In a human rights class during my final year at university, we were asked to read some articles written from a feminist perspective. The articles we were given seemed outlandish to me. I thought the entire concept of feminism was outdated and a little bit ridiculous. Like many others, my opinions stemmed from a belief that sexism was becoming a thing of the past and that reports of sexist behaviour were fading. My tutor pointed me to the Everyday Sexism Project. This was an awakening to the sexism faced by women across the globe in everyday life. A type of sexism that has become so commonplace that I didn’t even recognise it as sexism. In this article I aim to explain what the project is and how it has helped to give women a revolutionary voice. Through the sharing of information, there is a role for both men and women in combatting the experiences voiced through the project.
What is the Everyday Sexism Project?
The project is an online blog on which women and men can post daily experiences of gender inequality. This ranges from cat calling in the street to instances of rape and sexual assault. Its founder, Laura Bates, tells her story in the #shoutingback campaign:
I was just walking down the pavement one day and I didn’t look behind me because there was plenty of space for them to walk past. And then just suddenly felt a hand grab me from behind. I was wearing jeans but… pushing up between my legs and how violating that feels.
Feeling all of the things I thought I would say in that situation flying out of the window… just how much that sense of shame stays with you. I realised that women weren’t talking about this, myself included.
As a result of this, Laura set up the project to give people a place in which they could voice their experiences. With the website now live in 18 countries and 97,029 current followers on twitter, the project has gone from strength to strength.
Many women who post on the site have expressed gratitude to the project for the sense of collective community it provides. Some posts on the @everydaysexism twitter have tagged companies in their tweets where the culprit was offending in the course of their employment. Thus, the forum is making a difference to the way in which women like me who had become indifferent to everyday sexism choose to react. It has unearthed and disturbed a long-standing widespread tolerance of sexual harassment that cannot now be ignored.
You can’t silence somebody when they have 25,000 other voices behind them saying, “I believe you and it’s happened to me too.” – Laura Bates
Successes of the Project
Perhaps one of the greatest successes of the project is its collaboration with the British Transport Police and Project Guardian (#projguardian). Project Guardian is a scheme involving the British Transport Police, Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police. It aims to reduce crimes of sexual assault or unwanted sexual behaviour on public transport. The Everyday Sexism Project empowered an increasing number of people (men and women) to voice these types of offences. As a result, the British Transport Police are able not only to encourage reporting of the offences, but also to explain procedures for doing so. An example of some of the exchanges include:
@everydaysexism I was 15, man reached between the seats on the train and stuck his hand up my skirt. I changed seats, didn’t report.
British Transport Police:
@[username] Never too late to report it. We treat each report with the same seriousness, whether it happened years ago or yesterday.
Before projects like Everyday Sexism, many people would not have dared to voice an experience such as the one above, let alone on a public forum.
The positives of the project actually span much wider than this empowerment of women. The experiences expressed have encouraged many men to speak out against the kinds of sexist behaviour blogged by the project. This is vital for the progress of society in recognising gender inequality as unacceptable. The project has similarly provided for the sharing of ideas around how men can help in situations where women are made to feel vulnerable. One particularly good example included where a group of males had shouted ‘get your tits out’ at a passer by, to which the man standing next to her lifted his top up in her support.
How can we support the project?
Reporting, reporting, reporting! Whether you are male or female, victim or bystander, you can always report instances of gender inequality. This could even be anonymously on the Everyday Sexism site.
Secondly, the Everyday Sexism Project allows us to question behaviour. This could include in the workplace where your employer is treating a co-worker unfavourably or inappropriately for reasons of gender. It could be a situation where your group of friends shouts at a female walking past and you simply question their reasons. Whatever it is, question it.
If we support the continued growth of the project through social media and word-of-mouth, tacit complicity of gender inequality will no longer have a place in society. Thanks to the Everyday Sexism Project, societal change is impending.