“Everyday Sexism” by Laura Bates
We applaud all the women who stand up and say how proud they are that they born a woman. That isn’t something easy to say considering how stigmatised women are. When looking at the Sustainable Development Goals, we are still fighting to ensure that women and girls have equal rights and aren’t used as weapons of war.
Sexism is deeply entrenched in society, from sexual assaults to the way boys and girls are raised. We may not be aware that we are creating gender differentiation through our actions and behaviour but when everyone believes and acts a certain way, we grow to expect these attitudes and behaviour as the norm, whether it is right or wrong. When looking at enhancing our emotional intelligence, we have to become critical and mindful of how men and women are treated in all societies. There are communities when women are clearly treated as second class citizens. When girls are shunned from society because they are menstruating, we need to be able to call that into question as operators in the international relations field, and not just accept this as a cultural norm.
While these topics may be highly sensitive, we must be able to train ourselves on how to deal with such issues with confidence and humility, without harming relations or causing further strain. This is a difficult balance to achieve which is why we recommend the book “Everyday Sexism” by Laura Bates to to support Chapter 3 - Enhancing Emotional Intelligence for the “Diplomatic Planner”. For background information, Bates is the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, a website that has a collection of over 25,000 women’s experiences of gender imbalance. Her book contains accounts from all genders with fantastic stories to help you understand what constitutes sexism, and how to help fight for an equitable future, whether working from a grassroots level or official diplomatic level.
Even though we live in a progressive society, does that mean we have to accept how things are? Girls are impressionable and grow up thinking it is ok for boys to socially humiliate them or that is ok to discriminate against women who are good looking and considered ‘too good looking’ for a high level jobs. For most women, not a day goes by when they suffer from sexual discrimination. It can be something as little as being leered at on the streets but when this happens to you every single day, you start to question your self worth and lost respect for society and any moral grounds.
In her book, Bates clearly highlights that sexist behaviour exists everywhere in society. Sadly these questionable behaviour and attitudes remain unreported and is an invisible problem faced by millions. We are becoming blind by inequality between men and women because we see it too often, too openly, and too much. There is constantly news about sexual violence against women. Statistics keep growing. The gender gap keeps extending, so when will this all end? Why is it so difficult to close this gap and accept women as women, and stop these societal discrimination? Sexism comes in many forms, some turn a blind eye to them and others are hard to detect. Our society is inherently sexist and as have grown up, many of our thought patterns based on sexist ideas has become normalised. Many men and even women don’t realise that they are being sexist or fail to recognise sexist behaviour for what it is. Bates’ sexism project is a painful remind of these examples and I highly recommend that you explore this further.
For example, blaming the victim for wearing a short skirt, instead of critically examining the perpetrator’s behaviour is typical sexist behaviour. You see clear examples in women in politics and even in diplomacy where women suffer sexist behaviour on a daily basis. I have written a book called “Women in Diplomacy” that tackles the institutional traps that kept women from becoming Ambassadors and Heads of Missions for their countries. You see it everyday, where the media pays more attention to the hairstyle and dress sense of female Heads of States then what they actually say. This was evident when British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel first talked about Brexit with the newspapers focused on how short their skirts were on the front page of the news. People complain when female politicians speak assertively, Hillary Clinton is often criticised for her tone of voice, but male leaders are praised for being firm.
Another concern that women in positions of public leadership falls on to their apparent lack of care for their family. Being in positions of leadership apparently means dismissing domestic responsibilities which is never addressed to male counterparts. The fact is that only 20 percent of politicians worldwide are female and a culture that is inhospitable to the progression of women. At the time of writing, Bates stated that only 19 of the world’s 196 countries have female leaders.
Sexism perpetuates a culture of vicious and self-fulfilling cycle. Bates provides examples of the standards of beauty that women have to compete against and under representation in media imagery. Sexism in the media is especially damaging to young girls and teenagers, and education can help.
When we think about how we conduct ourselves in international relations, we must be mindful of how women and men are treated by media and society, and what we can do to play a part to assure gender equality. We are all vulnerable to sexist expectations and we must be able to open and honest discussions to break open the silence and fight against discrimination. Don’t suffer in silence and be critical on how you think. Not everything society does should be accepted as the norm. Not everyone around us are in a frenzied state of happiness. There are some deep rooted problems that we can all help to solve and the first step is to understand how much of the problem is actually us, the way we speak, the way we act, the way we react, the way we respond. These skills are critical to international relations in another field you decide to specialise in. Let us be open to understanding double standards and double discriminations, and not be party to these ourselves. If you want to empowered, knowledgeable, and active, keep reading, keep learning, and do not be blind to what is happening before our very eyes. Conditioning affects us all and we must be able to recognise these traps before falling into similar patterns of behaviour.
“Everyday Sexism” is recommended for the purposes of the Diplomatic Planner. The Diplomatic Planner is a 12-month career development for diplomacy and internationals for professionals looking to explore or grow their expertise in the field. Both books are available for purchase via Amazon. For further recommendations, insights, case studies and practicable worksheets, please join the Grassroot Diplomat Diplomatic Academy via: www.grassrootdiplomat.org/register