Until 1975, ‘Sexual Harassment’ Was the Menace With No NameBreaking News
tags: sex scandals, sexual harassment
Rain poured down in Ithaca, New York, but the women who streamed into the Greater Ithaca Activities Center on May 4, 1975 weren’t daunted by a bit of weather. Hundreds of women packed into the modest room. Then they began tospeak about their experiences being groped and sexually exploited at work.
For journalist-turned activist Lin Farley, the event was life changing. “The solidarity that women felt for one another was contagious,” she later wrote. “No longer did they have to explain to their friends and family that ‘he hit on me and wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I had to quit.’ What he did had a name.”
Attendees spoke of professors, restaurant guests, factory workers, executives—men who turned their workplaces into private hells. They talked about how their bosses pinched them, groped them, and how their coworkers looked the other way when they were harassed. Humiliated, intimidated and bullied, many of these women had lost jobs when they turned down their bosses’ sexual advances. And they were fed up.
As they spoke, these women used a new term: sexual harassment. Until just a few weeks before, the term didn’t even exist. But thanks to Farley and the consciousness-raising efforts of the 1970s women’s movement, the newly coined term would not just help women give voice to their experiences: It would change U.S. law and life in the workplace.
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