Laura Bates, founder of Everyday Sexism Project, discusses Everyday Sexism at TEDxCoventGardenWomen conference (Transcript)
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Laura Bates – Founder of Everyday Sexism Project
About 18 months ago, I had a really bad week. I was on my way home from work one night, and it was one of those hot evenings where the traffic was at a standstill. And as I walked down the road, and the cars crawled next to me, some guys started shouting out of their car windows about my legs, about the things that they’d like to do to me. And I ignored them, and I carried on home, and I got on with it, like you do.
And then a few nights later, I was on the way home, on the bus, quite late at night, and I was on the phone to my mom. And I thought, at first, that the guy next to me just accidentally brushed my leg with his hand. And I carried on talking to my mom.
And then I realized that actually, he was grabbing and groping my leg and moving his hand up towards my crotch. I stood up to move away from him, but because I was on the phone, I vocalized it, in a way that I don’t think I would have done otherwise.
So I said, “On the bus, this guy’s groping me.” And everybody on that bus looked out the window, or looked down at their feet, or looked at their phone. Certainly nobody stepped in, but more than that, there was a real sense of, “Why you’re making a fuss about this, woman? You know this is your issue, deal with it; don’t make us have to think about it.” And that immediately made me feel ashamed. It made me feel like maybe I’d done something wrong, or I shouldn’t have been out that late at night, or I shouldn’t have been wearing what I was wearing, and all of those thoughts that that reaction triggers.
And again, I carried on. I went home, I didn’t mention it. I got on with it, like you do.
And then a couple days later, I was walking down the street in broad daylight. There was a big truck that was being unloaded, scaffolding was coming off the back of it, and there were two guys working together. And as I walked past, one of them turned to the other and said, “Look at the tits on that.” Not “her,” “that.” And they started discussing me as if I wasn’t there, even though I was one meter away, and I could really clearly hear them.
So the thing that really hit me about these three incidents was if they hadn’t all happened in the same week, I never would have thought twice about any one of them. And I started asking myself why that was: Why was this so normal? Why was I so used to them? And I started thinking back about hundreds of incidents that had happened over the weeks and months and years that I’d never said anything about to anyone, because it was normal.
And I started talking to other women and asking — the women I knew, older women, younger women, women I met — saying, “Have you ever experienced anything like this?” And I honestly thought that one or two women would have a story. That one or two people would say, “Yes, a few years ago this thing happened,” or, “I once had a job where this happened.” But it wasn’t like that. It was every woman I spoke to. And it wasn’t a few years ago, this one incident. It was hundreds of things. “It was on my way here, this happened, yesterday this happened, most days this happens.”