Every now and again a book comes along that really socks you between the eyes and forces you sit up and take notice – for me that book was everyday sexism by Laura Bates. Everyone within a 10 mile radius of me while I was reading this book was subjected to one outrageous story of sexism or unbelievable statistic after another and as I have this blog, I now get to share this experience with all you lovely people as well! You might be getting a bit worried now that I’m about to go off on a feminist rant here (you might be right about that!) but the issues discussed in this book are crucial for all of us, women and men, to consider so bare with me!
A journalist from the UK, Laura Bates was prompted to ask the question ‘Is it just me?’ on Facebook and Twitter after experiencing one sexist incident after another. The response to her question was overwhelming with responses flooding in from women (and men) all over the world and as a result of this massive outpouring of stories, the ‘everyday sexism’ project was formed to help share these stories, and help to inspire change.
Now, I’m not an idiot. I knew that sexism still existed and I could certainly have pointed out a few examples from my own life – either that I’ve experienced or witnessed – but if I’m being perfectly honest until I read this book, I don’t think I really grasped the true extent of just how much sexism, and the severity of it, that still exists in this supposedly advanced, modern age.
The book covers all sorts of topics such as women in the public sphere, women in politics, women in the workplace, the influence of sexism on young girls, double discrimination, motherhood… all aspects of our lives and the roles that we play. Each chapter starts off with vital statistics before going on to share the stories of real women from the project and the more I read the more horrified I became.
I won’t bombard you with a whole post of examples from the book but here are some highlights:
- In 2013, just 20% of parliamentary seats in the world were held by women and 19 of the world’s 196 countries had female leaders.
- In 2012, in the UK girls as young as five, yes that’s right FIVE, were worrying about their weight.
- Again in the UK, almost 70% of female university students in 2010 had experienced verbal or non-verbal harassment in or around their institution. A situation no doubt encouraged by the fact that during what we call ‘Freshers Week’ in the UK, many universities held welcome events with charming names like ‘Geeks and Sluts’.
- 84% of front-page articles focused on male subjects or male experts in 2012 and of the 100 most successful films of 2013, only 28% of the speaking parts were female.
- If you’re in the mood for some disgusting songs about women or maybe even a song suggestive of rape, you might want to try some of these shockingly successful songs – Blurred Lines, Rack City, U.O.E.N.O, Hold On, We’re Going Home and The Show Must Go On. Apparently the videos for the last 2 are just charming!
And I swear these are the last two!
- The average female executive earns approximately $423,000 less over the course of her life than a male colleague on an identical career path.
- In 2007 if you were a woman in the UK with a child under the age of 11 you were 45% less likely to be employed than a man.
These statistics are just a brief look at the scale of the problem that still exists and the stories of the women in this book are both terrifying and heartbreaking! I had such a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that this situation still exists in the 21st century!
What Laura is keen to point out is that isn’t a ‘man vs woman’ problem – in no way is she implying that all men are sexist or that they don’t themselves experience sexism. This is a ‘people vs prejudice’ problem. Everyone, to varying degrees, is affected by these issues and we all have to work together if we have any hope of overcoming them. This book should be compulsory reading in schools and for all of us. This is one of those books that’s not just a good read (though it is) but is actually important. Reading it really matters and could really make a difference.
So please don’t just dismiss this and think ‘It’s just a feminist book, it’s not for me’ or ‘Sexism isn’t that bad anymore!’. Please just read this because I guarantee it will be an eye opener and you might just be helping to change things for the better!
Anyone else read this book? Or are there any other books that have really made you sit up and take notice like this?