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Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

Trigger warning: mentions of r*pe & sexual harassment (both within the book & this post)

Honestly, I only bought this book last month as it was on offer in Waterstones and being unable to not take advantage of a money-saving deal, I just grabbed another book to complete the offer. Now that I finally got around to reading and completing it, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this is one of the most important books I had read for a very long time.

Bates does not address anything in this book that is news - sexism has been apparent since probably the dawn of time. However, her self-created "Everyday Sexism Project" has allowed the stories of women from across the globe to be compiled together to get a true picture of the effect that sexist and misogynistic ideals have on women in the present day.

Before I get a ton of eye rolls from men (and women) about how this is probably just 384 pages of man-hating slander, let me tell you: this is completely the opposite. This book is not anti-male propaganda designed to turn women against men. The idea of feminism has been dangerously distorted and made into a dirty, taboo word; when, in reality, the theory behind it is simply one of basic human rights: for there to be total, unequivocal equality of the sexes.

The introduction to this book, aptly titled "Everybody Has a Tipping Point", lured me in straight away. Reading the experiences of Bates herself, as well as anecdotes from other women through the Project and through Twitter, made me realise that actually I too have reached my tipping point. There is rarely a single day of the week where I do not walk down the street without being catcalled, or some kind of comment is made about me/my appearance. Bates describes these quite correctly as "little pinpricks", in that these tiny occurrences happen so often and they largely and mostly do not affect my day - sure, I'm annoyed about it for a little while after; sometimes I even feel a bit creeped out depending on how sexually hungry that man seemed at the time. But all in all, I come out of it unscathed and I go on with my day.

However, the more I got in to this book, the more I realised that actually, situations like this should not be common occurrences. Women shouldn't walk down the street and just expect to be sexually harassed - because that's what it is: harassment. Nobody wants to give it that label because it seems so extreme, but the literal definition of sexual harassment is "[...] unwanted sexual advances and obscene remarks". Any comments or advances that are made towards you that are unwanted are classed as harassment, and you have every right to stand up for yourself.

This book has a marvellous way of addressing a whole spectrum of sexism, from these "pinpricks" right up to full-blown sexual and physical abuse and rape. It is heartbreaking and devastating to read real women's stories of such indecent, horrific acts and the helplessness they have felt in being unable to report these incidents, through fear of not being believed, being embarrassed or just flat-out being told there is nothing to be done. Victim blaming is a terrible problem in our society and Bates both addresses and slams these ideologies to the ground. "The victim is never to blame." And it's true; they never are.

As mentioned earlier, Laura does not spend the entirety of this book blaming men for being chauvinistic pigs through their own choice: in fact, she is diplomatic and reasonable in the fact that it is sadly the society that men have simply grown up into. Mostly, men do not realise what they are doing is wrong, hence why a lot of men have difficulty in understanding the feminist movement at all. Being part of a gender where you are born into more opportunities and privilege makes it extremely difficult to realise what is happening to the opposite sex. I find I am less angry at men as a gender after reading this book as it has allowed me to rationalise and realise that really, as a majority, men are simply conditioned to behave in this way, and it is only through changing their perceptions that a greater change can take place.

Bates has excellently challenged many types of sexism whilst being sure not to exclude any type of feminism - feminism is not about being "for" a specific group of women - if you are a feminist, you are on the side of every single woman, regardless of race, religion etc. Chapter nine of the book talks about the "double discrimination" that so many women face in that sexism is not the only part of their prejudice, and often age, weight and other factors come in to play. 

The book is littered with interesting and eye-opening statistics, with vital statistics in relation to the topic of each chapter at the beginning of the section. Having real, valid statistics on these matters is often quite shocking, even in regards to issues that you already knew about. For example: "1 in 3 women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime (UN, 2008)". This devastates me. This makes me frightened for every woman in the world; the ones I know and the ones I don't. This makes me terrified to ever have a daughter of my own, lest she be born into a world where for every group of 3 girls, one of them will be subjected to that kind of sexual violence.

I would be lying if I said this book did not greatly upset me; some parts gave me chills, some parts made me cry and some parts made me so angry I could feel my blood running ice cold through my veins. But these are the kind of reactions that we need in order to make a change and start a revolution.

This book is not just for women. This book should be read by everyone. I want my friends to read it, both girls and boys. I want my sister to read it, so she knows her rights and she knows she can say "no". I want my boyfriend to read it, so he can understand what I go through, as well as all the women he knows and loves. I want everyone to read this book so together we can have a broader understanding of an issue that is so easily swept under the carpet and normalised.

I could write reams and reams on this topic, but I'll save your sorry eyes! I just leave you with one request: find this book, buy it, borrow it, steal it (I'm kidding), just do what you have to do. Go in with an open mind and read every page, and see how different you feel afterwards.

Have you read Everyday Sexism?
What are your thoughts?
I want to hear from men and women!

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