The NY Times Asked Women in Blue-Collar Workplaces About Harassment.

At least in academia, feeling one’s life is threatened is relatively rare, disturbed gun carrying students and brutal rapists aside. Blue-collar work can be different. What can academic feminists do?

A woman on a repair crew was deliberately stranded on top of a 200-foot wind turbine by her male co-workers after enduring months of lewd taunts. An aerospace worker got the nickname Bird Seed because men flocked around her like pigeons. Men dropped tools on female co-workers or deliberately turned on electrical power when they began working on lines.

Sexual harassment has been endemic in blue-collar workplaces from the moment that women entered them and continues to this day, according to interviews with more than a dozen employment lawyers, academics and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission workers, as well as dozens of women who described such incidents. More than 80 women in these fields responded to a call for accounts of sexual harassment. They, along with several others interviewed, cited sustained, even dangerous, abuse in workplaces from factories to shipyards, mines to construction sites…

Physical danger is one issue that sets sexual harassment in blue-collar environments apart; unions, torn between representing the accuser and the accused, are another.

The situation of so many women seems so awful. We do teach some of their abusers. We can organize conferences to increase community awareness. We can write academic books and less formal pieces.

Could we get some part of our professional organizations to highlight work already done? And to find ways to increase attention to such problems?

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