The Politics of Sexual Harrassment: The Ping-Pong Effect in the European Union

In recent months, we have been digging through the Institute for Human Sciences archives for podcast material. This week we shift gears and kick off a new series on the “Political Cultures of the European Union”. The series of 13 events was organized by Vivien Schmidt, Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration and Director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University, as part of the Institute for Human Sciences European Commission sponsored project “Getting to Know the European Union: European Culture(s) in Focus.” The lectures explore the diversity of political perceptions and traditions among the citizens and member states of the European Union, addressing philosophical issues as well as empirical ones.

Unfortunately, we were only able to record six of the events and the quality of the recordings is not up to our usual standards; however, the conversations are quite fascinating, so we’ve opted to podcast the unedited recordings where available, beginning with Kathrin Zippel’s March 4, 2009 lecture and discussion at the Center for International Relations on the politics of sexual harassment in the EU.  Zippel is an associate professor of sociology at Northeastern University and an affiliate of the Center for European Studies at Harvard University.

In her lecture, Zippel noted that while the US has been at the forefront in the discussion of women’s issues and in the fight against sexual harassment, feminists in the EU have begun to make strides. Using Germany as a case study to highlight the EU experience, she compared the two environments, noting the greater awareness of sexual harassment in the US. Europeans, she argued, are more hesitant to confront it as the outcomes are more uncertain. She described what amounts to a “ping-pong effect” resulting from the interaction between the EU and member states as activists lobby the EU for policies that have to be implemented at the national level but which raise issues that go back up to the EU level.

Kathrin Zippel’s homepage

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