Janitors and fast-food workers, not celebrities, are ground zero of the MeToo movement. Time to shift the focus to them
Last Tuesday, McDonalds workers in 10 US cities walked off the job to protest pervasive sexual harassment. A week earlier, female janitors in California marched 100 miles from San Francisco to the state capitol in Sacramento to support anti-harassment legislation. The janitors union, SEIU, in partnership with the East LA Womens Center, has been quietly training women in self-defense and promoting peer-to-peer anti-harassment workshops and an assault crisis hotline. And Mondays mass walkout of protestors around the nation in support of Christine Blasey Ford, the California professor who has accused Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh of attempting to sexually assault her when they were high-school students, was another stunning step.
These efforts represent an element of the MeToo movement seen and heard too little the protest and outcry of ordinary women, rather than that of celebrity MeToo advocates, which is often evinced at awards ceremonies or on Twitter.
Yet a year after MeToos popularization by several famous actresses and twelve years after the phrase was coined by activist Tarana Burke we are inundated by the stories of celebrity villains and celebrity survivors, from Les Moonves horrifying acts as CBSs head predator to the public fight between MeToo starlets Rose McGowan and Asia Argento to the self-pitying not-really-apologias of alleged harassers, like the former radio hosts John Hockenberry and Jian Ghomeshi, whose accounts were published this month in Harpers and the New York Review of Books, respectively.
But there comes a point when boldfaced names must exit stage right. MeToo must be a movement for all for ordinary women as well as the most renowned among us. And to do that, we should clearly classify MeToo both as what is and what it should be: a labor movement.
If we dont turn MeToo over to female fast-food workers, janitors, farm workers, cashiers and waitresses, as well as professors and librarians, we will continue to read and hear about celebrity villains they are the other side of the coin from celebrity victims, after all.
The sad drinking game name the next man who will crawl out of well-funded so-called exile to demand public sympathy could go on and on. Exhibit A is Ghomeshi, who writes tenderly about being an erstwhile celebrity who is now an outcast, after he was accused by 24womenof brutal acts including punching and choking them, hijacking the tale of his own alleged bad acts. (Ghomeshi was charged with sexual assault but acquitted.)
In contrast, the bravery that poor and working-class women like the McDonalds workers or even middle-class women show in embracing this battle is rarely either dramatic or self-pitying. Yet their risks getting fired, deported, or even physically harmed far outstrip those of either celebrity survivors or perpetrators.
We should move our collective gaze to them.
We need to hear from people not the actresses, not the people you are asking for autographs from, but those cleaning on the night shift, who have been grappling with this issue for decades, says SEIU United Service Workers West secretary-treasurer Alejandra Valles. She represents invisible women, as she puts it. If MeToos prominent women dont listen to others, this will be a huge lost opportunity.