Sexism is real: The Everyday Sexism Project

The Everyday Sexism Project asks women from all over the world to submit their experiences of sexism via email or Twitter. (Anqui, Flickr)

The Everyday Sexism Project asks women from all over the world to submit their experiences of sexism via email or Twitter. (Anqui, Flickr)

The Everyday Sexism Project was started a year ago by British actor Laura Bates. The site was first launched in the UK in 2012 but has now grown to include 15 countries including South Africa, by providing a space for ordinary women to share their experiences of gender bias in everyday life. Frustrated with the way the media and film industries portrayed women, Bates decided that women needed a digital shoulder to lean on and that is why she started the campaign. Initially, Bates thought the project would draw just a few hundred women to her site but it has turned out to be very popular.

The campaign has taken the fight to Facebook in a bid to fight gender-based discrimination and violence that can be found on Facebook pages such as Violently Raping Your Girlfriend Just for Laughs. In an open letter to Facebook, the Everyday Sexism Project urges the social media site to refrain from using advertisers who condone discrimination or hate-speech against women and demands “swift, comprehensive and effective action addressing the representation of rape and violence on [its site]”. In a campaign called #FBrape, it has urged that Facebook “contact advertisers whose ads appear next to content that targets women for violence, to ask these companies to withdraw from advertising on Facebook until you … ban gender-based hate speech on your site”.

The letter does not only target Facebook but also the companies that advertise on the platform. Corporations such as Dove, VistaPrint (a UK-based printing company) and Zipcar (a car-sharing service), whose advertisements appear on anti-women pages have already received thousands of tweets with a link to the letter. Last week, West Host – a web-hosting company and Facebook sponsor – announced that it would no longer be advertising on the site after its feed was flooded with tweets.

“Anyone who describes feminism as an in-fighting, back-biting movement has clearly never been as lucky as I was, at those lowest moments, to discover in it the strength and kindness, advice and support of so many other women and men,” writes Bates in the Guardian. Bates created a platform with no pressure, judgment or backlash; a platform free of silence, full of voices and fuelled by action and outrage.

The Everyday Sexism Project asks women from all over the world to submit their experiences of sexism via email or Twitter. Women can choose to identify themselves or remain anonymous and there are no rules, which depict how serious or mundane these experiences have to be. By making use of social media as a driving force, the initiative caught the eyes of the media on a global scale, which has resulted in the support and dedication from women all over the world. It wasn’t long before men and women felt inspired by the project and started their campaigns to target feminism.

“One runner, sick of catcalls and wolf whistles, started making her own 'honk if you love feminism' T-shirts. A woman tired of cold-callers asking to speak to 'the man of the house' started putting them on to her six-year-old son, who'd sing: 'I'm sexy and I know it'. A football fan wrote to the chairperson of his club to ask why the fans were singing such misogynistic chants. And email after email started arriving from women who had found the strength to report harassment, stalking and sexual assault to the police,” she wrote.

Girls as young as 14 have visited the blog to share their experiences of sexism and contribute their accounts of being disgraced on account of their gender. A 14-year-old schoolgirl wrote: "I am constantly told I can't be good at things because I'm a girl. That I need to get back in the kitchen. That all I'm good for is cleaning, cooking, and blowjobs."

Nicole, a 17-year-old from South Africa, writes, “Walked past a church building in Stellenbosch, SA. A man behind the gate wags his exposed penis at me as I pass.” A tweet from another contributor, Gemma, makes reference to a conversation about mastectomies, “In a pub in Glasgow: ‘She got them lobbed off’. On Angelina Jolie it’s ‘easy surgery’. Putrid,” she writes. Scrolling through the many other posts paints a similar picture and some of the most graphic instances of sexism that take place on a daily basis are shared. 

The Everyday Sexism Project has removed the stigma of sharing your fears as a woman in society and in creating this kind of awareness, the project is helping empower women who before would rather choose to bury their experiences and just accept them as part of daily life. 

Haji Mohamed Dawjee

Haji Mohamed Dawjee

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is the social media accounts director at Ogilvy PR. She was previously the deputy digital news editor and social media editor at the Mail & Guardian. Haji has an honours degree in journalism from the University of Stellenbosch and continues to write columns for the M&G. Read more from Haji Mohamed Dawjee

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