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01/02/2015
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What are your experiences of everyday sexism?

By broadcast journalist Chris Hemmings

Here’s a scenario: A teenage girl is walking down the street when a car, full of men, slows to match her pace. They wolf-whistle, pass comment on the size of her breasts and drive off, laughing throughout at the extent of their hilarity. Harmless fun, some would say. But not everyone sees it this way.

Laura Bates has found this is a common form of discrimination, along with experiences of sexism in the workplace. She is the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project and now has 60,000+ entries and 130,000 Twitter followers who, it’s been said, are at the forefront of the fourth wave of feminism.

Then, hypothetically, the car pulls over 100 yards down the road and the men exit the car; how many of us, honestly, would confront them? And, if we did, what are the odds on a response suggesting we should “lighten up”?

Laura wants us all to adopt a new approach. ‘Equality’ is a term often used with reference to a free and open society and many would argue that we, in the UK, are fortunate enough to live this way. Everyone can vote, anyone can now marry regardless of gender and, held in highest regard, everyone has the right to free speech. In essence, you can say what you like whenever you like.

There are, of course, obvious parameters to this right and many of us have the conviction to speak out against insulting words. Whilst this is undoubtedly a positive thing, just how regularly do we apply our principles?

The Everyday Sexism Project rejects the pre-conceived perceptions of what is deemed acceptable for one person to say to another. It challenges the way we act and, most of all, challenges our lack of action.

But the thousands of women (and men, for that matter) who have been subjected to this don’t see it this way. Laura says its a man trying to assert their dominance and makes the victim question her place in the world.

The stories told to Laura via her website make it abundantly clear that this sort of behaviour is not harmless. It’s damaging and, when repeated, can have a lasting impression on a person’s self-worth. Just as damaging is the fact that many choose to turn a blind eye, or pass off this form of discrimination as a joke.

Laura is travelling the country, teaching youngsters about the impact of the sexist behaviour and how we should have the courage to challenge it.

In her book, ‘Everyday Sexism’, Laura serialises the stories of countless people who’ve been subjected to abuse of this nature and how it has impacted on their lives. She rejects the notion that we live in an equal society and urges us all to drive change.

What are your experiences? Laura Bates is on the Richard Bacon show on 5 live 7 Monday April at 2.15pm.

Everyday Sexism Project on Twitter

Comments

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  • Comment number 4. Posted by zelda

    on 7 Apr 2014 20:25

    I don't think you will ever stamp 'sexism' from either men or women out entirely. I don't know if I really would ever want to either. A society where you have to watch every word you say in case it may offend someone. What a sterile world that would be.

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  • Comment number 3. Posted by Lisa

    on 7 Apr 2014 11:34

    Nobody is saying these things never happen to men but if I ask most of the women I know and specifically young women they will have at least one if not several examples from this week, maybe even more than one today. I am 40 and have at least 4 from the last week alone.

    Most "people" recognise that it is not appropriate to yell at anyone in the street but some men in particular seem to feel that women's bodies are open to public scrutiny and think nothing of shouting their comment loudly for all to hear with not a thought given to how this might feel to the victim. I have been forced for example to change my route home or chosen not to take my run up a country path purely because a group of men just loudly yelled sexual comments at me and I felt unsafe to err from a main road. All anyone is saying is that that is not harmless, it is restrictive and discriminatory whomever does it to who but it is the lived experience of women in this country daily and that needs to change.

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  • Comment number 2. Posted by carrie

    on 7 Apr 2014 10:53

    "Laura says its a man trying to assert their dominance and makes the victim, because that’s what she is, question her place in the world." "Laura is travelling the country, teaching youngsters about the impact of the men’s behaviour and how we should have the courage to challenge it."
    Surely Laura should be saying it's a person, not a man, or is she being sexist?
    Honestly although the article says people wrongly make jokes about sexism, she wants to try working in a man's world (I worked in a men's prison as a social worker) and then she would learn the only way to smash this type of sexism is to confront it head on - it shuts them up. That comes from having confidence to do it the first time, and then keep on.
    As it's on Bacon I won't hear her.

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  • Comment number 1. Posted by e-mc2

    on 7 Apr 2014 10:51

    Girl groups have been known to do this. Go to Cardiff or any other major city on a Friday or Saturday night. Is that sexism too ?...

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