Light on a Hidden Truth

everydaysexismEveryday Sexism by Laura Bates
Thomas Dunne Books, 2014, 2016.

“I learned that I had a sexy body when I was in elementary school because that’s when grown men started staring at me and making sexual comments to me.” p. 82

“Guy simulated masturbating on my face on packed bus. Next month it happened for real, again no one said anything.” p. 161

I was only going to flip through this book to see if I wanted to read it and ended up skipping back and forth through the whole thing.

“In college I’m wearing a sundress and climbing some stairs. Some guy passes me, yanks on my sundress and pulls it down enough to reveal my breasts.” p. 134

“When starting my first job as a welder 4 of the men went to the boss and told him he couldn’t employ me because I was a girl.” p. 223

After realizing how often she experienced little moments of degradation, minimization, and violence because of her gender, Bates started a project that allowed women to submit their stories of everyday sexism online. The project turned into a global phenomenon, a world-changing document showing the painful and demoralizing effect of these incidents, making it near-impossible to ignore that these “little” incidents create a huge effect on women all over the world.

“Had an IT lecturer who would always sit very close on the bench to point out things you did wrong in your program (with ‘casual’ touches, etc.). I declined his invitation to an advanced programming group simply because I knew it was him leading that group. My friend joined it and was constantly groped but she suffered in silence because she wanted to excel at programming.” p. 137

“As I walked into the office… the first question asked by a more senior male colleague that I would be working for was: ‘Hi, so who is looking after your baby?’ That afternoon another senior colleague– friends with the first one– thought it was acceptable to ask straight whether I would be properly involved in the new project, as ‘women are not as committed to work after they have a baby.’ He has 3 children but apparently the commitment only affects women.” p. 279

I found myself remembering similar incidents from my own life, things that I didn’t know how to stop or report or even understand at the time. Only seeing them in the context of so many other women’s experiences can I see the bigger picture of how they shape my expectations and my behavior. This is a hard book to read, but necessary.