Document 13: Helen Kelsey, "Combat Sexual Harassment on the Job!" Hammer House, (November/December 1978): 1-5.

Reprinted in Aegis, May/June 1979, pp. 24-28.


   This document demonstrates an early union perspective on sexual harassment, which emphasized women's multiple oppressions as the cause of sexual harassment. The article was originally published in Hammer House, the newspaper of the International Association of Machinists in Wichita, Kansas, and then reprinted in the feminist quarterly Aegis. The article attacked capitalism, calling on all workers to fight harassment and pointing out the class interest of employers in women's oppression.


   Has this ever happened in your department?

  1. Being followed home by Cessna personnel?

  2. Being physically touched by an uninvited hand or other parts of the body?

  3. Been talked to in a degrading way?

  4. Had someone invite themselves over to your house for coffee?

  5. Been told that the way to get ahead at Cessna is to "get under a foreman and work your way up"?

   It could and does happen every day. For every one we know about, there are a hundred that go unreported. There is someone in almost every department and on every shift that must contend with this type of harassment. Why is sexual harassment so wide spread? There are a number of reasons but the major ones include:

  1. Unwillingness of the people to come forward.

  2. Lack of support

  3. Company apathy

   All of these are related to, even dependent on the other; solve one and the other two have been greatly diminished. In looking at each one separately, we understand this clearly.

   The unwillingness of the females subjected to sexual harassment to do anything about it, is also clear. They are threatened by foremen and supervisors with statements such as: "If you don't go outside with me, I'll fire you!" or "I'll see that you're transferred to another shift or department."

   It is understood to be necessary for a woman to work, otherwise she probably would not. The majority of home situations are based on working hours. Having a continual threat of totally re-organizing home and life style can be a devastating experience. For a woman raising her family alone, this is even a greater trauma.

   Repercussions from the company and often resentment of fellow workers also contribute to the lack of reporting incidents. The company will "lean" on the rare individual who does report or file a grievance, to make an example of them. Fellow employees are resigned to the fact with a "that's the way it is" or "don't make waves" attitude.

p. 2

   The company's lack of concern is the most disgusting attitude of all. "That sort of thing is to be expected when you have men and women working together." was the comment made by a supervisor in the personnel department. You are put off, patronized, and made to believe they care about what is happening in the plant. Yet the same complaint about one foreman has been made for the last 10 years and still the company has done nothing. The people that complain are either beaten down and fired or decide the fight is not worth the cost and give up.

I have stated the problem and explained the reasons for it. As I have said before, if you can solve one of the reasons, the other two will not be too great to conquer. The one I would like to suggest is a willingness to become a part of the solution. Women do not have to work with sexual harassment. Their jobs do not depend on going to bed with their supervision or foremen. We do not have to be patted on the rear, squeezed on the arm or listen to obscene and suggestive language. Of course, if you are insecure enough as a person to need that kind of treatment, then baby, you're in the right place. For those of us who choose not to need abusive treatment, there is an answer. That is the sole purpose of this letter. To let everyone at Cessna know that there are people fighting this problem and who will continue to fight. Even though you don't see the ones who have spoken out, if you believe nothing else -- believe we are still here. We have been heard and will be again. This is not the voice of a so-called "radical" but the voice of a mother trying to earn a living for herself and family.

Helen Kelsey


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