Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, 1920s Mexico City
based on the author's keynote address delivered at the 47th Economic and Business History Society Conference, Salt Lake City, 2022
Keywords:sexual harassment; work; feminism; Mexico
This essay, delivered as a keynote address for the 2022 Economic and Business History Society Conference in Salt Lake City, seeks to open a conversation on the history of sexual harassment at work in Mexico. Because of the shame attached to sexual harassment, it is a difficult topic to identify in the archives. Mexican scholars emphasize the ways gender inequality in the workforce lays the ground for sexual harassment. Drawing on this scholarship, I begin by describing the occupational segregation that characterized women’s workforce participation. Inequalities in the workforce shaped women’s entrance into office work and new industries like telephone service. The essay goes on to discuss the depiction of working women in the mainstream press and literature in ways that sexualized women. I then turn to examine the tools women might have had at their disposal to denounce sexual harassment. Law and institutional spaces shaped, and often limited, the space within which women could speak out against sexual harassment. The essay concludes with a discussion of two different media—the anarchist press and the feminist press—where women spoke out against violence in the workplace. In 1920s Mexico City women found ways to denounce sexual harassment as a generalized phenomenon while at the same time distancing themselves personally from association with incidences of sexual harassment in ways that might have jeopardized their personal, professional, and work-based honor.