Delicately Blunt—on Laura Bates & the Everyday Sexism Project

entry_everdaysexism
A recent entry on the website

Of the 60,000 stories contributed by visitors worldwide on the Everyday Sexism website (Kellaway 2014), such raw, uneasy stories occupy a significant portion. Blunt as they sound, they are handled delicately by the team behind the project. Founded in 2012 by Laura Bates—a British feminist writer frustrated with blatant harassment—it aims to counter societal denial towards existing sexism (Everyday Sexism Project n.d.) through an ever-growing collection of stories, small and large. Visitors are greeted by a textbox asking them to recount any sexist incidents in their daily lives, and they can do so anonymously. Currently, the website comes in 25 country-versions and roughly 20 languages, including Russian, Chinese, Portuguese, and many more.

bcm322 Everday Sexism
(Illustration by me)
everydaysexism_laurabates_bookcover
Everyday Sexism book cover n.d., Amazon

The latest entries went online just yesterday—for a purely text-based platform, this longevity certainly impresses, especially as it started long before its more “outspoken” counterpart #MeToo (Jacobs 2018). Everyday Sexism soon obtained a physical form, a book featuring accounts at the discretion of their authors. It also went to Twitter, where its community’s backlash pushed Google Play and iTunes to scrap their plastic surgery games aiming at children (Murray-Morris 2014).

Not everyone can say #MeToo—Moran (2018) justified this in her commentary, drawing on other inequalities—but anyone with Internet access certainly can help expose #EverydaySexism. Anonymity is a powerful incentive to relieve oneself from the burden of stories in which they are the victim of injustice; Laura’s approach shows sensitivity towards women (and men alike) in fragile situations wherein they might lose their job or be shamed for standing up for themselves. As it seems impossible to say definitively whether any incident is “objectively sexist” (Swim et al. 2011), anonymous personal stories without a moral forced on readers serve the goal better than any statistics can do (Kellaway 2014). This, however, poses a huge dilemma: prioritising the safety and anonymity of contributors means compromising credibility since there is virtually no way to verify the recounts.

 

laurabates_portrait
Molden 2017, Laura Bates portrait, Telegraph

Furthermore, those who live in areas digitally divided from the rest of the world are essentially digitally muted in this sphere—not only can they not contribute, they might even not be able to hear from others. I had not heard about the project until I came across Laura’s TEDx Talk. There are countries where none or very few share their stories. The remnants of extreme sexual discrimination in the past mean women in many parts of the world are still bound by invisible mental chains, unable to speak up for themselves, even anonymously.

As for herself, Laura has received insults and even death threats for leading this movement, yet she thrives on being part of this community (Bates 2017) created by crowdsourcing. Paired with activism, crowdsourcing optimises the power of number (Amara 2017) and deliver complex insights (Hattaway 2016); however, it is bashed by some as pointless “coughing up outrage into a blog” (Greer 2014). The domino effect generated became the object of scorn, for it enables a “victimhood” mindset (Brown 2015).

threat_to_laurabates
Screenshot from Laura’s interview with Financial Times
sexism_dictionary
(image from Cherwell)

Everyday Sexism has become much more than a collection of evidence of gender inequality—it is a safe space for women (and men) to share, to listen, and even to vent. Still, unless Laura and her team advance to more tangible goals, the project is unlikely to reconstruct the frameworks behind this inequality anytime soon. Liberating as the act may be, tens of thousands of online voices might just be shouting anonymously into the void.

Mia (Minh-Anh)


References:

  1. Amara, G 2017, ‘Activism & Crowdsourcing’, HASTAC, 31 January, viewed 12 August 2018, <https://www.hastac.org/blogs/amarag/2017/01/31/activism-crowdsourcing>.
  2. Bates, L 2017, ‘What I have learned from five years of Everyday Sexism’, Guardian, 17 April, viewed 9 August 2018, <https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/apr/17/what-i-have-learned-from-five-years-of-everyday-sexism>.
  3. Brown, B 2015, ‘Belinda Brown: Destructive feminism of Everyday Sexism Project tears men and women apart’, Conservative Woman, 18 June, viewed 12 August 2018, <https://www.conservativewoman.co.uk/belinda-brown-destructive-feminism-of-everyday-sexism-project-tears-men-and-women-apart/.>
  4. Everyday Sexism Project n.d., about page, Everyday Sexism Project, viewed 9 August 2018, <https://everydaysexism.com/about>.
  5. Greer, G 2014, ‘Germaine Greer: the failures of the new feminism’, New Statesman, 14 May, viewed 10 August 2018, <https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/05/germaine-greer-failures-new-feminism>.
  6. Hattaway, D 2016, ‘Crowdsourcing the Future of a Social Movement’, HuffPost, 25 April, viewed 9 August 2018, <https://www.huffingtonpost.com/doug-hattaway/crowdsourcing-the-future-_b_9759290.html>.
  7. Jacobs, E 2018, ‘The world catches up with the Everyday Sexism project’, Financial Times, 22 February, viewed 12 August 2018, <https://www.ft.com/content/a7c59cec-1659-11e8-9e9c-25c814761640>.
  8. Kellaway, L 2014, ‘Lucy Kellaway interviews Everyday Sexism Project founder Laura Bates’, Financial Times, 1 August, viewed 10 August 2018, <https://www.ft.com/content/b407d9be-1835-11e4-a82d-00144feabdc0>.
  9. Moran, C 2018, ‘Not everyone can say #MeToo and we need to tackle the causes of sexual violence’, Conversation, 28 March, viewed 12 August 2018, <https://theconversation.com/not-everyone-can-say-metoo-and-we-need-to-tackle-the-causes-of-sexual-violence-93075.>
  10. Murray-Morris, S 2014, ‘Apple and Google pull plastic surgery apps for children following Twitter backlash’, Independent, 15 January, viewed 10 August 2018, <https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/apple-and-google-pull-plastic-surgery-apps-for-children-following-twitter-backlash-9061383.html>.
  11. Swim, J, Cohen, L, Hyers, L, & Ferguson, M 2001, ‘Everyday sexism: Evidence for its incidence, nature, and psychological impact from three daily diary studies’, Journal of Social Issues, vol. 57, no. 1, p. 31-53.

Images

  1. Everyday Sexism book cover n.d, Amazon, viewed 14 August 2018, <https://www.amazon.com/Everyday-Sexism-Inspired-Worldwide-Movement/dp/1250100186>.
  2. Laura Bates at a TEDx talk in London, December 2013 n.d., Financial Times, viewed 14 August 2018, <https://www.ft.com/content/b407d9be-1835-11e4-a82d-00144feabdc0>.
  3. Molden, C 2017, Laura Bates’ portrait, Telegraph, viewed 14 August 2018, <https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/boom-50-quotes-nail-like-modern-woman/everyday-sexism/>.
  4. Mysogynation book cover n.d., Simon & Schuster UK, viewed 14 August 2018, <http://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/books/Misogynation/Laura-Bates/9781471169243>.
  5. Sexism dictionary entry n.d., Cherwell, viewed 14 August 2018, <http://cherwell.org/2018/04/04/lets-talk-about-everyday-sexism/>.

 

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