KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

2014 columns, Books

We need to talk about sexism

by Carody Culver , May 13, 2014Leave a comment

Everyday Sexism

 

‘My dad says that since I am a lady, I should be less assertive and I should not try to compete with men.’

‘During a disciplinary procedure at work, one male manager asked the other if I could “fuck him to make this go away”.’

‘My friend had some money stolen and went to the police as she knew who it was. Their response? “Fuck off you haven’t been raped”.’

 

These are just some of stories UK writer Laura Bates received in response to the Everyday Sexism Project, a site she established in 2012 for women to submit their experiences of exactly what its title suggests: instances of everyday sexism, from the seemingly minor (that leering guy at the bar) to the decidedly major (unreported sexual assault and rape). Despite having no funding to back the project, the site had 50,000 responses after just 20 months online; there’s now an Australian version (one among 18 countries to now have their own Everyday Sexism sites) and an Everyday Sexism Twitter feed with over 133,000 followers.

Fittingly, Bates has now written a book, Everyday Sexism…, that expands on her original concept. She’s collected submissions to her project, arranged them by category (including Women in the Workplace, Motherhood, Young Women Learning and Double Discrimination) and assessed their implications, highlighting our contemporary version of Betty Friedan’s ‘problem that has no name’: the fact that, as Bates writes in her introduction, there is ‘so much evidence of the existence of sexism alongside so much protest to the contrary’.

If this wasn’t already obvious to any woman today who’s inevitably had to fend off a legion of wandering eyes, assumptions about her intelligence and/or ‘hilarious and original’ jokes about her driving skills and proximity to a stove, it’ll sure become obvious after reading Bates’s book. Anyone who’s looked at the Everyday Sexism sites or Twitter feed will find plenty of familiar and ire-inducing material here, from statistics (30% of domestic violence starts or worsens during pregnancy) to project entries (‘2pm on a main road a man groped me. When I screamed no one bothered to help.’).

So what can we do to improve the equality stakes? Although Everyday Sexism… is compelling, engagingly written and undeniably important in terms of what it contributes to the cultural conversation about feminism and women’s rights, it doesn’t offer any real solutions to the issues it so definitively illustrates. Perhaps placing this burden of expectation on Bates is unfair (although this hasn’t stopped some reviewers from letting rip); she could simply have wanted to take her online project to a potentially wider and perhaps different audience by publishing some of the stories she’d received and offering her commentary.

And of course, if solutions to the issues the project raises were easy to find, we wouldn’t still be searching; but surely someone in Bates’s position could be doing more than just reiterating what the stories she’s received make so depressingly clear: sexism is alive, well and hanging on like a stubborn weed. Yes, we might have come a long way since Friedan published her famous Feminine Mystique back in 1963, but we’ve still got a long way ahead when it comes to gender equality.

While Bates’s book aims to demonstrate ‘how the push back on sexism is global; how it is taking place online; and how it has a big part to play in getting it right for younger girls’, I’m not sure how well it succeeds. Scrolling through entries on the Everyday Sexism website usually leaves me angry; reading Everyday Sexism… left me angry, too, and I was hoping for something a little more galvanising – we know there’s a problem, so where do we go from here?

Still, the fact that Everyday Sexism… is now a book as well as a global online movement indicates that the issues it purports to tackle are at least getting airtime, and surely the first step to improving gender equality is to let people know that it needs improving to begin with.

But after the talk comes the action, or we’ll carry on getting nowhere slowly. As former British First Lady Sarah Brown notes in her foreword to Bates’s book, you can ‘get so used to extra hurdles being put in your way that it becomes too exhausting to even think about clearing them – and then you forget you even can clear them’. Let’s not forget.

Carody Culver is a Brisbane-based freelance writer, editor and part-time bookseller. 

ACO logo




Frances Abbott

David Donaldson

Why #whitehousegate matters

A few days after the release of the budget, in which the Coalition government announced it was spreading the burden by increasing university fees, cutting school funding, and cutting welfare for young people comes a story that confirms what many already suspect to be the nature of opportunity: it’s much easier to come by if you’re born into privilege. Read more »

money

David Donaldson

When does lobbying become corruption?

Whether it’s Clive Palmer buying his way into parliament, the recent, varied ICAC revelations of dodgy fundraising in the NSW Liberal party, or the refusal or inability of successive governments to effectively tackle powerful corporate interests in industries like gambling, mining, media, and junk food, there is a feeling among many Australians that democracy is up for sale. Read more »

cluster munition

David Donaldson

How to make treaties and influence people

In an era when Russia can annex Ukrainian territory, when the Refugee Convention is regularly flouted, and when nobody seems to be able to do anything to stop the carnage in Syria, it can be tempting to ask: what can international law actually achieve? Read more »

1560682_10153899026420591_499501666_n

Eli Glasman

Just a number: The literary world’s obsession with age

I used to be obsessed about what age I would be when I had my first novel published. I’d go on the Wikipedia pages of every famous writer I could think of to check how old they were when their first book came out. Read more »

winterson

Carody Culver

Jeanette Winterson’s sacred and secular space

It seems that people either love her or hate Jeanette Winterson, and sometimes that has less to do with her writing and more to do with the occasional controversies she’s regularly sparked since 1985. Read more »

Untitled

Veronica Sullivan

Adventures in reality with Oliver Mol

One of Mol’s recent pieces contains the line: ‘I want to put my bare ass on the cover of my book because not only will it make good promo but it speaks honestly about who I am.’ Read more »

The Tunnel TV review

Julia Tulloh

The Tunnel vs The Bridge: The ethics of TV remakes

A body is found in the Eurotunnel, neatly laid across the border between France and England. When police attempt to move the body, it splits in two with the top half in France and lower half in England. Read more »

1398878478_lea-michele-brunette-ambition-zoom

Julia Tulloh

How to be beautiful, according to Lea Michele

Lea Michele’s new book, Brunette Ambition, is what you might expect from a fairly young television and musical theatre star. Read more »

Mariah Carey

Julia Tulloh

Is she Mariah, the ‘elusive’ chanteuse?

Two weeks ago, Mariah Carey launched her fourteenth studio album, Me. I am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse. Yes, that’s the real name, and it’s hilarious not only because the title is so long and happily shameless but because Mariah has long styled herself as one of the least elusive pop stars in the pop music galaxy. Read more »

lead_large

Rochelle Siemienowicz

On Boyhood, parenting and the passing of time

Since its premiere in January at the Sundance Film Festival, film critics have been falling over themselves to lavish love upon Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. Read more »

wetlands_poster

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Lucky Dip Diving: an approach to film festivals

I wanted to let go of the grasping desire to watch everything and be part of every conversation. But with the Melbourne International Film Festival in full swing, anxieties arise again. Read more »

Happy Christmas

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Joe Swanberg’s Real Women

In Happy Christmas, the female characters are a pleasure to watch, largely because they’re so familiar in life and so rarely depicted on screen. Read more »

owl1

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Speaking with pixels

On the Facebook Newsfeed, it’s now possible to click a tiny smiley face inside almost any textbox to bring up a series of thumbnail images: an alligator bawling into a tissue, say, or a whistling fox dropping a turd, or a green owl vomiting rainbows. Read more »

hbo-silicon-valley

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Silicon Valley will eat itself

At a certain point in the lifespan of any subculture, fiction and reality start to blur. Members of the subculture begin to model their character and appearance on the idealised representations of themselves they read about or see on screen. Read more »

inbox

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Death to the Inbox

The primary source of our ‘email problem’ seems to lie in our belief that email is a vastly richer and more capable medium than it is. Read more »

detail

Danielle Binks

Fan-Girling Over Super Heroines

The testosterone-fuelled BIFF! BANG! KAPOW! of classic comics can seem uninviting, filled with spandex-clad men and swooning damsels who hold limited appeal outside the stereotypical 18-35 year-old male demographic. But things are changing in the world of comics. Read more »

9780143305323

Danielle Binks

Australia Needs Diverse Books

The ‘We Need Diverse Books’ team is made up of authors, editors and publishers from North America, but the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag and campaign has reverberated in youth literature communities worldwide. Read more »

tumblr_inline_n6wz16ohb91r8e10g

Danielle Binks

YA is the New Black

Apparently those of us who do read and enjoy youth literature should be ‘embarrassed’. At least that’s what Ruth Graham said in her recent clickbait article for Slate, ‘Against YA’. Read more »

Jabberwocky1

Chad Parkhill

The carnival is over

Jabberwocky, scheduled to take place last weekend, was the kind of festival that wasn’t supposed to fail. Read more »

Robin Thicke

Chad Parkhill

Why has Robin Thicke’s Paula flopped?

What, exactly, has caused Paula to sell so poorly that it has already positioned itself as this year’s most memorable flop? Read more »

splash

Chad Parkhill

Queering the Power: The Soft Pink Truth’s Why Do the Heathen Rage?

The Soft Pink Truth’s new album ‘Why Do the Heathen Rage’ demonstrates that despite their superficial differences, dance music and black metal have a lot in common. Read more »

2014-07-03-theleftovers

Stephanie Van Schilt

TV pilots: The good, the bad and The Leftovers

With the wealth of shows on offer, committing to a new TV series can feel like a big deal. It’s often during a pilot episode that audiences determine whether the program is appealing enough to stick with for the long haul. Read more »

Alg-90210-jpg

Stephanie Van Schilt

Sick-Person TV

The only upside to getting sick was the many afternoons I spent curled up on the couch at home, watching daytime TV. I inhaled the drama of pre-recorded episodes of Beverley Hills 90210 while playing with my Brandon and Dylan sticker collection (interspersed with sporadic vomiting). Read more »

The_Million_Dollar_Drop_logo

Nicholas J Johnson

Highbrow vs Lowbrow: Nicholas J Johnson defends Lowbrow TV

I can’t stop looking at Eddie McGuire’s smug, stupid face. It’s not my fault. It’s just I’ve never been this close to the man before, and it’s not until now that I’ve realised how oddly smooth and tanned his skin is. As if someone has stretched the orange bladder from a football over a slab of marble. Read more »