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Everyday Sexism: Laura Bates Explains Why 'Ordinary Heckles' Should Not Be Ignored

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Bum pinching. Wolf-whistling. Being heckled and honked at by passing drivers. Staying in the office while your workmates visit a lap dancing club with clients.

These are all forms of sexism British women endure and ignore every day - but one website is attempting to change that.

Everyday Sexism, a new project set up by 26-year-old writer and campaigner Laura Bates, allows women to tell their stories, in their own words. Why? As Bates says, so "people can realise how bad it is."

everyday sexism

Everyday Sexism? Laura Bates says she set up the project to help catalogue institutional discrimination against women based on their gender

She set up the website five months ago, relying on word of mouth and Twitter to get the message out, to create a forum for women to express each niggle, each instance of sexism - big or small - they came across in their day-to-day lives.

The Everyday Sexism project's mission statement, as it tells its contributors, is "say as much or as little as you like, use your real name or a pseudonym – it’s up to you. By sharing your story you're showing the world that sexism does exist, it is faced by women everyday and it is a valid problem to discuss."


Sarah Felts
In criminal law, a male classmate said most women who "cry rape" are experiencing "buyers' remorse."

Women and men are also encouraged to tweet EverydaySexism with their stories

“The only publicity I've ever done for it is I put it on my Facebook and made a Twitter page and it's taken off like wildfire. We've had around 5,000 entries, 4,000 of those have been in the last month,” Bates tells The Huffington Post UK.

The stories range from being grabbed in the street, or in a club, by a stranger and work place harassment, like what Aimee's colleagues said when she went on a 'women's networking day.'

"Not only that but it is so normal – people are used to it and they just get on with it," she writes. "It is completely mirrored across City firms of friends and co-workers I know of. The firm does run a women’s networking day annually – in fact the men in my office cheerfully waved me off when I went to it last year – saying 'have fun burning your bras'.”

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Bates said she was inspired to start the project for two reasons; observing the behaviour of young girls while she was a nanny ("I was also looking after these little girls who at the age of 9 or 10 were obsessing about Miley Cyrus and Robert Pattinson, all of their female role models were there purely on the basis of appearance") and when she experienced an “overwhelming” level of street harassment upon moving to London.

Just for men? Asda were called out for using this magazine display

"There just seemed to be an acceptance of it and I started talking to my female friends about it who work across different sectors. I was just completely shocked. I thought it would be one or two of them [who'd experienced it]."

Everyday Sexism goes further than similar sites like Hollaback London, which catalouges eye-watering instances of street harrasment women in the capital deal with; it’s about the wider instances of discrimination, the “invisible problem”, as Bates calls it.

As well as documenting women's stories, Bates also calls out sexism on Twitter, forcing Asda to finally consider changing their ‘men's lifestyle’ of magazines and asking followers on the @everydaysexism what they’ve experienced.

"Every single woman I talked to immediately launched into an enormous story, ranging from co-workers going to strip clubs, bosses smacking bottoms, office parties in strip clubs, attitudes where men in the office would rate female employees out of 10. It was like an invisible problem," Bates says.

Everyday Sexism forced the popular footy jokes Twitter account to apologise for posting this image

So far, aside from the death threats and abuse, Bates has been asked why focus on the minutiae, rather than tackle women's under representation in parliament, or the perception of rape in Britain. But for her, it's about creating a picture as a whole.

“Once I realised that all these people had these stories I was getting these enormous picture and other people were hearing about slight indents, I wanted to put that picture in the public,” she says.

"I think because there's so many of these different things they have to be connected. Some people will say why are you bothering with people calling someone 'darling' in the street when there's very few female MPs. But if David Cameron says 'calm down dear' in the House of Commons, these things are connected.

"As soon as you mention it, overtime I put anything on Twitter women say yes me too, that's my experience. There's a huge sense of frustration that this problem isn't properly acknowledged," she says.

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