On behalf of Exeposé Comment, John Chilvers provides an overview of the recent talk given by Laura Bates who is the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project.
Laura Bates, the founder of the ‘Everyday Sexism Project’ visited the University on Friday to give a talk organized by Labour students and Gender Equality. The talk focused on her experiences in founding the everyday sexism project and the future of feminism in the 21st century.
The Everyday Sexism Project aims to document everyday examples of sexism as reported by contributors from around the world. The project sees entries from women and men of all ages and class. Laura said she set up the project in response to people telling her that men and women are now more or less equal now and that “if you can’t take a joke or take a compliment, then you need to stop being so ‘frigid’ and get a sense of humour.”
She spoke of three experiences of sexual harassment that occurred over a matter of weeks that inspired her into action. The turning point was when a man started moving his hand up her leg on a bus. What angered her further was the response of the other passengers when she stood up and moved explaining what had happened, the passengers turned their heads and looked out of the window, acting as if what had just happened had not occurred. What Laura Bates highlighted was that instances like this are not acceptable but for some reason have become seen as “something that just happens.”
She argued that feminism in the UK no longer has to fight for legislation as on the whole this has been achieved but what is needed is a cultural shift in attitudes. The only way this cultural shift can happen is by individuals standing up against instances of every day sexism. It’s about men and women together sending the message out that sexual harassment, whatever severity is not acceptable and should not be tolerated.
Often sexual harassment stems from lad culture and this idea that all men have to be dominating and masculine or they become seen as a ‘pussy’ or called homosexual. Many men and even some women engage in this lad culture thinking that it is harmless fun. Laura Bates highlighted that this kind of culture creates this sense that men are superior to women.
She spoke about how during fresher’s week every year they witnessed a spike in posts from young women who were having negative experiences, many of the initiations by societies were degrading to women, many pressuring girls into sexual activities often with older students. Equally as worrying when asking older, second or third year students about their experiences they responded that instances of being groped in a club or being pressured by men while out were normal and something they had come to expect.
The Everyday Sexism Project has highlighted the experiences of women across all areas of society. It’s now up to us, men and women to stand up against this and create a more equal society.
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