[Simon & Schuster]
In 2012, after a personal encounter with street harassment, Laura Bates founded a website where people could share their experiences of sexism. The site quickly drew thousands upon thousands of stories – from ‘offhand’ comments, to harassment, assault, and even childhood sexual abuse. Bates collects a vast array of these testimonials in Everyday Sexism.
At 382 pages, the effect is overwhelming. This is the intention: confronted by the opinion that ‘sexism no longer exists’, Bates felt that by gathering these women’s stories in one place ‘people would be convinced that there was, in fact, a problem to be solved.’ Few could dispute that she succeeds. Everyday Sexism effectively calls attention to the pervasiveness of sexist attitudes, and the deep and lasting emotional impact women experience as a result. From the testimonials of girls learning that they can’t be doctors or barristers, to that of the girl who writes that, although she knows herself to be “smart [and] kind and funny”, she “still feel[s] like nothing”, Bates compellingly illustrates how experiences of everyday sexism mold and limit girls’ horizons of possibilities.
However, in attempting to be comprehensive Bates forgoes a clear structure and, more troublingly, a directive on what can be done. Thus, Everyday Sexism reflects an amorphous “fourth-wave feminism” – extensive and varied, but internet-based, uncoordinated, and diffuse. Nevertheless, the work is a stark reminder of the urgency of feminist activism today.
Words: Mònica Tomàs
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