“It was not an aberration for us,” Monica Ramirez writes in a new piece for TIME about the “Dear Sisters” letter that declared solidarity between women in Hollywood and farmworker women at the start of the #MeToo movement. “Over the years, we have demonstrated support on behalf of domestic workers, janitors and hotel workers, among others. Though the difference was that this time the world took notice.”
Ramirez, co-founder of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas and founder of Justice for Migrant Women and Gender Justice Campaigns Director for National Domestic Workers Alliance, published that groundbreaking letter in TIME in advance of the Take Back the Workplace march organized by Feminist Majority Foundation, Civican, and We for She—and one month before the magazine would declare silence breakers like her Person of the Year. (Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms., would also later honor Ramirez at this year’s Global Women’s Rights Awards, which focused on efforts around the world to combat violence and harassment. You can watch a full video of the event here.)
As part of TIME‘s latest Person of the Year celebration, Ramirez issued an update on the movement to end sexual harassment, celebrating the powerful sisterhood that has emerged in its wake and calling for more action.
As organizers who are part of the farmworker movement and as people who identify with the farmworker community, we, the founders and members of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, believe that no matter where someone works, no matter how much they get paid or how well-known they are by society, they deserve to be treated with respect, dignity and fairness. All workers, irrespective of their profession or their place on the economic ladder, deserve to be safe from sexual violence. Everyone should be able to live and do their job free from all forms of violence, whether it be sexual, verbal, emotional or physical. This belief is among our core values.
The reality is that many workers suffer indignities and harm, not just women working in the fields or those employed on movie sets. Sadly, workers—especially women—employed in every sector of every industry experience workplace sexual violence. Some women are more vulnerable to this mistreatment, like those who are of color, immigrants, LGBTQ, disabled, young, employed in low-paying jobs or any combination of those factors. The result of this is devastating emotional, physical and economic harm for all of those who experience it.
Countless people also suffer retaliation when they speak out, complain or seek a remedy. Sometimes this retaliation comes in the form of firing, demotion or other negative economic consequences, like denying people raises, bonuses or opportunities for advancement. In addition, speaking out may, ultimately, result in social isolation, bullying or public ostracization regardless of the industry, the income bracket or the person’s visibility to the rest of the world.
As women, and as a society, we are finding our collective voice when it comes to speaking out against harassment, retaliation, violence and all the ensuing issues that come with them. In our pursuit of this shared voice, may we remember some important lessons: No one—no matter where they work—should suffer from workplace sexual violence. And, no matter the identity of the victim or the perpetrator, allies should feel a moral imperative to speak out so that victims will know that they are believed and supported.
Ms. spoke to Ramirez and other trailblazing women fighting for progress in the era of #MeToo on the red carpet at the Global Women’s Rights Awards. Tune in below to hear from them—and follow Ms. on Facebook and Instagram to be notified next time we broadcast live!