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Everyday Sexism: Laura Bates is not taking it lying down

By Lucy Betser

Everyday Sexism project founder Laura Bates, right, in conversation with Hina Belitz
Everyday Sexism project founder Laura Bates, right, in conversation with Hina Belitz

The 2018 Bishop's Stortford College Festival of Literature closed last Thursday with a discussion between feminist writer Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, and Stortford employment lawyer and novelist Hina Belitz. College student Lucy Betser was there..

Everyday Sexism project founder Laura Bates
Everyday Sexism project founder Laura Bates

It seems fitting that on the centenary of female suffrage, one of the main attractions for this year’s festival were two inspiring women speaking on feminism.

The evening commenced with Hina Belitz, a successful employment lawyer from Bishop’s Stortford, asking Laura Bates, a well-known activist, why she started the Everyday Sexism Project. Her response: simply the sheer number of women who have been sexually harassed. This raises the question as to whether sexual harassment has become part of being a woman.

Bates went on to stun her audience with numerous statistics illustrating not only the level of sexual harassment in the UK today but also the amount of inequality and discrimination that still prevails. For example, one in four women experience domestic violence, 85,000 women are raped each year and just a third of all Parliament members are female.

Topics such as everyday sexism, the unconscious bias, discrimination against women in the workplace, pressures on the younger generation, online trolls, the media’s representation of women and how to appropriately parent “a generation of digital natives” were covered.

Yet between the statistics, shocking anecdotes and extracts from Bates’ book, Girl Up, there were laughs shared between the audience, sometimes just because of the utter ridiculousness of what we were hearing. Whatever the reason, it seemed clear that the talk had captured us all, male and female.

I left the talk feeling enlightened, having learnt so much about what it means to be a feminist, how to try to tackle sexual harassment and, more importantly, to not treat sexism as the norm.

In a society where feminism is often stigmatised and many still use the argument that girls are ‘asking for it’ when they have been raped, I only hope that activists such as Laura Bates continue to fight for equality.


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