#MeToo woke us up, and now #TimesUp is taking us from awareness to action.
We were beyond excited to see Ai-jen Poo, Director of NDWA, on the red carpet as Meryl Streep’s date to the Golden Globes Sunday night, talking about the #TimesUp campaign — here’s a short clip of their conversation on the red carpet in case you missed. It marks a huge turning point in our culture to see so many powerful leaders from different movements sharing a unified message with millions.
Inspired by actresses and activists alike condemning sexual harassment and assault in ALL workplaces, many of us are wondering what we can do to help end what seems like a universal scourge of sexual harassment and assault.
Ai-jen said on the red carpet that “this is a movement where there’s space for everyone, and there’s a role for everyone.” There is a special role for those of us who employ a person in our homes, whether a nanny, house cleaner, or home attendant. These are the women whom Oprah — the daughter of a domestic worker — acknowledged while accepting her Cecil B. Demille award, saying, “I want to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed, bills to pay, and dreams to pursue.”
“All those women” do work that makes others’ lives better, whether cleaning homes, caring for or supporting people, picking food on farms, or serving in a restaurant. Our lives are intertwined, and this is the moment to offer our sisterhood and support in every possible way.*
The day after the Golden Globes, Ai-jen wrote, “Women won big at the Golden Globes last night. I stood shoulder to shoulder with Meryl Streep to show the world that domestic workers are ready to stand with women everywhere and step forward into a future where ALL of our workplaces are safe and ALL of our work is valued.”
So if you are one of the many, many Americans who is a family caregiver herself or employs someone who is a nanny, house cleaner or home attendant, here is what you can do.
First things first: ASK the person you employ if she has felt safe and respected in her past and current workplaces. The Golden Globes is a great way to open up the conversation—and remember, open-ended questions and not making assumptions are a conversation’s best tools. Even if you are respectful, it’s impossible to know if other employers, or a member of your family or guest in your home has behaved disrespectfully at any point.
You could say something like, “All recent news about sexual harassment has opened my eyes to how widespread it is. I care about you and want you to be comfortable in this house and anywhere you’re working. If you’ve ever felt harassed or even just uncomfortable in my home or another workplace, let’s talk about it.”
You can mention Hand in Hand as your resource for this kind of information, and CONNECT her to an organization like the National Domestic Workers Alliance or a local affiliate so she can know her rights and be supported by her peers. You could also print out a list of the organizations below in case she’d like to do her own research or isn’t comfortable beginning the conversation with you.
Now is also a good moment to TALK to all members of your household about what it means to be a safe dignified household — perhaps sharing what you’ve learned about low-wage workers’ vulnerability to abuse with adult household members, and reviewing the basics of respect and boundaries with any kids. Home care workers often work with older generation (especially men) for whom different boundaries existed / for whom sexism was less challenged. Make it clear with the worker in your home that if your father or spouse is doing something unsafe you want to know—putting up with it is not “part of the job.”
(Note: if you are a family caregiver this applies to you too, in your home, in a medical environment, in social services, everywhere! You deserve respect when you do this work even if you aren’t paid!)
Lastly, SUPPORT NDWA and Hand in Hand’s day-to-day organizing as well as the political campaigns that grow power and visibility for domestic workers, who have been excluded from laws that protect other workers.
Are you ready to join us as we build a safer future for every woman in every workplace? ADD your name.
If you do find that the worker you employ has dealt with these issues, here are a few of the resources recommended by Time’sUp (more are on their site) that you can turn to for further support, including legal help:
BetterBrave provides a thorough guide to identifying and dealing with sexual harassment, including information on reporting it to HR and seeking legal counsel. www.betterbrave.com
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the government agency responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to sexually harass anyone in the workplace.
+1 (800) 669-4000 www.eeoc.gov/index.cfm
Equal Rights Advocates is a nonprofit legal organization dedicated to protecting and expanding economic and educational access and opportunities for women. They provide a toll-free multi-lingual Advice and Counseling Line where you can receive advice and information on your legal rights. All calls are confidential.
+1 (800) 839-4372 www.equalrights.org
RAINN provides information and a 24/7 confidential hotline, staffed by people who are trained to help in matters of sexual harassment or assault. +1 (800) 656.HOPE (4673) www.rainn.org
* Note: We know statistically women do most of the hiring and management of domestic workers, which makes the possibility for solidarity between us women run even deeper.