In the wake of #MeToo and Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court despite the sexual assault allegations brought against him, the Brooklyn Historical Society is highlighting a less-talked about plight: The sexual harassment immigrant women face in the workplace.
Wednesday’s “Immigrant Women, Labor and the Quest for Gender Justice” will feature Rachel Isreeli of the Center for Family Life’s Cooperative Development Program, Joanna Morales of Golden Steps Elder Care Cooperative and ProPublica reporter Bernice Yeung, who will discuss her new book, “In a Day’s Work: The Fight to End Sexual Violence Against America’s Most Vulnerable Workers.”
“What I’d like to see during the conversation is the ways in which this really robust conversation we’re having now has been affecting low-wage, working-class women for a long time, and there’s been a lot of effort to address this issue even before there was a hashtag,” Yeung told Metro.
Trauma and fear of backlash, not being believed or job loss are among the many reasons some women do not report sexual harassment or sexual assault. Immigrant women, especially those in low-wage professions, face those and other factors.
“It feels different when you’re in that hand-to-mouth situation, and there’s the language barrier to take into consideration and concerns about threats of deportation or what it might mean for your immigration status, which is often used to coerce them into unwanted activities and keep them quiet after the fact,” Yeung explained. “Also there’s isolation in these particular jobs — it’s nightshift, a far, remote farm field, a domestic worker in a house behind a gated community — so finding recourse, assistance or even someone to tell presents additional barriers.”
#MeToo, Kavanaugh, sexual harassment and the 2018 midterm elections
Wednesday’s event at BHS comes days after Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation, which was preceded by Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony of his alleged sexual assault. It’s also taking place on the eve of the 27th anniversary of Anita Hill’s similar testimony against now-Justice Clarence Thomas, which led to a huge uptick in women running for — and gaining — office.
Post-Kavanaugh and #MeToo, Yeung expects to see a similar result in the coming 2018 midterm elections.
“From what we’re all seeing now is women are really passionate about this issue in a way we’ve never seen before, and I think this issue will guide a lot of voters in the upcoming elections,” she said. “At the same time, there’s a faction of the population that’s resistant to this conversation, and we’re in this really fascinating moment where there’s a culture clash. Regardless, it’s something candidates will have to contend with and have to decide whether they believe these stories or not.”