"Everyday Sexism," a platform for women to anonymously share their experiences, outrage, and frustration with sexism has now launched in the USA. Just two days after launch, the U.S. version of the project had already received over 200 submissions. Founded by 26-year-old London-based Laura Bates nearly a year ago, the Everyday Sexism project aims to catalogue existences of sexism experienced by women on a day-to-day basis.
Laura got the idea for the Everyday Sexism project while working as an actress and a nanny in the UK. While auditioning for roles that called for women to be "sexy but virginal, fuckable but naïve, huge breasts but incredibly thin," her boyfriend was auditioning for roles that called for men to be an "architect, with a really good relationship with his family." Around the same time, Laura was also nannying for two young girls to supplement her income. She started growing concerned when the little girls she cared for, not far gone from their days of dolls and coloring books, started fretting about their thunder thighs and obsessing over Selena Gomez's relationships. Collectively, these instances raised a red flag and a real cause for concern for Laura.
"I started to see the cause and effect of the media portrayal of women … I started talking to not just my friends but any woman I met about sexism. Every woman I spoke to had not just one but hundreds of stories."
Laura launched the project by posting a link to the site on her Facebook wall. "I thought maybe 20 or 30 of my friends would post." What she found, however, was that women from all over the world started writing in. Girls as young as 7, widows as old as 70, disabled, non-disabled, religious, non-religious, gay, straight, and bisexual women all had experienced instances of sexism in their daily lives. United by little more than their need to share, these women had a story to tell.
"One of my coworkers the other day mentioned that another one of our superiors was 'bitchy because she didn't get enough c*** the other day.' I can't speak out since I'm a girl, and it seems like no one else cares enough to say anything." – pyon
"Saw two kid t-shirts in the mall at Pentagon City. One was blue and read "Future President." The other was pink and read "Future First Lady." There were no other options." – Kes
"On two occasions when I was a young teenager older men exposed themselves. Both times they were hiding in trees or bushes and when I looked in their direction started to touch themselves. I never told anyone because I felt ashamed." – Nicole
"On a train – two seats facing with a table in the middle. Man opposite starts to masturbate. I move away. I am shocked by how deeply I am upset and ANGRY. I am 70. Felt could do nothing else – my word against his…."
Although Laura's end goal is to end the culture of normalization that allows sexism to continue openly and publicly, her first goal is to get people to acknowledge the problem. "You can't tackle an invisible problem ... we need to get more communities mobilized and to get women, through a sense of solidarity, to realize that they can be supported if they have the courage to speak up." The most telling sign of the problem, according to Laura, is that so many posts have ended with "And nobody did anything to help" or "And nobody said a word."
Making the decision that she could remain silent on the issue no longer, Laura decided to do something about the everyday instances of sexism she found pervasive not only in her life, but in the lives of women around her. But how can we — as women, as millennials — contribute to this cultural shift? Laura believes the most important thing women in positions of power can do is to stand up for each other. She cites the instance of Marissa Mayer claiming to not be a feminist because she's not a "militant" and she "doesn't have a chip on her shoulder" as one of the biggest steps backward to solving the problem.
"So many young women have these ideas that to be a feminist that you have to be old and bitter and sad and lonely — there really is a lot of joy to feminism. The most important priority is that we're including all women in these debates and thinking about intersectionality and inclusivity … there's no point if this movement isn't inclusive," said Laura.
Since the initial launch in 2012, Everyday Sexism is now operating in 16 different countries, including Portugal, Russia, Spain and South Africa. The country-specific sites are all locally run by a native volunteer dedicated to the mission of the project.