#metooscience – Abuse of power, sexual and gender-based harassment in science (Part 2)

Victoria S. and Franziska S.

In our first post, we wrote about the widespread nature of abuse of power and harassment in the university context. But why is this whole issue so problematic? What are the consequences on an individual and structural level?

The consequences of psychological violence that is neither recognized nor addressed are significant – and the reasons are deeply rooted in society.

This is about violence. Violence that, without recognition and mitigation, quickly leads to not only psychological suffering for the victims but also their departure from the systems in which they were subjected to violence. The issue of harassment, abuse of power, and sexism is also always a question of diversity. It is the marginalized groups (e.g., women, queer individuals, people of color, or persons with disabilities) that are already underrepresented in these contexts who are disproportionately likely to experience discrimination . Reports from victims are often not taken seriously, their experiences questioned, and internal university procedures built on the burden of proof for the victims – factors that contribute to victims blaming themselves for what they have experienced, which, in turn, affects their performance and motivation. Interactions with complaint mechanisms at universities are often influenced by societal norms and attitudes, which, due to a lack of awareness, can further cause harm, and the consequences can be severe.

While there is now a consensus in social psychological research about the psychological consequences of harassment, it does not necessarily align with what society defines as harassment. Harassment myths ( for example: “If it was really that bad, she would have done something about it”) are still prevalent, despite being proven false. This suggests that only overt behaviors that occur behind closed doors, involve physical contact and explicitly verbalized coercion, are considered harassment. In reality, even seemingly less severe behaviors, such as objectifying language about women or sexist jokes, must be regarded as harassment, given their significant impact on women in the workplace and their often frequent occurrence. These myths persist even at universities, shaping a narrow script of harassment that does not include the majority of proven harmful behaviors.

Therefore, there is a need for education for everyone who teaches, works, researches, and learns at universities. And there is a need for independent complaint mechanisms that incorporate this perspective into all procedures initiated at universities, representing, advising, and supporting victims.

#metooscience – Advocacy, Awareness, Workshops

We, Franziska and Victoria, launched the initiative metooscience in 2021 to raise awareness about abuse of power, particularly gender-based discrimination in science. Our platform (https://www.instagram.com/metooscience/) provides a voice for victims and sheds light on the psychological mechanisms behind it.

Individuals affected by sexual discrimination can share their stories through our anonymous contact form (https://portal.metoo.science). On Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/metooscience/), we provide scientific information and insights on the topic, contextualizing your experiences. Additionally, we offer awareness workshops for universities and organizers in cultural venues. Our primary objective is to foster a cultural shift and enhance awareness regarding sexual harassment, which we aim to translate into political changes, including the updating of laws related to sexual workplace harassment.

Suggested Readings

Bondestam, F., & Lundqvist, M. (2020). Sexual harassment in higher education–a systematic review. European Journal of Higher Education, 10(4), 397-419. https://doi.org/10.1080/21568235.2020.1729833

Fitzgerald, L. F., & Cortina, L. M. (2018). Sexual harassment in work organizations: A view from the 21st century. https://doi.org/10.1037/0000060-012

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WordPress Cookie Plugin by Real Cookie Banner