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Boston University Law Review

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The history of sexual harassment law─which I have occasion to consider as part of this symposium on the fiftieth anniversary of Title VII─can be divided, if not neatly, into three eras. The 1970s was home to the emergence of consciousness about the frequency and harm of sexually harassing behaviors in the workplace─and a name to describe them. The 1980s and 1990s saw the development and embrace of a theoretical understanding of sexual harassment as a form of discrimination, outlined in Catharine MacKinnon's path-breaking 1979 book, The Sexual Harassment of Working Women, and the development of a comprehensive set of substantive principles about what constitutes actionable harassment and who can be held liable for it. Finally, the last decade and a half has seen critique on both ends─from some scholars who claim sexual Harassment law has gone too far (or in the wrong direction) and from others who claim it has failed to transmit cultural understandings necessary for equality and stalled with a type of complacency about a system that has largely failed to eradicate the harassing behaviors that continue to impede women's equal opportunity in the workplace.



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