Women have always attempted to shout back at everyday sexism, sharing their everyday ‘small’ but very personal stories of sexism and discrimination. However for a long time such voices have been muffled through the dominance of deep seated norms that subordinate femininity in relation to hegemonic masculinity. Women have been made to feel that these experiences are a fact of life, which are somehow expected when a particular style of femininity has been portrayed. Or what’s worse that their experiences should not be revoiced because technically they do not constitute sexual assault or rape; and are therefore ok. In all these circumstances the onus is placed on women to revaluate the way they dress and perform, or put up with the repercussions of presenting a style of femininity deemed ‘sexy’.
However in recent years feminism has experienced a resurgence through the spaces of new media. New media, primarily Facebook and Twitter, are creating alternative spaces where those who have experienced sexism can actively share their stories. These alternative spaces of activism provide a platform where a large number of ordinary people can be listened to and heard by a large number of others. A space where ‘small’ everyday stories that alone, while horrible, often cannot amount to much become banded together highlighting the realities of sexism.
A particularly inspiring platform gaining immense online traction is the Everyday Sexism Project. The project created by Laura Bates is a catalogue of instances of sexism, experienced by women on an everyday basis. Across Twitter, Facebook and a web page live feed individuals experiences from across the globe constantly stream onto the pages unearthing an incredibly scary realism. Over 50,000 stories have been submitted since its inception one year ago.
The project has also transformed to become a space for the sharing of information pertaining to sexism and feminism more broadly. In the last 24 hours alone the projects Facebook page has served as a medium for discussions on Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s appointment of himself as Minister for Women’s Affairs in Australia, the publicly feminist stance of New Zealand music artist Lorde, the controversial ‘blurred lines’ concept and Freshers Week sexism experiences (which will feature as an article written by Bates in the UK newspaper The Guardian). The online project has also been featured on MTV and CNN. Such coverage and interaction suggests that this project is providing a space where meaningful encounters are occurring. Encounters that have the potential to enact long term tangible transformations.
Disappointed 2013-06-20 17:29
I shared this page with my guy friends and one of them said “why the sudden affinity towards sexism?”
Through ‘likes’, and the potential of friends of fans to see the ‘likes’ and posts of others, these stories are entering the lives of millions. Crucially however such challenges to the dominate discourse do not come without conflicting understandings, and the online pages clearly illustrate debate about what gender equality should and shouldn’t mean.
If nothing else the Everyday Sexism Project is raising awareness to the enormity of prevailing sexism and alerts individuals to the fact that these experiences are not ok. Every time one person questions these deep seated behaviours the everyday norms of sexism are broken down. We constantly hear that sexism is dead. That those first wave feminists’ assassinated it in the 70s. Maybe in your life sexism is dead – that is, through the structural advantages of your own life the term may no longer hold salience. However the stories of this project force us to remember that we are not everyone, everywhere.