Thursday, 17 April 2014

'Everyday Sexism' – by Laura Bates

Back in 2012, frustrated by one catcall too many, journalist Laura Bates started a website called Everyday Sexism, with the aim that people could use it to shout back at the sexism they experienced as they went about their daily business. Bates had the idea that maybe 50 people would contribute stories to it and the site would be an outlet for women to vent their frustrations and anger at the way they are treated in public. But as the weeks rolled by, many, many more than 50 people contribute to the site – and 18 months later there are hundreds of thousands of stories of everyday sexism on the site. And it is growing daily.

Since then, Bates has contributed to countless newspaper articles, magazine features, radio debates and TV panels about the topic and how the Everyday Sexism project has caught the public’s attention. So it is only inevitable that the book follows hot on the heels of the tidal wave of support for ending sexism. Some call it a fourth wave of feminism, but personally I’m not so sure that’s a helpful term. Who decides what a wave is and when such a wave starts or ends? But regardless, Bates’ project came along at a time when a lot of younger women were rearing up in anger at the injustice and sexism they were experiencing – for example, the NoMore Page 3 campaign has enjoyed a similar swell of support.

The newly published Everyday Sexism book (Simon & Schuster, £14.99) collects together many tweets to the project’s account, as well as stories from the website, and positions these alongside statistics and articles from Bates placing all of this into context. It’s rigorously researched and depressingly detailed. With chapters looking at the sexism children experience, to sexism at work, sexism in the media and so much more, the whole book is a carefully catalogued snapshot of modern day life for women in the western world.

Some critics of the book have said that while the Everyday Sexism project is a great outlet and tool, the book itself is lacking in answers. But it is unfair that Bates should single-handedly be expected to know the solution to a centuries old global problem. There are plenty of take-home tips from within the book, even if no one easy answer – but seriously, who thought there would be?!

Instead, the Everyday Sexism book is a valuable tool for demonstrating that sexism really is a lived experience for 53% of the population, and it perfectly highlights how ridiculously stupid the counter argument from certain men is when they say that the Diet Coke ad exploits men, too. Really? REALLY? All the men’s rights activists out there need to read this book and wake up to what tools they actually are!

What the Everyday Sexism book does very well is it catalogues the many and varied ways in which women of all demographics are abused on a daily basis, and it also spells out the legal case for what actually is sexual assault – making the stark point that most women have been sexually assaulted in their lives, yet few recognise the unwanted touching as such.

This is a book that makes you feel more ‘normal’ as a result, because you realise you are not the only one enduring these horrible injustices. And the minute you realise you are not alone, is the minute you realise you have a whole network of support out there. And that is what the Everyday Sexism project excels at – providing support.  

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