The next time someone tells you that sexism ‘isn’t a thing anymore’ or simply ‘doesn’t exist’, point them in the direction of Laura Bates and she will give them a good talking to. Laura Bates founded the Everyday Sexism Project in 2012, a project which has amassed over 100,000 accounts of everyday sexism.
Bates began her talk by absolutely filling my head to the brim with tiny factual weapons I can now whip out and use to metaphorically shoot down any misogynistic arse who tries to tell me I have ‘equal rights’. Like the fact that only 1 in 5 front page newspaper articles ore written by women, and 84% of front page articles are also about, or centred around, men. These are two examples of the plethora of facts she relayed. The most impressive thing was Bates’ ability to effortlessly evidence sexism in such an extensive way, you couldn’t imagine anyone ever disagreeing with her after they’d heard her speak.
Massive kudos to her for talking about intersectionality: the fact that 1 in 4 women experience sexual assault in their lifetime, however that figure doubles to 1 in 2 for disabled women. The audience seemed to be largely made up of middle-aged second-wave ‘white feminism’ women, so I feel like hearing a prominent figure like Bates talk about intersectionality was valuable.
“Congratulations, you have a penis!”
Bates discussed how young women are affected by feminism and how this can be tackled she discussed sexting, unsolicited ‘dick pics’ and sending ‘nudes’ which is sadly a frequent occurrence in the lives of teenage girls. What was especially brilliant about Bates was that she gave realistic ways for young women to tackle these issues. A lot of people’s response to a young girl telling them they’d be asked for nudes would be “shut it down, delete snapchat, don’t go on your phone” which ignores how important some young people see these forms of social media to maintain a good social life.
Bates’ tools for responding to these issues were so wonderfully witty, such as an illustration girls can send to men who send them unsolicited photos saying “congratulations, you have a penis!”
The thing that slightly ground my gears was the Q&A at the end of the talk. One woman commented on how much ‘nicer’ and ‘respectful’ men had been when she was at uni. I felt bewildered that this woman thought younger generations than her own had taken some backwards step in the progression towards equal rights. I just sat there thinking, “I’m pretty sure when you were at uni it was still legal for a husband to rape their wife, so excuse me for not thinking things were oh-so-better when you were young”. I like to think of feminism more optimistically as on a continuous upward trajectory.
Overall the talk was brilliantly empowering and informative. I loved that as well as Bates commenting on the challenges facing young women, she also commented on how intelligent and socially aware young people are today. So thanks for the little compliment Bates, you’re not too shabby yourself.
Side note: if this article has interested you in any way, I highly recommend you read “Girl Up” by Bates, all about issues young women face and how they can be tackled.