Tuesday, May 20, 2008

90% of Teen Girls Report Sexual Harassment

A new study has been published concerning the way sexism is perceived by teen girls. The authors of the study surveyed 600 girls between the ages of 12 and 18, from California and Georgia who come from varied ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Ninety percent of girls reported experiencing sexual harassment at least once. Specifically, 67 percent of girls reported receiving unwanted romantic attention, 62 percent were exposed to demeaning gender-related comments, 58 percent were teased because of their appearance, 52 percent received unwanted physical contact and 25 percent were bullied or threatened with harm by a male. 52 percent of girls also reported receiving discouraging gender-based comments on the math, science and computer abilities, usually from male peers, and 76 percent of girls reported sexist comments on their athletic abilities, again predominantly from male peers.
Perhaps more important than the existence of sexism is the way in which girls interpret the harrassment. The study, which will appear in full in the May/June issue of Child Development, Vol. 79, Issue 3, under the title "Perceived Experiences with Sexism Among Adolescent Girls", notes that there are cultural factors which influence whether any given girl interprets sexist comments as an external problem (i.e. indicative of the shortcomings of the sexist) or as indicative of their own "flaws."

Girls who had been exposed to feminist ideas, either through the media or an adult such as a mother or teacher, were more likely to identify and report sexist behavior than were girls who had no information about feminism. Girls who reported feeling pressure from their parents to conform to gender stereotypes were also more likely to perceive sexism. Girls who felt atypical for their gender and/or were unhappy with stereotypical gender roles were most likely to report sexism and harassment.
The study's authors noted that it is important that girls learn that sexism is an external problem because frequent sexual harassment can lead to low self-esteem and the expectation and acceptance of demeaning behaviors in heterosexual romantic relationships.

H/T Feministing

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