Sunday, 8 March 2015

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

Today, Sunday the 8th of March, it is International Women's Day, and as I was planning to write this soon anyway, no day seemed more fitting than a day which is dedicated to the very same cause that Everyday Sexism is: a greater awareness for female equality.
Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates is a book brimming with feminism and is based on and outlines a gender equality campaign that strives to make women and girls' voices heard and help ignorant people understand that sexism is still a big issue. Sick and tired of the constant sexist harassment that herself and other women receive on a day-to-day basis, in 2012 Laura Bates established the Everyday Sexism Project. Every girl and woman has a story, a story of discrimination and prejudice because of their gender, and the Everyday Sexism Project is a way to use an online space and social media (through the project's website and Twitter) for ordinary women all over the world to come together and share their stories. They range from rape and domestic abuse or sexual harassment on the street, to losing a job after becoming pregnant as well as a whole host of other stories that scream to people, loud and clear, that sexism is still a very prominent issue today. The project is showing women everywhere that they are not alone in this struggle, proving wrong those who say sexism is dead and empowering and inspiring women to stand up and shout back.

This book, written by Laura Bates, pulls all these stories together, all the things that have been learnt from the project as well as vital statistics. She addresses the major issues that women face due to sexism with a strong and intelligent voice that forces people to recognise that sexism truly is endemic- socially, politically and economically. Following a foreword by Sarah Brown and an introduction fittingly called Everybody Has a Tipping Point the book holds 12 different sections that outline some of the most important topics within the issue of sexism. These sections are: Silenced Women: The Invisible Problem; Women in Politics; Girls; Young Women Learning; Women in Public Spaces; Women in the Media; Women in the Workplace; Motherhood; Double Discrimination; What About the Men?; Women Under Threat and finally, People Standing Up. Each separate section starts with some extremely well researched vital statistics, followed by a brief introduction to the topic before proceeding to showcase some of the stories that women have shared with the project, the author's response to this as well as a more in-depth explanation surrounding the topic about why this is an issue. Some glorious feminist rants are also thrown in there for good measure.
In my opinion, this book was fantastic: inspiring, informational and wonderfully interesting. Although I already considered myself a feminist, knew quite a bit about this topic and already wanted to do something about this huge issue, I learnt so much from this book and found myself becoming increasingly eager to make a difference. I found that this book was extremely well-researched and these snippets of information and facts brilliantly supported the fantastic arguments surrounding the many important sub-topics within this issue, a lot of which I have already used in countless rants and arguments with misogynists and ignorant people alike.  
I also thought that it was extremely well written. Laura Bates managed to get her points her across very clearly so that everything she wrote about made so much sense - it seemed like she had the answers to everything. Her writing was also very emotive and powerful which really inspired me and made me feel so many emotions, something that I believe is very important in a non-fiction book where issue are tackled and it's aims are to make people more aware of the problem. 
The vital statistics at the beginning of each chapter were, in my opinion, a valuable addition to the book because they introduced the sub-topic and gave me more of an insight. It also gave me some perspective of the main issues and the scale of the problem. Furthermore, I felt that it really aided in the understanding of the section throughout the rest of the chapter and gave Laura Bates writing, opinions and information validity. 
The stories from so many women and girls were a really powerful tool in the book and really demonstrated that this is a problem that affects so many, not just the odd few. I really enjoyed this aspect because it also ensures that girls and women everywhere know that they are not alone. Many of the stories made me feel very emotional, showcasing that this is the reality for so many girls and women portraying the monumental issue that this is. 

Many extremely important topics are addressed in this book. For example, Laura Bates writes about the society's ignorant view of feminists' as "feminazis" who think women should rule the world when in actual fact all we want is equal rights for both men and women and this is why everyone should be a feminist. If you believe in equal rights for both men and women, when asked if you are a feminist, regardless of your sex or gender (because it does affect men too), your immediate response should be yes
The issue of cat calling and the media's representation of women is also talked about, addressing the misconception that commenting on a female's physical appearance and consequently making them feel vulnerable and insecure is okay; as if it doesn't matter if you are a straight A student, or someone who dedicates all her time to charity, people will always comment on what your wearing first, or the amount of cleavage that you are showing. It is making people believe that behaviour like this does no harm, that its fine to sexually objectify and oppress women even thought, evidently, it's not. 
The topic of sexual and domestic violence is a huge theme addressed in this book and is an issue that I have always, and even more so after reading this book, feel extremely passionate about. 1 in 3 women will experience rape or domestic violence and every 6 minutes a female is raped causing millions and millions of girls and women (even ones who haven't experienced it) to feel extremely vulnerable and alone as well as terrified simply walking down the street and yet these women are still being accused of attention-seeking, lying and are being convinced that they are the ones to blame while so many aren't believed, so many abusers walk free and hundreds of thousands of them stay quiet about what they have seen, what has happened to them, because of fear of being accused for something that isn't true, fear that they will be blamed for wearing a short skirt or getting a little too drunk. Let me tell you something though, women and girls can wear what they want and do what they want. We can show off our bodies and flirt and drink and that doesn't matter in the slightest because we are in charge of our own bodies and not giving our consent is still just as valid regardless. Sexual, and violent, abuse is never the victim's, or survivor's, fault. They should not be blamed.
In the book, women and girls are also shown standing up against all of this, and this is what empowered me the most. It showed how little reason there is for this oppression, objectification and harassment. Women can be strong, smart and witty and still *shock...horror* wear a short dress with a low cut top or upload a selfie on Instagram with their cleavage on show if that's what they want to do. Just like how men can be strong, smart and witty and upload a selfie on Instagram without a shirt on if that's what they want to do. Ask yourself this, in what way is that any different? 

So many other issues (including more global ones) are addressed that are equally important and need to be equally targeted which is why this book is an extremely important and inspiring read that is making a huge difference and I honestly believe that it is essential for everyone to read it. I can't recommend it enough. Although, as Laura Bates herself states, Everyday Sexism is not a book that offers solutions to any of these problems, nor does it aim to, it is one that raises awareness for sexism and that is where we must start in order to fight it. By getting women, and men, to shout out and say enough is enough, awareness is being raised and those who are ignorant are being forced to realise that sexism is still very much a problem, that there are many things that need to change. 

Enough is enough.