Everyday sexism: ‘Change is on the way’

Laura Bates started the Everyday Sexism project to highlight the prevalence of the problem. Despite receiving death and rape threats as a result, she senses progress

Mon, Apr 28, 2014, 01:00

White middle-class feminists
Feminism has long been dominated by the voices of middle-class white women such as Bates, and she knows that her experiences of sexism will often be different from those of, say, black or gay or disabled or transgender women. Women from marginalised groups experience an array of intersecting prejudices, and Bates believes an awareness of this “needs to be at the centre of the modern feminist movement. What we’re really seeing in this new surge of feminism is the democratisation of feminism, and one of the things that has come from [this] is the voices of women of colour, disabled women, trans women, lesbian women, older women, all talking about how desperately important it is to consider [these intersections] in a pragmatic sense if we want to solve the problem.”

Bates, who is expanding her activism with talks in schools and businesses, feels optimistic about the future. “The thing that really does make me feel hopeful in spite of everything is a feeling that there’s a real push-back going on, that so many people are standing up and shouting about it that change really is on the way,” she says. “So when I read those devastating stories from young girls, that’s what makes me able to carry on instead of crying and throwing my hands up.”

Everydaysexism.com. The book Everyday Sexism is published by Simon & Schuster, £14.99

We asked Irish people to tell us of their experiences of everyday sexism. Here are just a few:

At a cafe, there are buzzers on each table, to ring for service. Husband: “I should get one of them for her” (nods head at wife).

Yesterday I witnessed a prepubescent boy wolf-whistle at a passing woman. He was with his parents. They laughed.

First day of med school, the guys were told about hospital rugby to get in with the consultants; no equivalent for women.

A chief executive saying “good girl” to me in a meeting.

Quiet chat in the pub, approached by two fellas, be polite for a few minutes answering their questions and they think five minutes later is enough to drop the hand to hip and thigh. So we say we just want to have our own quiet conversation and, of course, this makes us stuck-up lesbians.

Sexually harassed on work experience aged 16: female co-worker told me the guy was “nice & harmless really”.

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