More than 140 women working in California politics penned a letter on Tuesday vowing to speak out against the “degrading” and “dehumanizing” treatment they’re subjected to by men in the workplace.
The letter, posted on the Los Angeles Times site, was signed by six female legislators and dozens of other women working as staffers, political consultants, lobbyists and other governmental positions within the California Capitol.
It comes on the heels of revelations about film producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct scandal, which the letter’s authors say was no surprise to them given how “pervasive” sexual harassment is in their own field.
As women leaders in politics, in a state that postures itself as a leader in justice and equality, you might assume our experience has been diﬀerent. It has not. Each of us has endured, or witnessed or worked with women who have experienced some form of dehumanizing behavior by men with power in our workplaces. Men have groped and touched us without our consent, made inappropriate comments about our bodies and our abilities. Insults and sexual innuendo, frequently disguised as jokes, have undermined our professional positions and capabilities. Men have made promises, or threats, about our jobs in exchange for our compliance, or our silence. They have leveraged their power and positions to treat us however they would like.
Similar to what many of Weinstein’s accusers described, the letter’s authors wrote they faced fear about workplace repercussions and shame about speaking out in an environment where others are not sympathetic to their experiences.
Why didn’t we speak up? Sometimes out of fear. Sometimes out of shame. Often these men hold our professional fates in their hands. They are bosses, gatekeepers, and contacts. Our relationships with them are crucial to our personal success.
We don’t want to jeopardize our future, make waves, or be labeled “crazy,” “troublemaker,” or “asking for it.” Worse, we’re afraid when we speak up that no one will believe us, or we will be blacklisted.
Now, they say, enough is enough.
“Each of us who signed this op-ed will no longer tolerate the perpetrators or enablers who do,” the signatories wrote.
The writing comes one day after countless women wrote “Me too” on social media platforms to signify that they, too, have been victims of sexual harassment or assault. The movement was spurred by actress Alyssa Milano, whose initial tweet drew more than 25,000 responses in a matter of hours.
The politicians who wrote the letter are now asking other women who want to voice their experiences or propose solutions to workplace sexual misconduct to share their stories here.