Campaign: CHIME FOR CHANGE

THE MAGNITUDE OF EVERYDAY SEXISM WORLDWIDE

BY LAURA BATES

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Four years ago, I started what I thought would be a very simple website called the Everyday Sexism Project. I asked people to share any experiences of gender inequality as I wanted to raise awareness of the scale of the problem.

Over 100,000 stories flooded in from around the world. They described workplace discrimination, street harassment, domestic abuse, sexual violence and much more.

But what shocked me most was how many of these stories came from children. Girls who were no more than 9 or 10 years old when men first started shouting at them in the streets.

Students who were 11 or 12 when boys at school started to touch them without their consent. Girls who were 15 or 16 when they used the word ‘normal’ to describe men rubbing up against them on a crowded bus.

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So I started visiting schools and universities and was disturbed by what girls and young women experience everyday, from sexual harassment outside school to sexual pressure within. The Internet certainly provides young women with many opportunities to connect and empower each other, but it has also opened up avenues for massive online abuse. This comes in addition to the customary ways the media bombards girls with unrealistic and airbrushed role models they can never live up to. Online pornography sends young people of all genders confusing and often misogynistic messages about sex and relationships. And it turns out that young women often don’t know about their rights to their own bodies, or the fact that nobody has the right to touch them without their consent.

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We constantly police and criticise young women’s behaviour. We tell them not to wear short skirts or go out too late at night, to wear enough make up to be sexy but not enough to be a slut. We tell them to dress to flatter their apple, pear, hourglass figure, but not to be too tarty. We warn them that if they try to be strong, or take control, they’ll be called shrill or bossy. Boys are fine but girls should know their place. We tell them ‘that’s not for girls’ – ‘take it as a compliment’ – ‘don’t rock the boat’ – ‘that’ll go straight to your hips’. We tell them ‘beauty is on the inside’, but we all know we don’t really mean it.

I decided it was time to tell a different story and wrote Girl Up a survival guide with tips on everything from mental health and body image to relationships and careers; a tribute to the strength and resilience of young women; and a window into their world for everybody else.

Around the world, young women are most at risk from relationship abuse and sexual violence (source: UN Women). It’s time we stopped bombarding them with stereotypes, hypocrisy and double standards. Instead they might need our support to provide among themselves alternative role models that speak to their souls.


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Excerpt from Girl Up

During your life, people are probably going to tell you that you are and aren’t good at things because of your sex. Under absolutely no circumstances should you listen to them.

Unfortunately, you probably shouldn’t punch them either, as tempting as it may be.

The good news is that resisting the punchy urge will get easier with practice.
The bad news is you’re going to get lots of practice.

If it helps, there is a vast amount of information available to help you shoot down ridiculous arguments . . .

They say:
Girls aren’t good at computers
You say:
Yeah, apart from the fact that the first ever computer programmer, Ada Lovelace, was a woman. #Awkward

They say:
Boys are just stronger than girls
You say:
Mmmhmm, talk to me about Tomoe Gozen, the twelfth-century samurai described as a ‘warrior worth a thousand’, or Marie Marvingt, the first female bomber pilot, or Harriet Tubman, who escaped from slavery and risked her own safety to rescue hundreds of others

They say:
Politics is male-dominated because men are more natural leaders
You say:
That’s weird because Aung San Suu Kyi (the chairperson of the Burmese National League for Democracy, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for leading her people in peaceful protest against oppression), Angela Merkel (who has been the hugely successful Chancellor of Germany since 2005), Condoleezza Rice (the former US Secretary of State who pioneered the policy of Transformational Diplomacy to increase the number of responsible democratic governments internationally) and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (who co-led a non-violent women’s peace movement that helped bring an end to civil war and went on to become President of Liberia) WERE ALL WOMEN LAST TIME I CHECKED

They say:
You’re overreacting/being hysterical/on your period
You say:
Or I’m a woman voicing an opinion and that’s freaking you out a little bit

They say:
Wow, you’re taking physics/engineering/other male-dominated subject – that’s really unusual/tough for girls
You say:
Lucky I’ve got role models like Marie Curie, the only person ever to win the Nobel Prize in both physics and chemistry, and the women who invented Kevlar, windscreen wipers and central heating. Oh and hey, do you like beer? Well, guess what? Women invented that too

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Girl Up by Laura Bates can be found HERE.

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