I often feel slightly disillusioned with the so-called ‘big names’ of modern feminism. Most people are familiar with Emma Watson’s “He for She” speech to the UN, or Jennifer Lawrence’s essay on unequal pay in the film industry, but while the work they have done should of course of celebrated, the cynic in me often feels as though their arguments are directed towards a very narrow audience.
However, one relatively unknown woman who has been my feminist icon for the past few years is Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, who also frequently writes for the Guardian and Huffington Post. The Everyday Sexism Project aims to demonstrate the extent to which sexual harassment is still prevalent in our society, bringing together the stories of thousands of women.
Before I came across the campaign, I admit that I took a backseat approach to feminism. Of course, I agreed with it in its definition of achieving equal rights for women, but I very rarely spoke out against the inequalities I came across. But reading the stories of women from all over the world, from so many different walks of life, was something that inspired me to become more active.Reading anecdote after anecdote from women who have been harassed, abused, and degraded by men makes for a difficult read, but the positives that stem from the project are evident. It has brought women together in solidarity against those who attacked them.
Since its beginnings in 2012, and with the release of a companion book in 2014, the Everyday Sexism Project has reached thousands of people, but I doubt that many people are familiar with Laura and the endless work she’s done to bring to light the inequalities faced by every single woman across the world.
Laura set up the project after being told time and time again that “sexism is no longer a problem, as women are more or less equal now”. According to people she spoke to, the harassment that she faced was nothing more than a joke, and she should learn to take a compliment. To her, the Everyday Sexism Project is a way of showing that sexism is very much alive, from Argentina to Australia, Spain to South Africa.
Since graduating from St. John’s College Cambridge in 2007, Laura has written over 120 articles for the Huffington Post and the Guardian, has received the British Empire Medal for services to gender equality, and was named as one of Britain’s most influential women by BBC Woman’s Hour. She has also been an advisor to the British Transport Police with Project Guardian, an initiative that aims to increase the reporting of sexual offences on public transport in London.
If there was an award for unappreciated feminists, then it would undoubtedly go to Laura. The work she has done in the last few years has been simply amazing, and it’s frustrating that it’s been overlooked. Thanks to her work, I’ve become so actively engaged with feminism, and if others took note of these projects, perhaps they could too!
[Image: Paul Rogers]