Campaigning against workplace ‘sexual harassment’ in the UK: Law, discourse and the news press c. 1975 – 2005

Louise A. Jackson* (Lead Author), Sophia Ayada, Ashlee Christoffersen, Hazel Conley, Frances Galt, Fiona Mackay, Colm O'Cinneide

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This article examines how and in what ways workplace ‘sexual harassment’ achieved social and legal recognition in the UK news press following its importation from North America in the mid-1970s. It assesses the role of feminist campaigners working within institutions (trade unions, human rights advocacy, the Equal Opportunities Commission, and journalism itself) in shifting public discourse and in using the media to educate and promote social change. We demonstrate that the trajectory was far from a linear progression. Initial hostility within the popular press in the early 1980s was replaced with sympathetic coverage across the party-political spectrum by 1990. However, this consensus broke down in the 1990s as a result of politicised and polarised coverage of a series of claims brought by women in the services and armed forces against the backdrop of debates about ‘compensation culture’ and membership of the European Union. Whilst change was effected at the level of employment law, formal practice, and in the human resources policies of larger employers, ‘sexual harassment myths’ were resilient as a thread within ‘everyday cultural discourse’ and, by implication, within informal workplace cultures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
JournalContemporary British History
Early online date12 Oct 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Oct 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • sexual harassment
  • work
  • discourse
  • media
  • feminism


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