Feminist. It’s become such a “bad” word, hasn’t it?
You’re either praised and lifted up above all others for being liberal and awesome, or you’re branded a bra-burning nutter who ‘should get back in the kitchen lol’. There’s no middle ground, and among most people where I live, it’s seen as a dangerous, rebellious thing.
I’m very lucky that I live in a country where, as a woman, there’s not a lot I ‘can’t’ do. I’m writing this following the recent scandal about the gender pay gap in the BBC. It’s shocking to think that, even in 2017, women are being paid less than men for doing the same job. What a joke, right? A lot of the time, being in such a privileged position in society, I forget how much feminism really matters. It wasn’t until I read Laura Bates’s Everyday Sexism that I understood just how far we still have left to go.
Laura Bates started the Everyday Sexism project a few years ago- if you click here, you can read a little bit more about this yourself. The idea was to create an online catalogue of sexist accounts, which happened to both men and women, to prove how big a problem sexism posed. The project is not solely based in the UK- it is a global forum now, with accounts of sexism experienced all over the world. The stories range from tales of catcalling, to more serious accounts of rape and violence, so please, note there is a trigger warning for anyone who might feel upset about this kind of content.
This is a fantastic book which uses a variety of real examples of everyday sexism to prove Bates’s point- we NEED to crack down on any demonstrations of sexism, because if we excuse them, or let them slide, we risk letting the problem continue. A popular argument at the moment is ‘We don’t need feminism- we need equality!’ and yes, that’s exactly the point of feminism. Feminists want gender equality. We want both men and women to have equal rights- to be able to earn the same amount of money for the same job. To be able to walk down the street and not be catcalled. To feel safe walking home. To not have to be asked ‘Yeah, but what were you wearing when he said/did that?’
While I think that things have improved dramatically, Bates’s book highlights the fact that there are still problems within our society. In workplaces, in universities, women are being made to feel inferior, or intimidated, because they’re ‘different’. Quite simply, because they are not men. One of my favourite things about the Everyday Sexism project is how it showed many men what women actually have to deal with; many of the guys who visited the ES website were stunned that these things were happening to their friends, their sisters, their spouses and even their mums.
I also love that Bates is careful to highlight that this is not an anti-men book– in fact, many of the examples on the ES website are written by men, about their encounters with sexism! If you are worried that this is a critique of men, then fear not- most of the examples given in the book are about women, but that’s only because unfortunately, women experience sexism on a far greater scale than men. The statistics are in the book to prove it.
Bates covers a number of areas in society where sexism is found- in political life for example, as well as in the media, in school, and at home. I found the politics section especially interesting, which is weird given that I don’t really like politics at all; it’s amazing, though, how hard female politicians have had to work to get where they are, and sad to think how many girls have said they aren’t interested in pursuing politics, for fear of their arguments being made redundant because of their gender. I was astonished reading some of the accounts of women in politics, and the comments their male counterparts have got away with. For a recent example, think Trump stating that Megyn Kelly must’ve been on her period before he got elected. Nice one, Trump.
A really poignant part of the book was the comments of young girls, aged 11 or 12, who were already experiencing sexism. It really got me, as many of them didn’t understand what was happening to them– they were being groped or touched by boys at school, but felt like it was their fault. All too often, we hear of young girls sending pictures to boys, who then leak the photos, and it’s always the girl who is in the wrong; nine times out of ten, the boy’s reputation is untarnished, while the girl is branded with every insult under the sun.
I can remember being about 14 years old, and some eejits in the corridor grabbing my bum as I walked to class. I was so embarrassed I cried, and I was sure it was my fault. I remember them laughing and thinking it was so funny, but I just blushed and went to hide in the toilets. I remember a lot worse happening to me too, but it just goes to show that Bates is right- almost every girl can remember a story. A story about a time when somebody grabbed or touched or shouted or did something to make them feel uncomfortable, powerless, and helpless. This is why the Everyday Sexism Project matters. It matters because it’s still a problem.
This book is a solid *****/5 for me. Such an interesting read, and something a little bit different for me as well; makes a change from all of the fiction I’ve been reading recently! I would encourage everyone to read this book, regardless of gender or age, and try and have open discussions with the young people in your life about what is okay and what isn’t. We need to teach our young boys and girls what is respectful and what isn’t, as well as who to talk to if something happens to them that they don’t like. Changes won’t happen without our action!
My favourite thing that I HAVE to mention, is the fact that at times, I had an eyebrow raised. I was thinking ‘Okay, maybe this is a wee bit dramatic? Just a tad, eh?’ and then, whilst reading this book in work, a man walks in, looks at me and my colleague and exclaims “Ah! There’s two of you? One for each hand” *cue creepy laughter*. At that point, I thought ‘Yep, this book is relevant’.
Are there any great sexism/feminism books out there which I should read next? Do you think it is still a problem, and if so, do you have any examples you want to share?