Researcher ORCID Identifier


Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE)

Second Department


Reader 1

Paul Hurley

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The “Reasonable Woman Standard” was first used in the 1991 case of Ellison v. Brady and has been central in shaping legal responses to sexual harassment. However, as societal norms and understandings of gender dynamics continue to evolve, as we experienced with the #MeToo movement, this “Reasonable Woman” often fails to grow with the times. I argue that this “Reasonable Woman” fails to encapsulate the complexities of sexual harassment experiences across different genders and cultural backgrounds. In this thesis, I deconstruct the historical development of the “Reasonable Woman Standard,” analyzing its roots in the “Reasonable Person Standard.” Through a combination of legal analysis, case studies, and feminist legal theory, this thesis exposes the standard’s limitations in providing equitable justice and suggests reevaluating how harassment is adjudicated. Systemic barriers—financial, emotional, and institutional— discourage engagement with the legal system. Drawing on John Rawls’ concept of the “worth of legal standards,” I advocate for making legal rights accessible for all individuals. Key to this analysis is the intersectional approach, drawing from Kimberlé Crenshaw’s critique of single-axis frameworks in antidiscrimination law. Moreover, this thesis discusses the issue of underlitigation in sexual harassment cases, where serious misconduct is often misrepresented as negligence to fit within the confines of insurance coverage, trivializing the severity of harm and obstructing justice. The crux of the argument is that the current system often obstructs the right to action for tort victims, leading to a situation where one might have a legal claim against those causing harm but lack financial means, which renders this claim effectively powerless. In response, I present the concept of workplace harassment insurance, exploring three implementation routes: company-level insurance, individual-level insurance, and publicly funded compensation. Through a comparison with New Zealand, where legal responses differ in addressing similar issues, this thesis identifies best practices and areas of reform that could lead to a more just legal system in the United States. The overarching goal is to transform sexual harassment law to be inclusive and responsive to the diverse needs of society, drawing lessons from a comprehensive array of legal perspectives.