an attractively hegemonic workforce, management also can use uniforms and
language as a means by which to further sexualize women's bodies in the restaurant.
LaPointe' s (1992) work highlights this aspect of restaurant work as women in her study
were often made to wear uniforms that were sexually degrading, childish, or physically
confining (and physically harmful at times) as part of their j obs. Some of these
restaurants attempted to create sexualized public images by exploiting women's bodies
and sexuality as service workers. Donna shared an example of this with her male
The restaurant that I worked in was next to a bar where they [the women who
worked there] wore like ... nothing. [Laughs] He said, "Ok girls, we're getting new
outfits!" And he took us all to the mall, and he bought us little mini skirts, little
suspenders and little shirts, because of the fact that we had to compete with those
Donna points out that because the restaurant and bar were in competition with each other
fiscally, that her manager resorted to have the women dress as "schoolgirls" to entice
people (men I assume) to the restaurant where she worked.
Lysa shared a similar example from a golf course restaurant where she worked,
Well, I drove a golf cart on a golf course for a while too, and my boss would be
like, "wear a tank top and shorts" And I would wear short shorts, but I was still
covered. Well, then it went under new management, and I didn't make very much
money every day, and um, now the girls out there wear their bikinis, you know?
And all of them have these little triangle bikinis, and they make so much money!i
And everyone talks about how much money they make!
It' s important to note here that again, women's bodies are used to 1) present a public
image to lure customers (men in these cases), and 2) allow restaurants to be viable and
competitive in the market economy. Note here too, that women' s increase in tips as a
result of wearing bikinis is more likely to be a latent function of the uniform switch, and
that the owners and managers were manifestly attempting to increase their own profits by
having women's bodies adorned in next to nothing. Women's participation in wearing
bikinis appears easily co-opted as well as a result of the relatively large amounts of
money they are making, suggesting that for some women to make "good money," they
must use their bodies. However, as Williams (1997) points out, "While some women may
enj oy and even profit from sexualized interactions at work, resisting these behavior may
be impossible" (24).
Restaurant Language and Labeling of Women
The language used in the restaurant also appears to play a part in the
institutionalized sexual objectification and labeling of women. For example, Annette
shared that, "We were said to work at the Texas Whorehouse instead of Texas
Roadhouse." Another veteran server shared this as well,
Oh yeah! We have "to-go hoes" and "door-whores." [Laughing] Yeah, door-
whores. [I: What's a door-whore? A hostess?] Yes, we have to open the door for
every guest, so they're standing at the door the entire night, and um, they're kinda
the ones for people who are waiting on their table, they kinda talk to or flirt with or
whatever. Guys come over from the bar, and are like, "Heeyyy, is this your j ob? Is
this what they tell you to do?" That' s why we call them door-whores.
While customers may not be aware of the backstage language presented above,
restaurants in which referring to women as whores is part of the everyday banter may
present a highly sexualized public image of the women who work there, thus increasing
the possibility for sexual harassment from coworkers, managers, and customers.
Some restaurant literature has pointed out that sexualized language is mandated in
the language used to describe drink or food items. For example, Giuffre and William's
(1994) study revealed the following drink titles: "slow comfortable screw," "sex on the
beach," and "screaming orgasm." This language is also revealed as it was discussed
below in one of the focused group interviews,
Donna: I saw girls handing out drinks called like, "Pussy Juice!" ... Angel: Like
"blow j obs," we used to make blowj obs, that was like men' s favorite drink! Like
men would always ask, "Lemme buy you a shot, I'll buy you a blow job." Like it
was the funniest thing ever! [Everyone laughs in agreement] Lysa: I heard of
another one the other day called "Sand in my Crack!"
Given that customers use the sexualized language that they are aware of and that they use
this language to "flirt" or proposition women into drinking (or more), one might assume
that they would also be willing to engage in the backstage language that refers to
women's alleged sexual availability as "hoes" and "whores" in the restaurant. Another
interesting aspect of the language presented in the interviews was that all women who
worked in restaurants were referred to as "girls" throughout every interview, thus
infantilizing these women rather than viewing them as capable adults.
As these preliminary findings suggest, the highly sexualized nature of restaurant
work can be viewed in terms of the institutionalized forms of sexual obj ectification set
forth by those in power in restaurants- whether they be white male managers or private
owners or white men in the hospitality corporations that govern these restaurants. All of
the women in the sample worked for white, young to middle-aged men, with very few
citing women or people of color in management positions. As these individuals in power
ostensibly govern the policies that support the exploitation and use of women' s bodies as
commodities in the restaurant, it becomes important to examine the organizational links
to the sexual harassment and further sexual objectification that women experience in
these institutions. In the case of many of the restaurants represented here, women' s
bodies, parts, or functions are certainly used as "mere instruments" in capitalistic
endeavors and profit seeking of white men in power.
Women's Experiences of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Objectification
Every woman in the sample shared that sexual harassment in the restaurant industry
was certainly unparalleled in comparison to the other workplaces that they had worked in.
While women offered many possible reasons for this, many of them first highlighted their
own experiences and placed them in context when labeling certain experiences sexual
harassment and others not (similar to Giuffre & Williams, 1994). Women experienced
sexual harassment in the forms of unwanted attention, comments, and touching (mostly
that which characterized hostile environment sexual harassment), yet some women were
hesitant to label these actions as such. One piece of sexual harassment is the persistent
sexual obj ectification that is inherently embedded in sexual harassment' s ability to draw
attention to one's body as an obj ect. Women shared that they experienced nearly all
forms of sexual harassment and sexual obj ectification from coworkers, customers, and
Sexual Harassment and Sexual Objectification by Coworkers
As Gail points out below, coworker sexual harassment is quite common in the
restaurant, even at a younger age:
I have stories about coworkers, I could probably write a book on all that stuff, just
because I've been there so long, I started right before I turned 16, I just remember
that I had so many experiences, and I was so young and stupid back then, that I
didn't really understand it then. I would get servers ask me, "Do you want to work
at Pure Gold? You should work at Pure Gold," and that' s a strip club ... and I
actually had another server say the same thing to me, he was like, "I want to
personally interview you, come back here in this room," and he was like 45, 50
years old as a server. They're all just stupid things like that. You have guys
grabbing your ass, you're like 15, 16 years old, and they were at least, you know,
Here, even while still a teenager, Gail has male servers propositioning her to work as a
"stripper" although she worked as a hostess (with her clothes on). The age difference that
she reports is also worth noting that women are more likely to label sexual harassment as
such when the harasser' s age is much different from the victim's (Giuffre & Williams,
1994). Here, as in the account below, women's bodies are placed at the center of sexually
harassing comments and behaviors.
Annette shared this story of a coworker who physically harmed her by his physical
I experienced one instance in which one of the male bussers popped me in the tale
very hard with a wet towel ... leaving a welt. The behavior was like, uninvited and
.. inappropriate. You know, like, had it been my boyfriend, I might not have
minded so much, but since he saw me bending over to get something, he thought he
would "j okingly" take a swat at me. I- I was so furious because that is something
that I would never do to a casual coworker.
Women's bodies appear to be at the mercy of male coworkers who often touch women
when the can, as Gwen shared as well, "You can be standing at the counter and you can
have a guy come up and smack your ass, sexual comments from the bussers, like, "your
boobs look bigger today" or "you got big boobs" or you know ..." Both of these women
share that bussers- usually those positions that are filled by male men of color, were the
culprits in these incidents. Gwen later went further to share a racialized account of the
sexual harassment she experienced,
Haitians will say shit under their breath, like, "I'm gonna touch your breasts," and
"lemme smack that ass!" and "Why don't you come over and gangbang?" I mean,
it' s just, you know what they're saying because I have friends in the kitchen who
understand them, 'cause they work with them all the time. And you'll say, "What'd
they say?" and they'll tell you. And you're just like, "that is disgusting. That is
It is interesting to note that none of the respondents made racial references to the white
men who worked in the restaurants when they were the sexual harassers described in
stories. Gwen' s racialized account suggests that perhaps the racial characteristics of the
harasser may be more obj ectionable than the actually comments being made, as she
describes these particular forms as "utterly disgusting" but does not label comments made
by white coworkers in the same way anywhere else in her interview.
Sexual Harassment and Sexual Objectification by Customers
Sexual harassment and sexual obj ectifieation by customers in the restaurant was
defined as the most problematic of all forms in comparison to that of coworkers and
managers. Because women cited that they had come to expect such behavior from them
as part of the organizational culture of restaurant work, they were most often "caught off
guard" when customers acted inappropriately in sexual ways. Women's narratives about
customers were also most shocking to other participants, and women reflected on these
events more than any others in the group and individual interviews. Women certainly
viewed customer' s sexual harassment most egregiously and this may be a result of being
made aware of one' s powerlessness when relying on men for money in the service sector.
Women are also caught in a double bind when it comes to customer sexual harassment if
they feel that management will not respond to one's reports of customer sexual
harassment (and this will be discussed in the next section).
Customer sexual harassment and sexual obj ectifieation mainly took two forms:
unwanted sexual comments and unwanted sexual touching. However, most of the events
described involved both. One of the most shocking accounts came from Jaclyn in one of
the group interviews, in which a male customer requested that she insert a wine bottle
into her vagina for him and his friends at their table,
I actually worked in the same restaurant for three years, making money for college
after high school. So, it was happy hour, and I went out to the dock and greeted my
table and there were three guys, and I'm like, "Hi, my name is Jaclyn," I introduced
myself, the usual, and "What can I get you?" and they were you like, "You, on the
table, naked." I'm like, "Ok" you know, laughing it off, they hadn't had any
alcohol yet, and I was like, "What can I get you to drink, sir?" and um, they're old,
you know, like 35, 40, 45 .... Came back a little bit later and I was already a little
bit intimidated by them, and um, I went back and I was like, "Can I get you
anything else?" and the one guy was like, kinda like, brushed my arm and was like,
"Come here sweetheart," and I'm just like, "Oh God," he was like, um, "I have a
question for you," and this like totally offended me, he was like, "Have you ever
taken a bottle of wine?" And I'm like, like, at first, I'm all like stupid, like,
"What?" and I didn't understand what he was saying, and he was like, "Oh, it' s
really easy, my wife used to do it all the time," he was like, "Climb up onto this
table right here and I'll show you how to do it, go get me a bottle of wine, I want a
bottle of wine." And, I'm just like, "Yeah." Madison: What?!i [I: So he was
talking about inserting a bottle into you?] Jaclyn: Yeah. Madison: Holy crap!
Here, we see that a customer has the audacity to ask for such a request of a server at a
well-established, high-end seafood restaurant and expects her to do such an "act" for him
and his friends openly in front of other tables. Interesting to note, that he made such a
request in front of his friends, accenting not only his need to painfully remind Jaclyn that
she is merely a body- one that functions solely for his fantasized sexual pleasure- but also
remind her publicly in an attempt to possibly humiliate and degrade her further in the
presence of other men- those whom she rightfully reports feeling intimidated by.
While participants above like Madison were shocked at such an event, other
women shared similar accounts. Gwen shared a story of two men who repeatedly made
sexual comments to her during their meal,
One time I had a customer grab me by the arm as I was pulling his check off of the
table, and he says, "Don't go anywhere with that, I'm not ready, I haven't tackled
somebody your age in a long time and I wouldn't mind doing it." Yeah, his wife
was sitting right next to him, and him and his friend laughed and said, "Yeah, I
wouldn't mind j oining in either." [I: So, essentially they were talking about
gangbanging you from before?] Yeah, I'm an innocent party here; all I'm trying
to do is do my job!i
Here, even in the presence of another woman (one man's wife), these men feel it
acceptable to tell Gwen that they would like to "tackle her," a term with violent
connotations regarding a sexual act they would like to do to her (and not necessarily 0I ithr
her), hinting at the threat of sexual violence that is often common in workplaces (Koss et
Yvonne also shared how men felt that they could push sexual boundaries of
appropriateness with hostesses,
When we would be hostessing, we have these little pager thingies that vibrate.
Guys, when they vibrate [would] come up to you and put them on your butt or like
in the front of you when they vibrate, and would be like, "Do you like that?" "Oh,
do you mind if I take that home with my wife?" Madison: Like, what do you mean
guys, like random people or workers? Like random guys, like customers. Madison:
What? Yvonne: It happened like three times to me and I only worked there for six
months, so ... Madison: Because they get trashed? Yvonne: Because the wait at
the restaurant where we worked at, it could be like 2 hours for outside, so they get
trashed at the bar, so by like the time we'd page them, they'd be like, "Cool!"
Alcohol is accentuated as a key factor in this account, as in many of the accounts from
women who worked in "bar and grille" and "restaurant lounge" types of establishments.
Angel, Donna, Sunny, and Daphne all worked as "cocktail waitresses" and had this to
Angel: First of all, when you're cocktailing, customers feel no boundaries
whatsoever. If you're walking around holding a drink tray or your arm' s up like
this, they think that' s every reason to grope every part of your body. Oh yeah. I but
I think the more alcohol involved ... Donna: Alcohol is a huge factor. Like, when I
worked here ... the ones here was ten times worse, I think it had to do with the age,
college kids, grabbing you, lifting up your skirt ... and then I see it .... I see the
guys treat the waitresses like that.
Daphne: And you could be in Denny's and actually have the nicest guy, you know,
who actually respects you as a waitress, you know, compared to someone at the
Purple Martini or somewhere where you'd be a cocktail server and they look at you
like an object. There could be nice guys there, there could be nice anywhere else. It
all depends on the person- the guy, not the girl- the server.
Here, again, we see that women's bodies become centers for sexual harassment in
the restaurant- particularly those that serve alcohol. Serving alcohol is certainly one way
to increase revenues, and serving lots of alcohol is even more appealing to those in power
in restaurants, however this places women in precarious situations in regard to dealing
with inebriated customers who view women as obj ects to be touched, fondled, or
grabbed. As we will see below, management does not always provide the level of support
necessary to guard women against unwanted treatment by customers, thus placing them
in further compromising positions.
One interesting thing to note in all of the customer accounts is that they involve
men. When asked if any of the women in the sample had experienced anything
"unwanted" or "inappropriate" from women, many of them stated that they indeed had
not. While women shared that women customers would come in and perhaps comment on
their bodies (e.g. as in giving compliments to their clothing or bodies), most women did
not view these comments as problematic, although Jaclyn shared, "If you're commenting
on my body, whether you're a man or woman, that' s just weird." The narrative accounts
of sexual harassment by customers that involve men acting in inappropriate and
unwanted ways often warranted women to call upon management when they felt that they
Sexual Harassment and Sexual Objectification by Management
As all women reported working for (white) men, nearly all women in the sample
reported sexual harassment and sexual obj ectification by those in management positions.
In fact, only two women (Teri and Raquel) in the sample shared that they felt they had a
male manager whom they could rely on if they were having issues with harassment from
coworkers or customers. They acknowledged that they felt these managers 1) did not
participate in or contribute to the sexualized atmosphere of their workplace; 2) would
take their claims seriously; and 3) would respond in an appropriate way. In Raquel's case,
her manager was a close family friend whom she trusted. When Raquel had a customer
who began to stalk her, management responded in a way she felt was appropriate in
helping her deal with a "very strange" customer.
Other women acknowledged (Sunny and Daphne) that women managers were
much more responsive in regard to sexual harassment by customers, but other women
disagreed. Clearly this is an area for further exploration, especially in light of male
managers who are assumed to be able to uphold and follow sexual harassment policies,
yet fail to do so in a number of ways described below. When asked if they had ever been
witness to or experienced anything unwanted or inappropriate sexually by management,
Angel and Donna had this to offer:
Angel: There were three owners. And there were instances of like, you walking
into an office, and a waitress would be giving an owner a blowj ob or something
like that. Like, that was the worst thing.
Donna: So, I think that they thought that there really were no boundaries. I mean,
my head manager, has put his hand down my shirt and caressed my breasts. I mean,
if he' s gonna do that, basically every other [pause] There were about four other
homosexual waiters who would just sit, and put their hands down our shirts. I
mean, it was like a very normal thing. [I: Not just yours, but other women too?]
Oh yeah! Other woman, yeah, mostly like the lounge girls though, the girls who
work in the lounge ...
These accounts highlight how owners and management are crucial to setting the
organizational tone for dealing with (and fostering) sexual harassment and sexual
obj ectification. As Donna begins to point out in her own analysis, if management is going
to behave inappropriately by fondling her breasts, then what is to stop other coworkers
(or customers) from doing so as well? Both Angel and Donna pointed out in their
interview that this was seen as a "normal thing" although Angel's example shows that
seeing other waitresses giving blow j obs to owners in the back offices of the restaurant
was "the worst thing." It is also important to note the consequences of these actions in
light of hostile environment sexual harassment, but also the possibilities in regard to quid
pro quo sexual harassment in which women could possibly face employment-related
sanctions if they do not willingly participate in sexual acts such as having their breasts
fondled or giving blowj obs. One interesting point to note in Donna' s account is that she
shares that her manager and four other employees are "homosexual," thus highlighting
the fact that while the sexual harassment literature nearly always focuses on
heterosexuall harassment, these acts can be perpetrated in a number of ways.
Another example of how management may set the organizational tone is an
example shared by Cheri about one of her managers,
Our boss wasn't much older than us and, I think, he took it a little too far. I don't
remember specific things he said but, like, he would ... jokingly proposition us,
like, the waitresses or bartenders ... or ask us very personal questions about
ourselves, like, our sexuality. He liked telling us his fantasies ... Oh, he liked to be
peed on! Or about things he had done with certain people. He got a kick out of
being a pervert and I think he thought it lightened up the atmosphere, I guess. It
was hard to take him seriously sometimes.
Sharing or being asked very personal sexual questions places people in precarious
positions, but also accents the intimate nature of some restaurants and relations between
employees and employers. Lysa pointed out that she felt like she was on an equal playing
ground with her boss, as she shared,
When you go into the restaurant, you kind of anticipate that, and, I don't know, I
mean, I have a relationship with my boss right now, like, he says things all the time
like, "Can I grab your ass?" And you know, my response is "Yeah, when I can get
a raise." You know? I give it right back. To me, it never bothers me, because I
know A) that he's never gonna actually grab my ass, and B) that I'll get raises and
promotions anyway because I work hard and he's made that clear too.
The threat of being touched by this manager is apparently never realized, as Lysa' s
boss only suggests a desire to grab her ass and does not act on it. It is possible that Lysa
views this as acceptable because she feels valued by her boss more for her ability than her
appearance or body as he had made that clear to her. One might question however how he
views her as a competent woman employee though, if he still expresses a desire to grab
her ass, thus accenting her body part rather than her ability as a whole person. In light of
the other experiences shared in the interviews, some might j okingly point out that asking
first to grab one's ass might be a step in the "right" direction, in comparison to other
members of management who might grab (breasts or asses) without asking first.
Given the amount of sexual harassment apparently ongoing with managers, I would
argue that some women in the restaurant may experience a double (or triple) bind when
dealing with sexual harassment and obj ectifieation from customers and the same from
managers (and coworkers)- those who are apparently there to handle such situations
should they arise. While some of the women in the sample did share some hearsay of
customers being asked to leave the restaurant for treating staff inappropriately sexually, it
did not appear as if women relied much on management. In fact, when Sunny and
Daphne were asked if they had relied on management to deal with "problem" customers,
they responded in shock,
Daphne: Any manager I've had to complain about a disrespectful customer, has
never, ever, ever been helpful. Sunny: "Oh, they're spending money." Daphne:
Their theory is that, "Oh, they're spending money, they're a good customer." So
basically, whatever they say goes.
These managers appear to be operating under the two aphorisms of successful customer
service and marketing: "The customer is always right," and "Sex sells" (Williams, 1997,
24). Inherently, these business mottos place employees, and women in particular, in
disadvantaged positions when dealing with customers and managers who exploit and
Also, if management is currently involved in litigation regarding their own sexual
harassment, as in the case of Gwen below, they may not be viewed as the appropriate
authority to ask for help,
Yeah, our District Manager was taken to court, or whatever, he was suspended for a
week, because he sexually harassed two girls at work. Because he touched their
butt and their boobs. 'Cause he likes to come up to girls and touch them, he' s a
very touchy feely kinda guy. He likes to "fix" people's ties. I remember when I first
started working there, Katya said that he made a sexual innuendo to her, he's like,
"Um, I'll let you go [home] if you suck my dick."
Although the statement above, "I'll let you go [home] if you suck my dick" appears less
like an innuendo and more like a direct and unwanted sexual proposition (with job related
consequences clearly of the quid pro quo harassment type), it is clear that male
management does not appear to be the most helpful resource in the restaurant when it
comes to dealing with sexual harassment. As in the case of Jaclyn and the man who
wanted her to insert a wine bottle into her vagina, she shared that she relied on a male
friend who was serving that day rather than her manager,
I had my guy friend waiter go over there, like, I transferred the table to him, and
I'm like ... [I: Were you able to talk to your manager about it?] Yeah, and my
bartender was like, you know, I'm sorry, but that happens all the time, like he can't
even really do anything about it. And like I was just so offended, and my guy friend
went over there, and he was like, "Do you have a problem?" And he was like, "Oh,
can I get another drink?" Just like chill with him but he was so horrible to me and
um Charlotte: So, that' s just something that comes with the territory with the job?
Yeah, like, I was upset and was really offended, I was just like, I just felt, violated
in a really weird sense, like, I don't even know him, and I was just like all upset,
like you know, whatever.
Here we see that the customer treated the male friend with respect although Jaclyn was
treated in a manner she describes as "horrible." This account also indicates the
bartender' s (perhaps the person in charge at the time) apathetic response to the situation
in that he reports, "he can't really doing anything about it." Clearly, there are many
responses that could have been taken to send a strong message to this particular customer
that his behavior was reprehensible on many levels, including asking him to leave the
By having an apathetic attitude toward sexual harassment and sexual
obj ectifieation generally, it sends a strong message to women restaurant workers that they
are valued less than the money spent by customers such as the ones above. It also sends a
defeatist message that if indeed one does have a problem with sexual harassment, that it
will not be addressed in the ways that it should be in a professional or legal manner. And
again, if managers actively participate in sexual harassment or obj ectifieation (in their
hiring practices, through their weak policies, or disregard for legal policies), how can
women rely on these individuals to provide them with the protection afforded by the law
in regard to sexual harassment from coworkers, customers, and management?
As women are doubly and triply bound by sexual harassment on all fronts in the
restaurant workplace, they are also bound as well as the broader sexist society that denies
them victim status or denies the experiences of sexual harassment in the courts and other
areas, thus creating a rash of consequences for women in these positions. If sexual
objectifieation and sexual harassment are organizationally sanctioned in restaurants, what
are the consequences for women working in these positions? It appears as if women in
this sample describe a process of self-obj ectifieation in their work as we will see below.
As a result of this organizationally mandated sexual objectifieation and resultant sexual
harassment, women's narratives here include how they cope with sexual harassment, thus
highlighting some of the issues with sexual harassment that is embedded into one' s job.
Women's Self-Objectification in Restaurant Work
Recent work on women' s sexual obj ectification posits that women's routine
experiences of obj ectification socialize girls and women to come to view themselves as
obj ects to be looked at and evaluated, effectively internalizing an outsider' s perspective
on their bodies (Bartky, 1990; Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997; McKinley & Hyde, 1996).
Self-obj ectification, therefore, is characterized by a heightened state of body
consciousness and body surveillance, in that women' s bodies essentially become obj ects
even to themselves. While the psychology literature has begun to examine the links and
numerous detrimental consequences of self-obj ectification, it has yet to be explored
qualitatively in regard to women' s persistent obj ectification as lived experience. This
work in indeed unique in its ability to add to the scant literature that focuses on women's
role as "obj ectified victims" in the workplace as in the case of Loe' s (1996) ethnography
of "Bazooms girls."
Selling One's Self
Using a grounded theory method of analysis allowed women's descriptions of
self-obj ectification to emerge on their own, and these processes of "selling one's self"
and "selling one' s body" highlight how women come to view themselves as obj ects or
commodities in the workplace. As in the case of Loe' s (1996) work, women appear to be
under constant surveillance about their appearance, and they work very hard to control
their self-presentation and appearance in order to make money as servers, hostesses, etc.
This self-presentation and appearance work is rooted in heterosexual norms of sexuality
and women often describe a process of treating one' s self as an obj ect in "prostituting"
one' self as part of one's work in the restaurant, as Kirsten describes: "your j ob is to sell
yourself, and as a server, you kinda sell yourself to other people, and the girls kinda use
their sexuality, to, you know, to sell themselves."
Here, we can see how management' s use of women' s bodies as part of the "sex
sells" maxim spills over to the women themselves in how they use their bodies to make
money as well. Many women in the sample acknowledged that they realized that they
were being treated as obj ects, and some shared that they had begun to view themselves as
such, but yet they were not willing to cross boundaries that they deemed unacceptable.
Sunny shared this about a regular customer of hers,
I have a man who's totally infatuated with me. Doesn't want sex with me. He just
wants me to become, an upper class citizen, a millionaire's princess, whatever. He
paid $5000 dollars to get all my teeth fixed already and I've never done nothing
with him. And he credits my account every month just so I don't have to do
anything stupid ... he gives me two grand a month, just to, uh, smile. Be nice. I
guess .... They want trophies ... I know that Bob just wants a trophy. He's like,
seventy years old and he's happy that I go to lunch with him.
Here we see that Sunny does not appear to mind acting as a trophy or princess for Bob in
the context of going to lunch. She later shared however that she had no plans of entering
a sexual relationship with him, perhaps reflecting an ultimate realization of
obj ectification or self-obj ectification for her. Angel also described a situation in which
she could pretend to treat herself as a willing sex obj ect to her customers, but only up to a
I remember there, we used to get treated badly, but I looked at it, like you know,
there' d be a group of four guys drinking, and I mean, if their bill was going to be
$300, the way I felt about it, is if you tip me 30%, you can say whatever the hell
you want to me. And that' s basically the way I felt about it, 'cause they're not
gonna- I don't actually have to go home with them, and if they wanna believe for
two hours that I'm gonna sleep with them, and I'm gonna walk out making $100
because they think that, off one table, in my mind, I was like, "who cares?" and that
was kinda the idea.
Here, treating one' s self as an obj ect is justified by the fact that 1) she does not actually
have to follow through with her self-obj ectification in presenting herself as a sexually
available woman, and 2) she makes an amount of money worthy of being treated in a
manner she finds unacceptable. These two examples perhaps begin to highlight the
various relationships between women restaurant workers and their customers in an
organizational context that treatment such as this is mandated if one wants to be
successful and make money in their j obs.
Selling One's Body
Similar to the work of LaPointe (1992) and Loe (1996), women in this sample
described how uniforms and dress served as part of the way in which women' s bodies
were obj ectified in the restaurant. Although the above descriptions of Lysa' s bikini
uniforms and Donna' s schoolgirl uniforms were set forth by restaurant management in
clear examples of institutionalized obj ectification, some women had some agency in
choosing what to wear to work. Here, we can see that women use dress in enhancing the
visibility of their bodies, thus one part of self-obj ectification if they are anticipating how
they will look through the eyes of others- customers. Stacey talked at length about how
she and others dressed in the restaurant where she worked,
No, we had our uniform ... but the girls were allowed to wear khaki skirts. Easily,
the days that I wore skirts, much better tips. Aw, hell yeah .... But even the servers,
their tips would go up, and I don't think anyone was doing it purposely, like
consciously, I would- I definitely noticed that. Like, cause my mom would ask me,
why are you wearing your skirt so much? [everyone laughs] "Um, I don't know
Mom!" [more laughs] Yeah, it's just sooo hot in there, when you're leaning over
Here we see that Stacey admits to wearing skirts consciously as a technique to
increase her tips, a common occurrence with the women in the sample who had some
control over their attire. Her expectation that her tips would increase if she dressed in
skirts rather than pants or shorts reflects how she has come to view her body through the
eyes of her customers, rather than herself. Angel summed up the consequences of having
to do so though: "It's hard because you wear less clothing to get more tips, and the
harassment goes up ... a lot."
Annette commented specifically about this phenomenon, and her thoughts reveal
the complexity of the processes of formalized obj ectification and women' s self-
Often I feel that females dress in a way that is sexier than should be, like Hooters
girls wearing short shorts and midriff shirts, you know? These girls display
themselves as sex objects, which then elicits like, sexual comments ... stares,
touching. If a girl doesn't want to be treated like a sex object, then she shouldn't act
or dress in such a way, you know?
Here Annette places women at the center of blame for their sexual obj ectification in how
they "choose" to dress, which would be an example perhaps of self-obj ectification.
However, Hooters is perhaps not the best example to get her point across however, in that
women who work at this restaurant are specifically required to wear small tank tops and
very short shorts (that often resemble undergarments rather than shorts) and are hired
based on their appearance and ability to have the "look" of a "Hooters girl," which is
perhaps a better example of institutionalized objectification (Williams, 1997).
As we saw above however, sexual obj ectification set forth by policy or praxis by
those in power often shapes women' s own self-obj ectification. When Annette was asked
to explain her thoughts on women's dress, she shared,
I don't know, I- just by acting normal, women and men are sexually harassed. I
don't have a clue as to how to make this to change, but I can be sure to not
purposely make myself look sexy! And- and if I feel that someone is acting
inappropriately toward me, I simply tell them that I feel that they're being
inappropriate and that I don't appreciate their behavior. If you don't want
something to happen ... you have to be sure to be assertive enough to stand up
against sexual harassment.
Annette's thoughts mirror the sentiment of many individuals who believe that women are
responsible for their sexual harassment in the workplace by dressing "sexy" or playing
the role of "sex obj ect." In stating that she would not purposely make herself look sexy,
Annette highlights one response of dealing with sexual harassment in making one's self
"asexual" in the workplace (Gutek, 1985). For women, this is often marked by stripping
away anything that may be indicative of one' s gender role in an attempt to eschew the
label of sex obj ect in the workplace. However, for women who are hired as sex obj ects-
knowingly or unwittingly, they often face sexual harassment as a result of the sexual
obj ectifieation set forth by organizations as part of their j obs.
Annette's Einal statements about what she would do if she were sexually harassed
(and according to her, she was, as you may recall a coworker painfully snapped a wet
towel at her when bending over) reflect perhaps the ideological chasm between what
society expects women to do about sexual harassment and what women actually do when
faced with experiences they find unwanted or inappropriate in their workplaces. Annette
shares that women have to be assertive to stand up against sexual harassment if they
"don't want something to happen." This tone indicates that women are culpable if they
experiences harassment, and that they also are responsible for making sexual harassment
end in their workplaces. While the links between formalized sexual obj ectifieation and
women' s self-obj ectifieation are just preliminarily are being explored in this paper,
studying women workers who experience these as part of their j obs, may provide ways of
understanding these processes in more nuanced and detailed ways as we see below in
women's responses to sexual harassment.
Women's Coping and Responses
As these accounts shared above indicate, unwanted sexual advances and the
constant threat of sexual abuse often characterize women's work in restaurants. Some of
extant restaurant and sexual harassment literature has begun focus on women's coping
and response styles when dealing with subj ective and obj ective experiences of sexual
harassment in the workplace (Folgero & Fjeldstad, 1995; Giuffre & Williams, 1994;
Hughes & Tadic, 1998; LaPointe, 1992; Paules, 1991; Rusche, 2003; Stockdale, 1998).
Some of this literature suggests that like other workplaces, women who experience sexual
harassment often 1) do not view their experiences as sexual harassment, and 2) do not
report their experiences (and those who do report often face severe job-related
consequences both interpersonally and organizationally) (Williams, 1997). And, as sexual
obj ectification is still such a newly emerging theme in the organizations literature, we
still are not sure how women conceptualize and cope with these experiences in their daily
lives as well.
What we do know about coping and responses to sexual harassment is that women
tend to vary in their responses to sexual harassment. LaPointe's (1992) work on
restaurant workers reveals that although some of the women in her sample did resist with
countering phrases or humor to diffuse uncomfortable situations, many of the women in
her sample tended to quit in the face of unwanted sexual harassment. As one server
noted, "I do see a lot of waitresses just put up with the abuse as though it' s part of the
job" (390; italics in original). LaPointe suggests that this coping technique may allow
women to tolerate the daily hassles and degradations of their workplaces in a way that
does not affect their self-worth as people. As LaPointe suggests, "waitresses emerge
resilient as they cope with the j ob and gender hierarchy they encounter" (391). The
women's narratives in this sample reflect various coping responses, representing how
women who work in organizations where sexual obj ectification and sexual harassment
are formalized as part of their j obs.
Dishing It Back
Similar to the servers in LaPointe' s (1992) work, many of the women in this
sample shared how they dealt with coworkers and customers who acted inappropriately
by giving it back to them. Gwen shared that when her coworkers "talked dirty" to her, she
would use that to respond back to them,
And when it comes from servers, what I'll do is turn around and say sexual
comments right back to them and make them feel just as big, because if you're
going to say sexual comments, if you're going to dish it out, you better take it.
Cause I can come up with something ten times worse! [laughing] I mean, that' s
what I have been told by some servers, you should become a porn star, you should
be a stripper ... they said to me, you've got such a dirty mouth! [laughing]
Sunny's response is also similar to Gwen's in how she would "bark back" at customers
treating her poorly,
Well, I have a different attitude, 'cause sometimes I'll bark back at them. And they
like, and then they just realize that' s my attitude. Cause some girls, like, they'll be
subservient, but I'll be subservient to a point, ok, then I'll be like, ok, stop.
Daphne: I wish I could just bark back in a nice way. But I take it too personally.
Sunny: I bark back nicely. Yeah, she (Daphne) takes it too personally, she goes too
deep into it, but me, I'm just like, "Ok dude whatever' or I'll just say something
like that. And they'll take it like, "Ok, she's not mad at me, but I-I might have
made her mad" so they kinda back off.
In contrast to her coworker Daphne, Sunny says that she is able to deal with her
customers by snapping back at them in the same way they treat her. Some authors would
argue that although women are attempting to regain control over an uncomfortable
situation by participating in such language or banter, they are still not on an equal playing
ground socially or economically in the broader society, nor in the restaurant where
exploitive dynamics often play out. In a rare incident, Madison was one of the few
women who shared that she directly confronted one of her coworkers about his sexual
touching when she first began her j ob,
I remember this one dude, he walked behind the hostess stand and I felt this little
knick on my butt, kinda like this [flicks her finger]. Ok, I've been accused of
being- like, blowing up too fast, especially when it comes to my rights as a woman.
My brother will just be like, Madison, it wasn't meant like that! [everyone laughs]
You know, ok, I'll let it go- maybe, I don't want to start a fight because it' s like my
coworker. But, the next time it happened, I turned right around and I looked at him,
and he just had this, he just had this "shit eating grin, I just grabbed your ass" look
and I just- I looked at him, and I just said, "If you ever do that again, I'll punch you
in the face."
She continued after Jaclyn (a woman much shorter than Madison) commented:
Jaclyn: You probably like intimidated him. Like me, telling someone that I was
going to punch them in the face probably wouldn't have the same effect [everyone
laughs]. Madison: Like, that' s the other thing, with the shoes and the skirt, I also
had to wear heels, so like, I was 6'2" with heels on, and the way I said it too, like I
said, "I'll fucking punch you in the face" like, under my breath, but I said it, you
know? And that was the last time that happened.
We can see that Madison's response to her coworker was effective in preventing him
from touching her again, although she admits her size may have had something to do with
her ability to stand up to him (and apparently stand a few inches taller than him). Jaclyn's
response and the laughter from other women suggest that this perhaps is a rare occasion,
as they agreed with the fact as a smaller woman, Jaclyn would perhaps not be as effective
in ending her harassment. Unfortunately for other women in the sample and in numerous
other workplaces, women's attempts to end sexual harassment may often result in
retaliation or the loss of their j obs, as we will see below.
Firing and Quitting
Unfortunately, LaPointe's (1992) work suggests that when women restaurant
workers attempt to resist sexual harassment in its various forms, they may often face
severe retaliation in the loss of good shifts, wages, or their j obs. Angel shared an
experience like this,
I ended up losing my job because my manager, I guess it was kinda threatening, but
the manager. ... he kinda yelled at me one day and said some really rude things to
me one day. I actually pulled him aside afterwards, and said, "You really can't
speak to me like that, like, I have find it uncalled for, I have to draw the line
somewhere, and you really can't say these things to me, especially in front of other
people, blah blah" and the next week I called for my schedule and he was like,
"You're not on the schedule, I don't think it' s a good idea if you work here
anymore." Like, after I had said something to him- because he really just crossed
the line, but like, he never put me back on the schedule. And that' s when I went to
work at the pub. And I never did anything about it, I guess I could've.
Interestingly, Angel later shared that this incident with her manager was not so much
about sexual harassment, but about the way he called her a, fuckingg moron, he insulted
my intelligence, he bothered me more because- I don't care if you say things to me, like, I
want to be sexy, I want to be attractive, it wasn't a sex thing ..." Similar to numerous
other women who have lost their j obs when attempting to stand up for themselves against
workplace abuse, she poignantly added, "So why don't women do anything about it? I
could've absolutely done something about it."
One thing that women have notably done in response to sexual harassment is to
quit their restaurant j obs as suggested by a number of researchers (LaPointe, 1992; Loe,
1996; Rusche, 2003). This sample of women is unique because it includes women who
previously worked in restaurants, and perhaps captures women who were not "cut out" to
deal with the sexual harassment that apparently comes with the territory of restaurant
work. As Cheri explained,
If you worked for a big chain or a place that had a general manager, or if the abuse
was coming from a coworker, then you could always complain to someone higher
up. But who ever does? If guess if you saw it happening and it was bothering
someone you knew, you could convince them to tell, but usually girls just let it go.
They never say anything, if they don't like it, they just quit, you know?
Three women (Sheila, Teri, and Daphne) in the sample shared that they
specifically left working in restaurants as a result of their experiences of sexual
harassment. Daphne, the woman above that Sunny described as taking things "too
personally" while working, shared this about her reason for quitting restaurant work:
"Well, that' s what made me decide not to stay with it. Money wasn't worth it anymore. I
couldn't deal with being obj ectified and having to grin and bear it. And just smile, and
pretend that I don't just want to punch you in your face." Here, Daphne clearly verbalizes
the connection between the sexual obj ectifieation and sexual harassment she experienced
while working, one of the few research respondents to do so. And while Teri elaborated
more fully on her reasons for leaving restaurant work, I noted that on the bottom of the
demographic question she filled out before her individual interview that she wrote:
"Never working for restaurants again."
Why Women Do Not Report
According to Williams (1997), "Many people today work in j obs in which they are
routinely subj ected to deliberate or repeated sexual behavior that is unwelcome, as well
as other sex-related behaviors that they consider hostile, offensive, or degrading. They
rarely label their experiences sexual harassment, however, because they are
institutionalized as part of their j obs" (20). Given the organizational culture in which
sexual objectifieation and sexual harassment are embedded in the structure, policy, and
praxis of the restaurant industry, women often do not report sexual harassment 1) because
they do not recognize their experiences as such, and 2) the organizational culture may
indeed discourage reporting (Folgero & Fjeldstad, 1995).
As the above accounts indicate, while women knew of incidents in which they felt
they could have (and felt they should have) done something about their sexual
harassment, they often did not. I would argue (as others might) that this is a result of the
"normalization" of sexual harassment as part of an "acceptable" organizational aspect of
the restaurant workplace. As Gail suggests,
I think, like, it comes with the territory, working in the restaurant business, that it' s
going to be a flirtatious type of environment. Like, customers, and everyone's just
like, like I've had managers be like, "Do you have a boyfriend? I'll be your
boyfriend." Jaclyn: Or like, you look pretty in that outfit ... Gail: And like I've
never been offended, I've never really been like, oh my god, that' s sexual
harassment. I kinda like smile back ..
It' s interesting to note here that these behaviors are viewed as "normal" aspects of this
work when dealing with customers and managers as part of one' s job. Madison began to
pontifieate on these paradoxes of normality in dealing with sexual harassment in one's
daily life and in other occupations with that of restaurant work,
Madison: Yeah, It' s like we've all shared experiences and it's obvious that there' s
obviously sexual harassment, but like, the reason it's happens, and we go along, it's
like, why is it such a big difference? Like, you guys think it' s like easier to take it
from someone that you do know, like your managers, but don't like- like, when
you're walking on the street and a total stranger says like, "Hey! Nice ass
sweetheart!" [everyone laughs] You can just be like, "Whatever." Because there is
a sense of that, because there' s also a sense of like, it' s not cool- it' s not cool, to be
like, "No, you're not going to do that to me" You know? Like, it's cool to put on
your smile with guys ... and it' s like, it's cool to let them Eix your bra, and let them,
you know, talk about your bra. It' s not cool to say like, "No, look, I don't want you
touching me." ..
Here, Madison begins to explore the reasons why women do not report sexual harassment
with people that they have to deal with on a daily basis, and later sums this up with: "You
don't want to be seen as the feminist bitch!" Not reporting requires that women can still
be seen as "cool" and allows them to not identify themselves as feminists around the men
and women they work with everyday.
As suggested by a number of women in the sample, as awkward as it is to endure
sexual harassment, they often pointed out that it would be even more awkward to do
something about it. Jaclyn directly quoted a 1990s television commercial on sexual
harassment when discussing why women do not report sexual harassment, "Like, it
would make it even more awkward to be like, "No, you're not touching my bra, and
'that 's sexual harassment, andI d'on 't have to takettttt~~~~~~~tttttt it! '" This particular commercial
shows a shrinking white woman standing next to a large white man in an office setting.
As he says sexually harassing comments to her, she shrinks in size even smaller, until she
says the quote from Jaclyn above, and grows back to normal size when standing up for
herself. Interestingly, the other respondents agreed that it would be awkward to say
something about sexual harassment and most agreed that it was most likely best not to do
anything ~ I bcue"ts not really worth it." And perhaps Donna's assertion sums this idea
up best in economic terms, "I mean, I've never, it's never happened to me that badly
where, you know, I mean, the money is just so good."
While these accounts suggest that women restaurant workers are resilient to the
sexual obj ectification and sexual harassment they experience, some women in the sample
obj ected to the notion that we should find these experiences acceptable. Charlotte shared,
"I mean, to me, that' s completely ridiculous that somebody would come into an
establishment and act that way toward a waitress. There's no excuse for that, and um, I
think that' s part of it. I don't think we should have to accept this as 'normal.' I don't see
why we have to just accept this at all." While not all women are in the social or economic
position to be able to agree and make comparable money in other occupations,
Charlotte's words certainly illuminate the dilemmas faced by women who must work in
the service industry and endure sexual obj ectification and sexual harassment as their
livelihood hinges on their ability to deal with such experiences.
Summary of Results
The Eindings of the current study strongly suggest that sexual harassment is much
more than an individual behavior occurring on an interpersonal level, and that sexual
harassment and sexual obj ectifieation are at times, organizational norms in workplaces
such as restaurants. As a result, women restaurant workers often face institutionalized
forms of sexual obj ectifieation and sexual harassment as part of their jobs. Women' s
institutionalized sexual obj ectifieation occur in the forms of appearance-based hiring,
uniforms, and the sexual language in the restaurant, and consequently, women often face
"normalized" and "acceptable" forms of sexual harassment and obj ectifieation from
coworkers, customers, and managers. Given that sexual objectifieation and sexual
harassment are organizational norms in the restaurant, women often do not label their
experiences sexual harassment as they have become "normalized" as part of their j obs.
Using a grounded theory analysis allowed for these nuances in women's narratives
to be explored in terms of the sexual obj ectifieation and sexual harassment they
experience on a daily basis from coworkers, customers, and managers. While many of the
women did not label their experiences as such, women often described in detail how their
bodies are placed at the center of their obj ectification and harassment experiences as a
result of those in power in the restaurants they worked. Often, women were hired to be
sex obj ects, disallowing them victim status and co-opting their participation in their own
self-obj ectifieation. The processes of institutionalized obj ectifieation and later self-
obj ectifieation manifested themselves through women coming to view their own bodies
through an outsider's perspective- customers and management. Restaurant work requires
women to be performative bodies- they must become part of the service they provide, and
using their bodies in sexual ways appears to be mandated if women want to make money
Clearly, as these accounts indicate, the restaurant industry is plagued with sexism,
sexual objectifieation, and sexual harassment. Essentially, the restaurant industry is a
reflection of the broader sexist society in which women are exploited for their bodies and
labor everyday. Sexual obj ectifieation and sexual harassment are just pieces of women' s
pervasive gender oppression in the United States and abroad, and organizations such as
restaurants rely on the sexist, racist, classist, heterosexist, and capitalist society to ensure
that women will continue to experience sexual harassment and obj ectifieation in their
attempts to earn a living. Perhaps most striking is that as a result of these processes,
women come to view their experiences as normal in the workplace, as they often face
such experiences outside of their employment as part of their lived experience.
These results suggest that for women working in restaurants, harassment and
obj ectifieation are not only experiences of being a woman, but even more so as a working
woman. Overall, women's work in restaurants in characterized by the persistent threat
and reality of sexual harassment, sexual objectifieation, and sexual abuse as a result of
the organizational and interpersonal aspects of the work. One of the most disturbing
aspects of these results is that women do not view these experiences as problematic
because of the normalization of these experiences in their work and in their daily lives.
Although there are a number of limitations to the current study, there are a number of
important research and policy implications for this work as well.
One of the most glaring limitations of the current study is the lack of racial and
ethnic diversity among this sample, which is at odds with the feminist methodology
employed. This is a serious drawback as Murrell (1996) has pointed out that few studies
in the sexual harassment literature focus on the experiences of women of color. This is
also important as Collins (2000 ) clearly states that methodologically, researchers
need to include African American women' s "subjugated knowledge" as part of the lived
experience of coping with interlocking and intersecting gender, race, and class
oppressions. Clearly, the sampling techniques employed here are at fault, as Cannon,
Higginbotham, and Leung (1988) suggest that researchers may often include participants
who are relatively available to them in small-scale qualitative projects, thus excluding
participants of diverse race and class backgrounds.
As this work is preliminary, including women of color in future samples is
important for a number of reasons. As many of the participants noted, there are few
people of color working in restaurants in the first place. There are even fewer women of
color working in restaurants, as men of color are often relegated to back of the house
positions doing menial work as dishwashers or "busboys." (Dirks & Rice, in press). Also,
as Teri, the Filipina American woman pointed out, women of color may only be able to
obtain jobs in restaurants that are linked to their ethnicity. For example, Asian American
women may only be hired as "exotics" in restaurants serving Asian fare and Latina
women may only be hired in "Mexican" or pan-Latin restaurants to serve as part of the
restaurant' s ambience and attempt at "authenticity." It is plausible then that these women
are hired more often because of their appearance than their skill than white American
women, thus perpetuating their roles as sexual and racial obj ects in the restaurant. This is
certainly an important area for further study.
Perhaps most importantly, examining the links between sexism and racism (as well
as classism) is crucial to understanding the experiences of women of color as they may
experience a "racialized sexism" or a genderedd racism" in their workplaces as well as in
their daily lives. Some authors have suggested too that examining these links is crucial as
black American women may actually underreport experiences of sexist events or sexual
harassment as a result of seeing racism as a more profound shaper of women' s daily
experiences of oppressive events (Murrell, 1996; Sigal et al., 2003). As sexual
harassment may be a pervasive experience in the lives of many women who continually
face racism in their daily lives, examining the unique experiences of multiple oppressions
is certainly an important topic for further study (Feagin & Sikes, 1994; St. Jean & Feagin,
Another possible limitation to this study is that it does not include men. In my
informal discussions and interviews with men who work in restaurants, they have
acknowledged that they are quite aware of the pervasive nature of sexual harassment of
women in the industry. When asked about their own personal experiences of sexual
harassment, one man j okingly shared with me, "I can't get sexually harassed enough! In
light of the other responses by men and the literature on men's sexual harassment, I
assume that this person implies that he cannot get "harassed" enough by women. As the
heterosexual men in Giuffre and Williams' (1994) restaurant study suggest, men label
sexual harassment such when they experience unwanted attention from men whom they
perceive to be gay. Some men have also shared these types of experiences with me as
well, and I think this also would make an excellent area for study. As MacKinnon (1979)
points out, sexual harassment impacts women differently than it does men, partly because
men sexually harass women specifically because they are women. Examining what this
means for men who perceive sexual harassment, especially in light of a growing
examination of same-sex harassment in the legal arena is also an important area for
One additional limitation to this study is that includes a sample of women who for
the most part have access or experience to higher education. Some of the women shared
for instance, that they were working in restaurants as a means to support themselves
while going to school or while doing work related to their other future endeavors (that did
not include doing restaurant work). Given that women who were seeking education
viewed restaurant work as a temporary means of employment, they may have viewed
their experiences of sexual harassment as merely a provisional inconvenience while
seeking "better" workplace possibilities.
For women who work in customer service positions for a living, workplace sexual
harassment may be a lifelong possibility. Sexual harassment then may then be viewed as
an inescapable aspect of the service work that is 1) available to them and 2) provides
enough income to support them or their loved ones. For women who lack the
opportunities, education, or desire to seek other employment, how might sexual
harassment come to be viewed "as part of one' s job" in the service sector? This is
certainly not to suggest that women do not face sexual harassment in other employment
areas as this has been well documented, but the unique experiences of women who deal
with coworker, management, and customer sexual harassment certainly need to be
explored given the growing service economy and the availability of these j obs to
The results of the current study have a number of research and policy implications.
As stated above, there is a need to qualitatively study the experiences of sexual
harassment and sexual obj ectifieation in the lives of all women. While (mostly feminist)
psychologists have recently begun to quantitatively examine the sexual harassment and
obj ectifieation experiences of mostly white, middle to upper class college women, these
studies often fail to provide a more nuanced and detailed look at the impact of these on
all women's daily (working) lives. The current reliance on survey data in this area fails to
examine the organizational cultures and structures that institutionalize forms of sexual
harassment and sexual obj ectifieation. Within these organizational cultures, the role of
"consensual" sexuality in the workplace and in daily life, also need to be examined as,
"Sexuality takes many forms in the workplace, and it has multiple and contradictory
meanings and consequences" (Williams, Giuffre, & Dellinger, 1999, 91). This is certainly
evident from the various narratives provided by the women in this sample.
Beyond the need to examine sexual harassment and sexuality in workplaces and
organizations, there has been very little empirical work exploring women's experience of
sexual objectification. Although Bartky (1990) provided an excellent definition and
theoretical framework for understanding the sexual obj ectification of women, it was not
until Fredrickson and Roberts' (1997) Objectification Theory that the specific processes
of obj ectification, self-obj ectification, and mental health consequences created a
promising research agenda for those interested in women' s sexual obj ectifieation. This is
specifically an area of research that is lacking in qualitative exploration, particularly in
the context of a burgeoning number of capitalist organizations and structures that seek to
obj ectify and exploit women' s (racialized and sexualized) bodies in the service sector-
such as the restaurant industry.
It is also interesting to note that the women in this study talked at length about the
obj ectifieation of their bodies and their labor without verbally situating their experiences
in a sexist, racist, and capitalist society. This may point to the fact that sexual harassment
and sexual obj ectification are such "normal" experiences of girls' and women' s
socialization, that it may be difficult to begin to problematize and resist such forces, thus
making them important topics in the feminist literature for empowerment and change.
Although the women in this study offered some hope in offering thoughts on change
within the restaurant industry, very little of this involved policy change in restaurants,
although there a number of industry implications in this area.
First, nearly all of the women in the sample stated that the restaurants that they
worked at had some form of sexual harassment policy. However, the narratives here
indicate that these policies are openly ignored or very weakly enforced by employees and
employers alike. In fact, every woman reported sexual harassment in the restaurants that
they worked, yet only one woman knew of a situation in which two women servers were
taking legal action against a male manager for sexual harassment. In this particular case,
this manager was reportedly suspended for one week before being able to return to work
while awaiting the trial. If managers do not follow policies regarding sexual harassment,
this may set the organizational climate by which employees may not feel the need to heed
these policies as well, placing women in a precarious position as they may face sexual
harassment not only from coworkers, but from management and customers as well.
Clearly, the sexual harassment policies currently in place are weak and nearly
unenforceable in regard to customer behavior. Also, the restaurant industry must desire
change in the first place in regard to the sexual harassment that is ostensibly embedded in
the organizational structure and culture of the industry. Given that the industry can most
likely increase revenues by creating hyper-sexualized establishments that use women's
bodies to entice and sell to customers, change appears to be unlikely in the near future.
However, restaurants dedicated to eradicating sexual harassment can make policy and
praxis changes and can enforce these seriously not only among employees, but customers
Some would also argue that creating policies regarding customer sexual
harassment is nearly impossible (Wagner, 1992), but changing the organizational and
institutionalized policies that support sexual harassment or create sexual obj ectification
may be one way to make change. For example, policies regarding grooming and uniforms
may be changed to not highlight or obj ectify women's bodies in the restaurant. Also,
some would argue that restaurant workers could unionize and fight for better working
conditions, but this is problematic given the high turnover rate and temporary nature of
restaurant work. However, for professional restaurant workers (bartenders or chefs for
example), unionizing could be an option to fight for more equitable treatment in the
It should be made clear here that some in the industry have come to view sexual
harassment as a "fun" part of the j ob with coworkers and they may not actually desire
change to occur (or report that change will never occur). The women in this sample
acknowledged the pervasive nature of sexual harassment in their work, yet pointed out
that restaurant work did have many positive attributes. While this may be an attempt to
reduce the cognitive dissonance created between the degrading aspects of the work and
the money it provides, this paradox is certainly something that needs to be explored
further as it appears that women in this sample did not necessarily problematize sexual
harassment in the restaurant as much as one might expect. This analysis is important in
viewing the social exchange that occurs between customers and women workers, as
sexuality, sexual harassment, and tipping create interesting imbalances in power between
men and women.
This study has highlighted the ways in which women restaurant workers experience
sexual harassment and sexual obj ectifieation as part of one' s j ob. Those in power in
restaurants- mostly white men as this sample indicates, appear to strategically hire and
place women in roles that require them to fulfill the "sex obj ect" work role that has been
delineated to women for as long as women have been working outside of the home. This
"sex obj ect" role requires that women' s bodies and appearance take precedence over their
skill and ability. In a sexist, capitalist society, women's bodies therefore are exploited and
commodified, and thus, women become the service in restaurants and other service
sectors of the economy.
In this light, organizations that create or support policies or structures intended to
sexually obj ectify women' s bodies (and labor) must be implicated as they create a
workplace climate in which sexual harassment is come to be seen as an "acceptable" part
of one's job. The fact that women restaurant workers face pervasive sexual harassment
and persistent sexual obj ectifieation from coworkers, customers, and managers while
working suggests that the restaurant industry has not yet begun to take issues of sexual
exploitation in the workplace seriously, and in fact may be exacerbating this situation
with weak policies and an open disregard for laws regarding sexual harassment. This
disdain indicates that many in the restaurant industry disregard ideas of equality and
safety for women from workplace sexual harassment, violence, and exploitation, thus
furthering the subjugation working women face in a broader sexist, racist, classist,
heterosexist, and capitalist society.
Perhaps the most disturbing finding in this research is that as a result of the sexual
harassment and sexual obj ectifieation that these women face in their workplaces daily,
that these women have come to view these as "normal" aspects of working and living
within a sexist society. Girls and women have thus become socialized to view themselves
as obj ects without recourse. As such, sexual harassment and sexual obj ectification will
continue to exist, and those in the patriarchy who perpetuate these systems of oppression
cannot only benefit socially, but financially as well as we have seen in this study. There
are a number of areas for future research, as we have only begun to see sexual harassment
and sexual obj ectification as important topics of study recently in the literature. We can
only insist that future work provide practical solutions to aid all women in deconstructing
an oppressive capitalist society that systematically exploits half of its members.
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Danielle Dirks is a graduate student and researcher in the Department of Sociology
at the University of Florida. She received her Bachelor of Science in psychology and her
Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University of Florida. Her current research
interests include racial and ethnic relations, gender, and beauty.