Much of the media’s coverage of the Me Too movement focuses on high-profile cases of sexual harassment, as well as gender inequality in white-collar workplaces. Sexual Harassment and other forms of gender inequality are also problems — perhaps even more so — for male-dominated, blue-collar workplaces. A recent article in The New York Times highlights gendered discrimination in workplaces like mines, car factories, and construction sites.
Sociologist Abigail Saguy argues that men often perceive less-feminine or lesbian women as “not fully women” and therefore as less threatening. On the other hand, men tend to harass more-feminine women more. And women who play along with sexist banter, still face negative labels, like “slut.” Saguy elaborates,
“Sexual harassment is often a way in which the men reaffirm women’s femininity, and [put them] back in their place…. At the same time, women will play up their femininity and flirt a little bit and play along with some of the stereotypes… to be accepted.”
For men in low-paying and dangerous jobs, these affirmations to their masculinity become key rewards, and challenges to their masculinity may heighten discrimination towards women.
“Even if they have to tolerate bad working conditions, the compensation is they were real men… then women were moving into these occupations, so what does that mean? If women can do the job, maybe it’s not so masculine after all.”