Organizational Norms of Sexual Harassment and Gender Discrimination in Danish Academia: From Recognizing through Contesting to Queering Pervasive Rhetorical Legitimation Strategies

Bontu Guschke, Sine Nørholm Just, Sara Louise Muhr*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Studies of sexual harassment in professional contexts, including academia, provide detailed explanations of the predominance and pervasiveness of sexist organizational norms that enable harassing behavior—and offer a thorough critique of the structures and practices that support and reproduce these norms. When sexist organizational norms are linked to acts of sexual harassment, it becomes clear that harassment is systemic, and that organizations tend to justify and excuse the very norms and behaviors that propagate harassment. Focusing on the context of Danish universities, we do not ask whether sexism exists in Danish society generally and in academia specifically, but rather, why issues of systemic sexism and normalized sexual harassment have been ignored for so long and how sexist organizational norms have been maintained. Based on an investigation of prevalent rhetorical strategies for legitimating sexual harassment and gendered discrimination, we discuss how recognizing these strategies may translate into concerted action against them. Introducing queer organization studies as a lever for such translation, we suggest that a norm-critical approach may, first, explain how currently dominant norms offer sexist excuses for continued harassment and, consequently, delegitimize and change these unjust norms and the untenable practices they support.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGender, Work & Organization
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 09 November 2022.


  • Academia
  • Legitimation strategies
  • Norm critique
  • Queer organization studies
  • Rhetorical analysis
  • Sexism
  • Sexual harassment

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