Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. Shereen Bingham
Sexual harassment is an issue that currently appears in the media on a daily basis. As the cultivation and agenda setting/priming theories argued, the media have the power to shape audiences’ behaviors, realities, beliefs, morals, and myths about issues like sexual harassment. The media can indicate to audiences what issues to think about and what issues are more important than others. Newspaper editorials have the same power to influence readers along with the opportunity to offer opinion or argument on issues. There are many myths about sexual harassment that the American society embraces, and newspaper editorials may combat or perpetuate sexual harassment by either challenging or endorsing those myths. The purpose of this study was to determine if newspaper editorials were referencing sexual harassment myths, and if referenced, were they endorsing or challenging those myths. A content analysis of editorials from four elite American newspapers was the method used. The results showed that the overwhelming majority of newspaper editorial writers were challenging sexual harassment myths. However, most importantly, they overwhelmingly challenged the myth that suggest sexual harassment is a fact of life that women must tolerate. As a secondary analysis, the study looked at the historical impact of the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings on sexual harassment. Interestingly, the results showed that the majority of sexual harassment myths that were endorsed in the study occurred during the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings. The Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas findings also suggest the impact the hearings had on the awareness of the issue of sexual harassment in society. The number of editorials written about sexual harassment issues was six times greater after the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearing than the number of editorials written about sexual harassment issues before the hearings. Overall, the findings of this study were very important to the issue of sexual harassment. The large majority of newspaper editorial writers of this study are emphasizing sexual harassment issues and challenging sexual harassment myths in their editorials. Hence, they are lowering the tolerance for sexual harassment in society.
Bokorney, Judy, "Sexual harassment myths in newspaper editorials: Myth breakers?" (1997). Student Work. 3126.