Words: Laura Bates
Over the past three years, the Everyday Sexism Project has catalogued experiences of gender inequality from over 100,000 people all over the world. There is no right or wrong response to sexism, harassment or assault: we have to focus on stopping the problem from happening, not mandating how any victim should react. But many women have written to ask me for good tips and tactics for standing up to sexism. Here are some of the best I’ve heard…
1) Name the act and describe the perpetrator.
If you are experiencing harassment or groping in a public place like a tube carriage, in the heat of the moment it can be difficult to think of a response. Stop Street Harassment suggests a simple response like: “Man in the blue hat, stop touching my legs”. This shifts the feeling of embarrassment and shame often experienced by victims onto the perpetrator where it belongs, and gives bystanders a cue to step in.
2) Report, report, report.
For complex reasons, not everybody feels able to report harassment or assault, and choosing not to do so is completely valid. But if you do feel able to, reporting can be a powerful way to tackle the problem. Successful strategies described via Everyday Sexism include ringing a company to report harassment from builders on a construction site, going to your HR department to report workplace discrimination armed with information about your legal rights and using the British Transport Police’s new #ReportItToStopIt initiative to report sexual offences on public transport.
3) Stand together.
No matter what the situation, whether it is challenging sexism at school, taking on sexual harassment on a university campus or dealing with workplace discrimination, our entries suggest that it’s hard to stand up alone. Women fear being ridiculed and isolated, marked out as ‘troublemakers’ or even seeing the problem escalate because they dared to object. But these risks are all dramatically lowered if you choose to stand up alongside others. One of the best ways to challenge sexism is by supporting others at your school, university or workplace to take action as a group.
Our voices are loudest when we raise them together.
Everyday Sexism (Simon & Schuster UK) is out now