There’s no denying that men and women are still treated differently in 2015 – the Everyday Sexism project continues to prove it if nothing else. Rachel Moss – Huffington Post UK
The story of how the EverydaySexismProject has achieved so much positive impact from humble beginnings was one of a few that inspired and informed my own decision to commit a not insignificant part of 2015 blogging about a very peculiar barrier to progressing gender equality in the 21st century.
At the end of the day, not everyone, everywhere is going to universally agree on what exactly should or shouldn’t be defined as ‘sexism’. What is offensive to one person is not necessarily offensive to another but that doesn’t invalidate the views or feelings of the person ‘experiencing’ the ‘sexism’.
One of the interesting aspects of the everydaysexismproject is that it strives to capture such a broad spectrum of what could reasonably be defined as sexist, ranging from the outrageously obviously offensive all the way to ‘minor or niggling incidents’.
Not only does the project provide a platform to shine a light on the continued prevalence of sexism in society, more importantly it gives victims the opportunity and the outlet to voice their own particular personal experiences without being judged on exactly how ‘sexist’ the example might be perceived by the average person.
I occasionally find a few of the examples posted to be slightly challenging but in fairness, no matter how minor or niggling they may be in the grand scheme of things, I rarely find myself disagreeing that the scenarios presented could reasonably fit within the definition of ‘sexism’.
Sexism: prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.
Shannon Hale’s recent contribution is a good example of a post that on the surface appears challenging, at least for me. I also happen to think that it is a good example of the sort of personal contribution that forces you to stop and consider why that person perceives prejudice to be at play and exactly what the impact of that prejudice might be.
Shannon is a best selling children’s author who is currently touring schools in America to promote the latest chapter in her award winning series of Princess Academy books. Her experience and complaint is that, on an all too regular basis. boys are excluded from her talks.
Now on the surface of it, this initially struck me as a slightly ridiculous or, at least, trivial complaint. I certainly don’t think it makes me a knuckle dragging neanderthal because my immediate reaction was to ask myself some questions about Shannon’s perspective. The most obvious one being: why on earth would you get hot under the collar because the boys weren’t forced to sit and listen to you reading about a gaggle of girls learning how to become princesses at a feckin Princess Academy?!
And this is where (I think) the subtle drip drip effect of the EDSP’s approach has the most significant impact. I found myself challenged to stop and attempt to unpick what, in actual fact, (I think) turns out to be an extremely multi-layered example of how stereotypes and prejudices can impact on both the author and, more particularly, the young minds she is trying to speak to.
This is not a glitzy book with modern royalty obsession, though it does cover some of the same territory: learning manners, etiquette, and how to behave at a ball. The emphasis here, though, is on empowering rural mountain people through reading and education in commerce to make their lives better. Mira, the main character, and the other girls learn to read and ultimately improve the lives of their entire community.
Princess Academy – Amazon Review
It’s refreshing to see how ridiculous sexism can look through children’s eyes. If we could only restrain ourselves from passing our own inherited assumptions on to them. Laura Bates
The sage advice that ‘you should never judge a book by it’s cover’ springs to mind as I think about this example and, sadly, those words also resonate all too well as I turn to talking about what I view as fundamental flaw in the everydaysexismproject’s approach to documenting ‘everydaysexism’.
The aim of the Everyday Sexism Project is to document everyday examples of sexism as reported by contributors around the world. Both men and women may submit an entry directly to the site, or by email or tweet, but it is mainly aimed at women. Source: Wikipedia
When I began to follow the EDSP I was, perhaps naively, surprised to discover that they don’t actually feature examples of sexism experienced by men. Obviously I get that the the project was motivated by a desire to highlight the prevalence of sexism experienced by women (particularly on public transport) but all the same, especially given the scope and spectrum of ‘sexism’ documented, I found this omission slightly, well, surprising.
I only joined twitter fairly recently and given that one would expect to find their feed featuring a higher proportion of examples from women, I thought at first that I was just missing the occasional male perspective. Sadly, on closer inspection, submissions from men did indeed appear to be conspicuous in their absence.
To clarify the situation I first tweeted and then wrote to the project but received no reply. Some time passed and I tried again, this time receiving an answer (sort of) from Guardian columnist Emer O’Toole who was kind enough to take a moment to tell me that they certainly used to feature submissions from men.
Despite still being listed on the EDSP website as their social media assistant, Emer hasn’t actually worked on the project for some time so couldn’t say if this was still the case. Once again, I received no reply from anyone currently working on the project so I decided to conduct a small experiment of my own.
For seven days at the start of February I submitted a range of examples to the project to see if any of them would be featured. Even though their feed features comparatively ‘micro’ examples of sexism, I decided to stick to pretty clear cut things that could reasonably be considered to fall at the higher end of the overt sexism spectrum.
Obviously you can decide for yourself whether or not you think these are all clear examples of ‘sexism’, I certainly do and yet one after another they were completely ignored.
For some context, here are two examples of ‘sexism’ that were captured over the same period. I won’t ‘mansplain’ why I think it’s a bit of a stretch to brand these acts as sexism (especially the first one) but even accepting that some people obviously did, I struggle to believe that many would rank them above a national newspaper dismissing the rights of disabled people on grounds of sex, violence in classrooms, pretending to sell you child into sex slavery and filicide.
In the interest of full disclosure, that last story about the feminist aborting her baby did turn out to almost certainly be a hoax. In fairness though I only came across the story (arguably about the ultimate act of sexism) because it was reported so widely and such esteemed names as the Huffington Post were carrying it days after I flagged it to EDSP.
After concluding my little everydaysexismproject everydaysexism?project I wrote to the team once more to express my opinion that this approach undermines the valuable work they do. I didn’t hold much hope of receiving any sort of reply and sure enough, I didn’t, perhaps because Eye is Bloke.
Given the size of audience your project has engaged on the subject of sexism, I believe that it would be a positive action to feature contributions from men and by doing so help to promote something that is so very often overlooked and increasingly ridiculed. EiB
Funnily enough on the day I sat down to write to the project one last time, they did finally include an example of ‘sexism’ experienced by a man. Once again you can judge for yourself but, personally, I think it is the exception that only goes to prove the rule regarding what is and isn’t considered ‘sexism’:
At the end of the day it’s their project and therefore their prerogative. Given their silence on the matter I doubt they would even agree that there is a remarkable irony to be found in the fact that an initiative designed to educate people via the simple act of witnessing stories of ‘everydaysexism’ itself screens men out of that very story.
My beautiful lady wife is a big fan of the project and thinks I’m being a little bit harsh. Perhaps she’s right, after all she very often is. It would certainly be disingenuous of me not to acknowledge that the inspiration for the project and it’s success have both quite clearly come from the actions of women wanting to hold a mirror up to the sexism that they experience in their life. I certainly think it’s for Laura Bates to define the spectrum of sexism she is interested in recording, that said I was disappointed to discover that she doesn’t appear to extend any solidarity to her brothers, personally I think this is short-sighted and also a classic example of everydaysexism.
In my previous post I acknowledged comparisons between Laura Bate’s invention and the #QuestionsForMen thread. I also observed that there is one fundamental difference between the two. The difference that, in the end, made all the difference to the stories of ‘sexism’ that people were allowed to share with the world is that Clementine Ford lost control of the story she wanted to tell. She forgot to put a lock on the door so, naturally enough, a torrent of men flooded through. After all, they so very rarely get an opportunity to talk openly when it comes to the subject of sex equality and at the end of the day no one likes being ignored.