The wake of the #MeToo movement this past year encouraged many women across the country to speak up about their experiences with sexual harassment. Many came forward through viral social media posts as other women responded to them with heartfelt comments of affirmation.
Despite the movement’s seeming success in empowering women to share their stories, many have pointed out that it may also be marginalizing the voices of women of color. An African American woman who recently went public with her experience of workplace sexual harassment explained that she only felt motivated to do so because her employer had disregarded the report she had filed. This sparked a discussion on how women of color, especially those of the working class, may struggle to find avenues to speak up.
One person who responded pointed out that African American women who work low-wage, blue collar jobs might not have the luxury to build large followings to advocate for them. She explained that “harassment is an exercise of power at work,” noting that being a woman is already one reason to expect discrimination, and being black adds another. African American women may be more vulnerable to the abuse of power than other women. She further added, “if your paycheck is the only thing standing between you and your family and homelessness next week, it’s much easier to be coerced by someone sexually.”
The discussion also referenced statistical reports that showed the marginalization of women of color. One report concluded that African Americans were at the highest risk of being sexually harassed compared to any other race in the United States.
Placing recognition where it may be overdue
As the #MeToo movement continues to make progress in the media, it may be worth noting how many publicized survivor stories tend to be centered around celebrities and other wealthy women who are more likely to be widely influential. Companies looking to revise their policies to create a more supportive workplace for female employees may want to consider how issues of sexual harassment also intersect with a woman’s race and social class.