There’s more to it than meets the eye

Dreamland IX

I’ve been reading a paper – The Sexual Harassment of Uppity* Women by Jennifer L. Berdahl (Journal of Applied Psychology 2007, Vol. 92, No. 2, 425-437) – that posits that the target of sexual harassment is perhaps the woman who is least identified as being the target: that is, she is not of the ‘attractive woman’ mystique, but rather is more ‘one of the boys’.

Ms. Berdahl did three studies

“to test the prediction that women who violate feminine ideals are most likely to be sexually harassed in ways traditionally identified as harassing to women.”

In other words, rather than testing once again that the victim of sexual harassment is the traditionally desirable, good-looking and attractive woman, she examined the role played by women who take on characteristics more acceptable to men.

Traditionally, harassers were thought to be motivated by sexual desire towards their victim, or were motivated by a desire for power over their victim. Through her testing, the author was able to show that, in fact, the victims of sexual harassment were more likely to be women who were dominant or more masculine in their workplace environment, and in fact the harasser may be motivated by a hostility towards women who demonstrate a seemingly more masculine persona.

Ms. Berdhal does admit that the sample sizes in her study were small, and that much more research is required before any definite conclusions can be obtained.

I find this all rather interesting in light of some of Sonny’s predilections for the women in his life:

  • Lulu, his wife, charges through everything, not letting anything stand in her way. She raised their three children pretty much the way she wanted to, and from what I could see, Sonny didn’t participate a lot. Lulu and her sisters were sexually abused by their father, while their bipolar mother slipped in and out of awareness of what was going on.
  • Celia was pretty much a fast-talking, hard-living lost soul who raised herself and was tough as nails. She was outspoken, too.
  • Although I didn’t personally know the woman who he was chasing on the run down to Mexico, she certainly wasn’t the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen. I’ll leave that to you, dear reader, to decide on his motivation for that one.
  • Erin was a no-bullshit kind of woman, pretty yet vulnerable. She had hard edges, but she didn’t appear to be overly tough on the outside, although she could be one of the boys if she had to. She dumped an abusive husband after he fathered her two children.
  • Sonny’s present love monkey is just what the doctor ordered. She’s tough, hard-edged, outspoken and filled with anger at anyone and everyone. She too fits the profile perfectly. In fact, she’s pretty much a mirror personality of Sonny’s father.

Of course, it’s easy to sit back on a sofa – fat, dumb and happy – and pretend to think that any of this might apply to Sonny, but it is suspicious in its relevance to his situation. The fact that he appears to prefer women similar to those noted in the study is remarkable in itself.

* uppity: taking liberties or assuming airs beyond one’s station; presumptuous: “was getting a little uppity and needed to be slapped down” –American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 2004.

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