A woman wears in anti-groping backpack on Foxconn’s campus; image via Jianjiaobuluo
On January 23, the women’s labor rights website Jianjiaobuluo 尖椒部落 published an essay by a female worker at Foxconn who wants her company — which is Apple’s main Asia supplier — to implement systematic safeguards against sexual harassment, and to offer proper recourse to victims of sexual harassment, such as herself. The anonymous author writes that she was inspired by recent news of women in China standing up against sexual harassment and sexual assault, and that she intends to deliver her letter, which includes six suggestions, to Foxconn management.
We have translated the Jianjiaobuluo essay, in full, below.
I am a woman worker at Foxconn, and I demand a system that opposes sexual harassment
I was working when a male co-worker said this to me in passing. I turned around and gave him an angry stare, only to get a burst of giddy laughter from those around me.
I am an average assembly-line female worker at Foxconn, and the scene above is not only common at my job, but also common for many of my female colleagues around me.
Loudly telling dirty jokes, ridiculing female colleagues about their looks and figures, using the excuse of “giving direction” to make unnecessary body contact…in factory workshops, this kind of “sexual harassment culture” is prevalent (sexual harassment of unmarried female workers is particularly serious), with many people having grown accustomed to it. If a sexually harassed woman worker protests, she is likely to be accused of being “too sensitive” and “unable to take a joke.”
Other than lacking concept, the lack of administrative safeguards is also a major reason for the prevalence of sexual harassment in factory workshops.
Once, a male colleague deliberately touched my body; I told him this is sexual harassment. “Yes, I harassed you. What can you do to me?” he replied, provoking me, while touching me again.
I had no retort, because it was clear to me that even if I reported the case, the matter wouldn’t be properly handled.
What about telling my line leader or team leader? If you’re so lucky as to have a responsible leader, at best they’ll assess the situation and say a few words of rebuke to the harasser. This would be the end. No changes will come to the work environment, and the victim may be ridiculed by her colleagues as “making a fuss out of nothing.”
However, in most cases, a line or team leader won’t take the report seriously. Worse, there are those leaders who abuse their power to sexually harass or even assault their workers.
Working in such an environment, I feel terrible every day. I’m not only angry at those who harass me, but I also feel powerless for being unable to effectively respond.
Of course, it’s not like I don’t know how to resist. I’ll berate the male workers who drape their arms over my shoulders and grope me, and I’ll fire back at those who make dirty jokes at my expense. But can I solve any fundamental problems by doing this? Obviously not. I need to bear all the injury and pressure, while my harassers don’t pay any price. They might not even think their behaviors are wrong.
But what about those female workers who don’t protest? Some are ashamed, some are afraid of being reproached, and some think nothing will change even if they speak out, so in the end they opt to silently endure. Have they done something wrong? Who can accuse them of being so weak as to “deserve” being harassed? What we need isn’t the expectation that everyone should be thick-skinned against sexual harassment, but the appropriate mechanisms to support us.
However, access to help is also blocked. Foxconn has a telephone hotline that handles complaints, but workers all know this hotline doesn’t help workers solve problems. Instead, it was set up to “solve” the workers who raise questions. Some workers, after filing a complaint, are immediately asked to have a talk with their boss, who also then make things difficult for them afterwards.
The workshop environment is filled with discrimination against women, and factory officials’ attitude toward workers’ rights is alo bitterly disappointing. It is practically impossible to cope with sexual harassment in the workshop if we only rely on the strength of individual female workers.
Only after asking a few sisters around me did I discover that everyone is facing the same troubles. We think we should do something together to change the status quo.
Later, we saw news on the internet that Luo Qianqian, a former student at Beihang University, had accused her professor of sexual harassment. On the Wechat public account of Feminist Voices 女权之声, we also saw that feminist Zhang Leilei 张累累 and many other activists had initiated joint proposals to establish anti-seuxal harassment systems at different universities. After seeing more and more people stand up and protest sexual harassment against women and oppose this unjust and infeasible system, we felt inspired and more resolved to take action.
As such, we hereby make the following suggestions to Foxconn:
1. Place anti-sexual harassment slogans in conspicuous places on campus and in the workshops;
2. Give a course about preventing sexual harassment to each manager above team leader;
3. Add content about anti-sexual harassment in the orientation training of every new employee;
4. Set up a special channel for the reporting of and complaints of sexual harassment, including mailbox, email, telephone, etc. The channel should be open and every new employee should be informed of it during orientation;
5. Explicitly make a department responsible for the handling of complaints of sexual harassment, and specify a go-to contact;
6. When it comes to employees dealing with issues of workplace rights and interests, the factory should accept anonymous complaints, promptly investigate and deal with them, and provide feedback of the results while safeguarding the privacy of its employees.
We know we can’t eliminate an environment of gender equality in one day, and we know these suggestions are far from enough to eliminate sexual harassment. But this is only a start. No changes will come if we don’t take action.
Our next step is to send the suggestion letter to the factory, with other initiatives forthcoming.
We hope that more workers will join and support us. Besides female workers, we also welcome male workers. We have some male workers with us who advocate gender inequality and protest against sexual harassment. We call for more men to pay attention to the situation of their sisters. Opposing inequality in power dynamics and establishing a warm and friendly working environment are beneficial to everyone.
After all, we come here for work, not to be exploited or harassed.