The #MeToo movement has been an empowering channel for millions of women. Through it we’ve seen Hollywood’s greatest faces of influence and women in the political realm reject the various male powerhouses of their industries from thrones that were once thought to be untouchable. And even though their voices have drawn attention to a pervasive issue, the spotlight has done little to turn its focus on the many women of color in fields that are not as glamorous who are also victims.
In a new profile on the female employees at a Ford manufacturing plant, women of color in the automotive industry are speaking out for the many women who have been looked over in the Me Too movement and asking #WhatAboutUs.
On Tuesday, The New York Times published a profile on female employees who endure racism and sexual harassment.
The jobs were the best they’d ever have: collecting union wages at Ford, one of America’s most storied companies. But women at these 2 Chicago plants were treated like property or prey. https://t.co/2szUPgMt80
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 19, 2017
The piece outlines the various ways the women at two Ford plants in Chicago were treated as “property or prey” by the men they worked with. In a rundown of the plant’s culture, The New York Times article describes how male employees “groped women, pressed against them, simulated sex acts or masturbated in front of them.”
According to the article, Ford awarded over 100 women workers at the plant a $22 million payout for a sexual harassment lawsuit in the 90s.
Afterwards, the company pledged to make efforts to implement changes at the two Chicago plants. To do so, they hired outside monitors to oversee the changes and fired or disciplined eight of its mangers and employees. More than a decade later, the problem is still present. According to NYT, in 2015 nearly half of the complaints submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission involving Ford had come from the same Chicago plants.
It also highlighted the way coercion became a prominent problem at the factory.
As the article explains, it hasn’t been uncommon for women to be pressured into “requests” of sexual nature from the overwhelmingly male hierarchy at the plant. Managers rewarded women who gave into their advances with promotions, and punished those who turned them down. Some women described being penalized with heavier work loads that would often times turn out to be dangerous to their health and safety, all for refusing to have sex with managers.
The female employees of Ford are a reminder that the voices of so many other women are still being ignored.
Women of all industries must be able to harness and lean on the same type of public support that women in Hollywood who have endured abuse have also been afforded. It’s time to make #MeToo inclusive to all.