One of the things that have been on my mind of late is the brilliant Everyday Sexism.
The Everyday Sexism project/website/twitter feed is one of the most interesting forms of feminist activism I have come across during the time I have identified as a feminist (almost a year). Highlighting the anecdotal experiences of women worldwide in an easily accessible way has the potential to impact the attitudes and opinions of those who read the stories and importantly raises awareness about the fact that sexism still exists. People who were not previously aware about how often women encounter sexism are able to realise the true scale of this problem by reading thousands of tweets and posts written by women.
Laura Bates, the founder of Everyday Sexism, spoke to Radio 4’s Women’s Hour in October 2012 about the interest the project has attracted. During the first 6 months of the website being live, they received over 7,000 stories from women. The sheer amount of stories shared online emphasizes the need for a change within our society. Many have been shocked by what they have read but it is still accepted to a certain degree. A lot of the sexism experienced on a daily basis is passed off as ‘banter’ and is brushed under the carpet like it shouldn’t have offended anyone anyway- like women are just being uptight. Many of the women who have tweeted @everydaysexism about sexism in the workplace, had reported what happened to them to management only to be told that they are ‘making a fuss over nothing’ or something along the lines of “oh that’s just what John is like, you just have to ignore him”. This happens too much.
The #followed hashtag set up by Everyday Sexism recently attracted an influx of posts. Women posted details about when they have been followed and for many it has happened more than once. Here are some of the posts: http://storify.com/EverydaySexism/followed
What is it about our society that makes vile comments and leering looks a common occurrence for the female population? And why is it that some men think it is okay to follow women?
I believe that every woman has a story. Unfortunately, I have a two. The one that sticks in my mind the most is when I was casually window shopping in town one day and a man who was nearby turned to me and said “I could rape you right now”. It was so unexpected, I was shocked and didn’t really know what to think but I was angry. I looked at him like ‘what the fuck!’ and then looked around thinking ‘did no one hear that!!?’ as quickly as I turned back around, he had vanished into the crowd. I felt helpless and violated; he came into my private space and made me feel really uncomfortable.
When I was recalling this memory earlier, I suddenly thought about something else that happened to me and now that I remember I can’t believe that I ever forgot because it was a really big deal to me at the time. I think I was about 13 or 14 and I used to get the bus every Friday and Saturday night. One night I was going to a party and when I got on the bus the driver made a comment about what I was wearing and said how nice I looked. I remember feeling really, really uncomfortable and every time I saw him after that he would give me this sly, creepy smile which made me feel weird. I continued to get the bus and saw him sporadically for a period of about 2 years. I hated him for a while for the way he made me feel and I spoke about him often to my boyfriend. I think his mum knew too but I didn’t tell anyone else, I just thought ‘what’s the point?’
I think the Everyday Sexism project shows people that there is a point and that it’s okay to speak out about what they have experienced and how it made them feel. There are thousands of women (millions around the world) who share the same experiences and as the project continues to grow I look forward to hearing the voices of women who have been silenced in the past, by people who have told them that “nothing happened” or “you brought it on yourself”. Through this outlet they are able to share their stories with other women around the world.