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60,000 testimonies later, the Everyday Sexism project celebrates its second anniversary

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Two years ago, after a bad week and a string of sexist incidents, Laura Bates decided to shout back, questioning how many other women faced the same daily cascade of comments. With the aim of forging a tight-knit community where victims could exchange stories and seek solace, the Everyday Sexism Project was born in April 2012.

In the weeks and months that followed, the project was rapidly propelled from relative anonymity to the heights of internet fame and the Everyday Sexism Project became a household name. With stories ranging from the familiar rain shower of unwanted remarks to serious sexual assault, Laura Bates and her team of feminist volunteers have witnessed the true face of gender imbalance first-hand.

For many, the shock of reading testimonies from younger women and girls about the onslaught of comments, groping or online taunts has encouraged more people to step forward and shout back. From the project’s humble beginnings, Everyday Sexism has spread to 18 countries and has amassed more than 60,000 testimonies.

Since the project’s inception, we have seen a rise in reported incidents on public transport in London and Laura Bates claims that through the Everyday Sexism Project, more people are reporting assault and harassment after realising that they are not alone.

In 2013, Everyday Sexism teamed up with Project Guardian in a bid to make women feel safer on public transport and spread awareness. In the months that followed officers handing out information cards about harassment on public transport, we saw a 32% increase in detections (where an offender has been charged or given a caution).  

Sadly, there is still a lot left to do to promote a more palpable and visible gender equality: 28% of women who are victims of the most serious sexual offences still never tell anyone about it. In terms of political representation, only three of the cabinet’s top 22 positions are occupied by women in the UK.

Last week heralded the book launch of Everyday Sexism, a collection of experiences and stories from women across the UK and beyond.  The Everyday Sexism book has attracted support from a number of high profile names, including Caitlin Moran who argued that it will “make every cat-called girl feel saner.” 

What is key to the Everyday Sexism Project's success is its sense of community and cultural transferability. From French girls who were flashed whilst having a picnic to a girl in Pakistan unable to come clean about the sexual abuse she experienced due to fears of besmirching her “family honour”, the website, and now the book, tracks stories from across the globe of men and women speaking out against the sexism that continues to haunt society in the 21st century.

The Everyday Sexism book offers both a rich repository of testimonies to which many can relate and that we can all lament and ultimately endeavour to fight against. And there is much to be said for strength in numbers; for those who argue that sexism is long dead and buried in Western society, it is hard to shout down 60,000 testimonies from people experiencing the same thing.

Here are some excerpts from testimonies submitted anonymously to the Everyday Sexism Project:

I was napping on my train ride home and was woken up by a guy telling me I might want to move because the person across from me was angling his camera so he could take pictures of under my school uniform's skirt.

When I attend lit readings everyone ALWAYS assumes my husband is the writer. He gets handed the business cards, which he then passes to me and says, "My wife is very busy with her new project but I'll be sure to tell her about XYZ." Even after I've read, sometimes people still address him instead of me.

Our workplace has a double standard, if you are female and assert yourself you are called aggressive and disciplinary action is started. Any male acting in the same manner is seen as normal and laughed off. This is exacerbated by the lack of women in significant senior roles.

Men comment about my lip piercing and my tits. Having made the automatic connection that as I have big tits and a lip ring "I must be a naughty girl in bed". When I sound outraged or don't reply then then think it's because "I'm a lesbian." 

I've realised that I have played on my darker edgier look to get men interested but I was told "I'm only good for affairs and not the marrying kind". This has deeply affected me and my ability to pick good men. The fact it's affected me annoys me the most. 

I've been told the reason I'm single at 32 is because I'm "too independent and men don't like that". Sadly I've tried to be less than me to keep a man amused but it I couldn't pretend for long. 

As a teenager I had sex with older men in places of power over me. I didn't know how to protect myself or get away from them. I haven't told anyone.

Only after moving to a first world western country for my education did I realize that women DO NOT get groped or leered at every single day on their daily commute to and from home. In India, we are told to just "deal with it" because it's a "normal" thing. I don't want to move back to a country where superficially, women are just as independant as their western counterparts but are subject to a violation of their physical and mental space by men who still think of women are objects of pleasure and servitude rather than human beings. When I express these views to friends back home I'm labelled a "western culturalist" who has gone "soft".

I was sexually abused by my uncle for many years and often forced to go to his house to spend the weekend before my parents found out what was happening. They decided it was best not to tell anyone because "no one would believe me" and I'd "drive the family apart." They now act like nothing happened.

He came over to fix our furnace recently and after he left my mom said, "It was really nice of him to fix the furnace for free, huh?"

"Mom, he is not a a good person. At all."

"Well, when he's fixing the furnace he is."

Fuck you, mom.

Everyday Sexism (Simon & Schuster, £14.99) is now available from all major book retailers




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