I've been wanting to read Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates for a long time. When I heard she was going to be doing an event at Foyles with Hibo Wardere on 31st May, I nabbed a ticket and bought both her books - this one and her latest, Girl Up. Everyday Sexism was just as incredible as I thought it would be!
Everyday Sexism made me angry. It upset me and terrified me. Because not only does Bates talk about various elements of sexism - such as rape and sexual assault, the sexism towards young girls, those in university, and in the workplace, sexism around mothers or becoming a mother, and so on - but each chapter includes actual tweets and entries to the Everyday Sexism project from real women. Bates perfectly uses these tweets and entries to highlight her points, to give further evidence that what she's talking about actually does happen. That might sound ridiculous, maybe even unnecessary - of course this happens! But there are those who believe sexism no longer exists, that we've already reached gender equality. And that's exactly why Bates created the project and wrote this book, to show everyone that we are far from erradicating sexism.
Each chapter starts with a list of statistics about the things covered in that chapter. You're forced to face this information about just how rife sexism is right from the get go. Here are some examples:
At the current rate it will be more than 150 years before an equal number of women and men are elected to English local councils
The Centre for Women and Democracy, 2011 (p50)
1 in 3 girls aged 16 to 18 have experienced some form of unwanted sexual touching at school
YouGov, 2010 (p80)
1 in 2 boys and 1 in 3 girls think it is sometimes OK to hit a woman or force her to have sex
Zero Tolerance, 1998 (p80)
More than half of American women ages 18 to 64 have experienced 'extreme harrassment', inluding being grabbed, touched, rubbed or followed
Penn Schoen Berland Associates, 2000 (p154)
The average female executive earns £423,000 less over her lifetime than a male worker with an identical career pathThese statistics are really quite schocking, but statistics on their own don't have nearly as much impact as one might like - numbers are difficult to equate into real people. But Bates has set out this book so brilliantly: statistics first, followed by tweets to the Everyday Sexism project, then a closer look at these elements of sexism, highlighted with interviews and other real life accounts. This balance of evidence in regards to statistics and other information along with real women's stories makes for a hard-hitting and emotional read. There were moments when I was so upset that tears came to my eyes, and moments of exclaiming "Jesus Christ!" out loud in horror. But also moments when I could absolutely, completely relate to what I was reading, and they were the most difficult to deal with. There was a sense of not feeling so alone when I could relate to someone, but I would also feel so sad that others had experienced what I had.
CMI, 2012 (p214)
Most of all, I was angry and impassioned. It opened my eyes to various elements of sexism that I never thought of as sexism before - a point Bates comes back to time and again, how sexism is so ingrained in our society, that we come to accept it as the norm. She made me realise that every single act of sexism, no matter how small, must be challenged and rejected. Bates makes the point that all acts of sexism, even the small ones, create a society that normalises sexism, makes it something we're told we shouldn't make a fuss about, silencing us, and allows for bigger, worse acts of sexism, like sexual assault and violence, to take place. Everyday Sexism has made me think about myself and my life, and where I might slip up and let sexist remarks go by without a word. It's made me more aware, and really think about how I react.
Everyday Sexism is an absolutely incredible book, and I am in so much awe of Bates and the incredible work she's done with the Everyday Sexism Project. I am so looking forward to reading Bates' second book, Girl Up.
Published: 23rd April 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
The Everyday Sexism Project