In 2012 after being sexually harassed on London public transport Laura Bates, a young journalist, started a project called Everyday Sexism to collect stories for a piece she was writing on the issue. Astounded by the response she received and the wide range of stories that came pouring in from all over the world, she quickly realised that the situation was far worse than she'd initially thought. Enough was enough. From being leered at and wolf-whistled on the street, to aggravation in the work place and serious sexual assault, it was clear that sexism had been normalised. Bates decided it was time for change. (from Goodreads).
Everday Sexism is a thoroughly depressing and yet important book. Bates has collated the normal, run-of-the-mill experiences of countless women, on a range of topics, and together it makes for pretty grim reading. I was shocked to find out that one in three girls from 16-18 have experienced unwanted sexual touching at school, that women are still missing out on jobs in case they decide to take maternity leave, and that the unemployment rate for men in the recession has increased by only 0.32%, whilst for women it has jumped by almost 20%. The statistics were shocking enough, but what makes this book more powerful is that Bates includes the individual stories of the women that have tweeted her and posted on the everyday sexism website. I could identify with so many of the experiences - the newlywed woman being asked when she is going to start having babies, the pregnant woman who only ever gets asked about her pregnancy, and the teenage girls who know they are more than their looks, but can't escape their insecurities. Bates also shows how these experiences are normalised in the context of 'banter', with women who protest to e.g. sexual comments getting responses like "can't you take a joke?" or "you should be flattered."
I think the chapter that made the most depressing reading was the one concerning teenage girls. I was lucky enough to be a teenager before the internet was everywhere (the days of dial-up), and I'm sure that it's so much harder now social media means that sexual bullying is common. I was shocked to read about the amount of rape jokes reported in secondary schools, but when I asked my husband about it (he's a secondary school teacher), his experience matched those in the book. When I was at school, boys might have joked about how girls looked, and that is cruel, but to be the subject of jokes about raping you, or what they want to do to you, or to have private photos shared - I can't imagine how hard that must be. Bates reports on the girls that have committed suicide as a result of all these things.
I've always known that if I had a girl, I would raise her to be a feminist, to value herself for more than her looks, and to know that she can do anything that she wants to do. Reading Everyday Sexism, I've realised that it is just as important for me to raise my son to respect women, to see them as more than objects, but as friends, colleagues, partners and equals. I don't care if my son wants to cry when he is upset or play with dolls, and I certainly will try my best to ensure that he judges men and women in the same way, as people.
I'd definitely recommend Everyday Sexism. It's depressing reading at times, but does end on a note of hope, with stories of how women are starting to protest against the current culture, and how things could change for the better.
Source: Personal copy (kindle)
Published: April 2014
Score: 5 out of 5
I keep picking this up in bookshops then putting it down again. I'm not sure what has been putting me off, but reading this review has definitely confirmed it as a must read. I'm glad to hear it ends on a note of hope because sometimes it feels like sexism has become too much of a norm and an everyday thing. With any luck it won't be for too much longer.ReplyDelete
I hope you do get a chance to read it. It turned out to be quite a timely read for me, I watched Emma Watson's speech after finishing it.Delete
I'm glad to hear that you want to raise your son to be a feminist. There's definitely a perception that only women can be feminists, and that thwarts progress a bit. For a social movement like that to work, an entire society has to participate in its development.ReplyDelete
My husband is a feminist too, so hopefully between us we will be able to raise our son to respect women.Delete
I definitely want to read this one -- don't think it's available in the US yet though. A depressing, but important topic for sure.ReplyDelete
A lot of the tweets are UK centric, but I'm sure the same issues apply in the US.Delete
This sounds like a really hard read. It's difficult to take this stuff in, especially as a parent. But we have to teach the next generation to do better.ReplyDelete
I read somewhere about teaching your children consent early. "If your sister is crying, she doesn't like that. Stop. Immediately." or "Check that it's ok before you hug your friend." Hopefully that will stay with them as teens and adults, both online and in real life.
It is harder as a parent, definitely. I want my son to grow up in a world that's better than this.Delete
Teaching consent early is a good thing. I'm a teacher and there are usually lots of issues around children hugging, playing rough etc, that could be solved in that way.
I have nominated you for an award. I hope that's okay. http://booketta.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/one-lovely-blog-award.htmlReplyDelete
Such an important book. And a great review. This will be on my Christmas gift giving list.ReplyDelete
Definitely, I have a few people who will be receiving this one for Christmas!Delete
I'm glad this project exists, and I hope some guys read it to get a feel for what it's like to move through the world as a woman. I think it's hard for a lot of guys to genuinely understand how scary and threatening the constant sexual attention is. Guys started honking and yelling at me when I was, I dunno, twelve? And I was a skinny short flat-chested twelve-year-old -- I can't imagine what it must have been like for girls who matured faster than me. It's so common that a lot of women don't even talk about it, which sucks. Yay for Laura Bates for drawing attention to this bullshit.ReplyDelete
I agree with you. It is so important to have a conversation with sons as well because a lot of these problems can be avoided if boys and later men look at women as equally capable people who deserve as much respect as they as men expect to get. Growing up, I have been through more sexist incidents than I want to remember and they all make you feel unworthy at the end, because even if I believe I deserve better, the people I meet don't seem to think the same. Sexism has morphed from being more about inequality between genders to these daily tiny sexist encounters that just never end.ReplyDelete
I hadn't heard about this book, but I'd like to look into it. I've been reading a lot online about women getting death and rape threats merely for expressing opinions on things ranging from politics to games, and it's important to recognize this, not to back down and pretend it doesn't exist.ReplyDelete