Booked In With Jess: The Sexism Chat

I am a feminist. I believe that both sexes should be treated equally within our society.

Until recently I thought that in the UK this was already the case, more or less. I thought sexism was a problem abroad in terms of genital mutilation, arranged marriage and human trafficking. But I was wrong.

51nIN1ur+LL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates is a 2012 book stemming from a global project against inequality. It taught me just how large sexism is as an issue in the UK as well as around the world. With statistics that stunned me – like how 30% of domestic violence starts or worsens during pregnancy – and heart-wrenching real life accounts, I now know that this situation is a lot worse than I, and many other people, think. It’s dangerous, it costs lives and it matters.

More than 400,000 women are sexually assaulted and approximately 85,000 women are raped every year (UK Ministry of Justice, 2013) – it’s time to stop ignoring it. The Everyday Sexism project records reports of sexism on a daily basis to highlight that cat-calling and wolf-whistling are not the only issues women deal with and actually how threatening this can be.

Personally, I have experienced sexism. I have been cat-called, I have had strangers talk to me about my bottom, I have had “suck my cock” shouted through my bedroom window, I have been harassed by men via social media, had one try to force his way into my bedroom and one of my first year housemates pulled his underwear down in front of me as a “joke”. He was never even cautioned by the university for this act – in fact it was made out by the authority figure that I “made the whole thing up”. The scary thing is, this does not make me much different to a lot of other women out there.

Author: Laura Bates Photo Credit: The Times

Author: Laura Bates
Photo Credit: The Times

Everyday Sexism starts from gender normativity aimed at children from the moment they are born and progresses right through education and to the workplace. Laura Bates writes on, “‘lad culture’ creating a breeding ground for misogyny specific to the student experience” which is something most university students can say they have witnessed. There was even a section about the university I currently attend stating, “In 2011 an Exeter University society printed a ‘shag mag’ containing an article about how many calories men could burn in the course of stripping a woman naked without her consent. Elsewhere one student reported being given a printed set of ‘rules’ when he joined the university lacrosse team. It included the instruction ‘member’s don’t date – that’s what rape is for”. In university culture this kind of behaviour is often written off as “banter”, but is it really banter when men are being conditioned to adopt an aggressive mindset and women to fear men? This only leads to one of my biggest problems – women blaming themselves. Only today I saw a Facebook post stating how women need to be more careful about who they talk to online and what they wear in public due to the risk of being raped. As though it is a woman’s fault if she is raped. Sorry, I forgot men were completely lacking in self-control (by the way, this assumption is sexist to men!).

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A typical example of everyday sexism. Photo Credit: ExposedEv

Elsewhere Everyday Sexism depicts how black women are seen as “exotic” and “sexy” while white women are viewed as “pretty” and how a disability can become your whole identity in the public sphere. It goes on to discuss how women over the age of 50 are invisible and how it’s not a crime to be a woman without kids. I wish I could do this book justice by really exploring every idea it struck me with but honestly, I am overwhelmed. No longer will I keep my opinions quiet for fear of being perceived as an “angry feminist” – the world is in too much danger and too many people (men and women) have died over this inequality, even in recent years and, yes, even in the UK.

Not every person will have been victim to such sexism and not every person will have witnessed it but I hope that these people still remember that they have a voice for the rest of society.

Watch Laura Bates give a TedX talk on Everyday Sexism below:

About the Author

Jessikah Hope Stenson
A young, enthusiastic writer who appreciates a good scone.