I’m here to see Laura Bates tonight because I am intrigued. I’m intrigued because I know I must be a part of this. I’ve been studying behaviours and social norms long enough to know and understand that I am part of the system and the system as it is at the moment supports, perpetuates and encourages sexism towards women. Therefore, so do I.
I don’t want recognition for this small act of attendance and admission. To tell you the truth, I’m a little embarrassed that it has taken me this long to admit that I have some culpability in how things currently are. But, I am here.
I am one of only a few men in a theatre predominantly filled with women; a predicted demographic for such a subject. I read her bio and a brief synopsis of the show but I’m not sure what will happen or what Feminist author and activist, Laura Bates BEM FRSL will share, and I am feeling a little anxious.
Pretty soon, I am listening intently to this amazingly articulate writer and founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, explain why she has written her latest book, Misogynation. The book is a collection of essays originally published in the Guardian.
Bates reads from the introduction – “This book is not a labour of love. In many ways, it would be more accurately described as a labour of frustration, or of anger…”. She continues to describe some of the reasons for her anger with examples and statistics that are disturbing to say the least.
She explains the interconnectedness of the seemingly small everyday sexist comments and the part they play in maintaining the normalisation of misogynistic behaviour. The part they play in the bigger picture that creates a culture that tolerates and ignores seriously degrading and disgusting behaviours towards women.
But the examples that hit me hardest are those that involve our teenagers. “One girl a day, in UK schools is raped by a fellow student.” Bates quotes.
There is evidence that shows that some of our children believe that a women should be treated badly during sex. They believe that it is the norm to see the female upset during intercourse. Bates cites a case of rape of a school girl. The teacher asked the boy why he did not stop when the girl started to cry. His reply “I thought that she was meant to cry.”
She explains that many boys and girls are being exposed to more and more online porn which depicts women as sex objects, being dominated, abused and subjected to acts against their will. This is what ‘normal’ looks like to some of our children as they hit adolescence.
I am immediately thinking of my 13-year-old stepson and the conversation I need to have with him. But I feel helpless, I know that I can not completely control what he is exposed to or even of course, how he thinks.
Then there is my daughter, she is 22, I’ve never asked her if she has suffered any sexist behaviour. I never had a proper conversation with her about what right and wrong should look like from a misogynistic point of view.
I reflect on my passive ignorance and I’m ashamed that I did not do more, that I do not know more, that I have participated in some everyday sexism. Whether that was a past comment to a mate or mansplaining to my wife. I am part of the system.
I have bought the book and I am half way through it. I would encourage every man to read it and reflect on the part they must have played and currently play in this system. The good news in what Bates is highlighting is that it’s all connected, that means that I can do something to affect the extreme.
I can decide to actively practice identifying how and where I am supporting the current culture of misogynistic normalisation and stand up to everyday sexism in my life, when it happens. That’s not as easy as it sounds, but if I do nothing with this knowledge I now have, I would be complicit in the perpetuation of this unacceptable culture.
Misogynation is published by Simon & Schuster UK and is also available as an audiobook read by the author.
If you are male, please read this book. If you are female, please keep finding the strength to share your examples so that this can never be normalised. I’d like to thank my wife for being an amazing feminist and getting me to a place where I was interested in seeing Laura Bates.