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Abstract

In this Article, Professors Adler and Peirce examine the development and implications of the "reasonable woman" standard that is gaining increasing acceptance as the appropriate gauge for measuring the offensiveness of the conduct at issue in sexual harassment cases. The authors begin by reviewing the origins of sexual harassment law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, paying particular attention to the history of "hostile environment" causes of action. Professors Adler and Peirce then discuss how and why the reasonable woman standard evolved as an alternative to the conventional "reasonable man" and "reasonable person "standards that had been the usual measures of culpable conduct in sexual harassment cases, and how courts have applied the reasonable woman standard in cases involving a wide range of allegedly harassing behaviors. The authors conclude by discussing a variety of important concerns raised by the implementation of the reasonable woman standard, including the fundamental question of whether it is fair to hold men to a standard of conduct that, because they are men, they may be unable to understand or appreciate fully.

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