After the success of the Everyday Sexism Project, founded by writer and journalist Laura Bates, I was thrilled to attend her talk about sexism at the University.
The Project was founded in 2012 and consists of an online ‘blog’ where women from around the world are able to talk about their experiences of sexism and how it makes them feel.
Laura started the talk by describing a number of situations women are subjected to everyday: most of us will have been whistled at in the street, called a s**t or been groped in a club at least once in our lives. She explained that these experiences have become so normalised and expected that they are often shrugged off as ‘a bit of banter’, showing that there is massive gap between what the law allows to happen and what actually happens in practice. If someone has ever grabbed you in a club when you did not want them to and they had no reason to believe you wanted them to, this qualifies as sexual assault, something that many women don’t know. The problem with labeling Uni Lad jokes about rape or sexual assault as ‘funny’ is obvious (1 in 3 women on the planet will be raped or beaten at least once in their lifetime) and yet seems to be holding strong: I can recall so many situations where disgusting comments are made about women and my arguments against them are labeled as lacking a ‘sense of humour’. This immediately will make you feel foolish, like the one who isn’t ‘in on the joke’. The issue is that the ‘joke’ is not one that anyone should be laughing about. A strong aspect of the talk was therefore how to get this message across? The best way is to continue repeating the message for equality and respect and for bystanders to get involved in saying it’s not right to treat women in this way.
Another aspect of the talk discussed the fact that the feminist movement is in no way a movement aimed at vilifying men – feminism aims to achieve equality and equality only. The reason we have ‘feminism’ and not ‘masculinism’ is because of statistics which show women to be underrepresented in the workplace, the arts and politics (the UK has only 4 female Cabinet Ministers), and subject to a shocking amount abuse and violence (over 2 women are killed per week by their partner in the UK). The violent reaction against women on the internet over the 10 pound note debate served as a worrying reminder of the steps that still need to be taken.
The questions after the talk were very interesting, including questions about how to engage men in feminism – the answer being that feminism strives for equality and therefore also affects men, (say if they frowned upon for wanting to take time off work to look after their children.) Another question was raised with regards to positive discrimination, with Laura arguing that although it may be beneficial in the short term, it fails to address the underlying root of the problem and does little to change society’s way of thinking about women.
The talk was fascinating and I recommend having a look at the Everyday Sexism Project website. Reading about the horrible and demeaning experiences women are put through will hopefully get everyone thinking and remind us that we still need feminism, more than ever. Fortunately, it truly seems to be having a ‘come back’.
Photo Credits: google; everydayfeminism.com; newyorker.com.