Confidence isn’t always easy.
Sometimes, we need a boost of self-confidence after a particularly bad day at work, or struggling to nail an elevator pitch about our side hustle. Five years ago, British feminist writer Laura Bates started the Everyday Sexism Project to document the types of sexist behaviour women experience every day. Users submit their own stories and document their conversations. In her book, Girl Up: Kick Ass, Claim Your Woman Card, and Crush Everyday Sexism, Bates gives frank advice for women on sex, social media, mental health, and combating sexism. We chatted with her for advice on building our confidence and how to stand up for ourselves in any situation.
1. Realise you’re not alone.
When Bates started the Everyday Sexism Project, she wanted to open people’s eyes to the extent of harassment and inequality women experience daily. “The 100,000 testimonies that poured in showed me how widespread and varied the problem was — from a woman in Mexico being told by her university professor ‘You look prettier when you shut up’ to a city worker in London being told to sit on her boss’s lap if she wanted her Christmas bonus. They revealed that victim-blaming is rife, forcing many victims into silence, and that many women experience sexism intersecting with other forms of prejudice, like racism, homophobia, ageism, ableism, and transphobia,” says Bates. If you feel like what you’re experiencing at work, home, or school is only happening to you, online communities exist to connect you with other women who may be going through the same exact problem.
2. Look to your role models.
In Girl Up, Bates details different women throughout history who have stood up for what they believe in or gone against the grain when they were told they couldn’t do what they wanted. “I think it’s important to remember them when we are fighting today’s battles, often being belittled or harassed ourselves, to remember that nothing changes unless somebody stands up and challenges what is seen as normal, no matter how hard it can be to do that,” says Bates. If you’re having trouble making headway in your chosen career path, search out successful women who are doing what you want and read about their rise to the top for inspiration.
3. Plan ahead.
When you’re faced with a big challenge — asking for a promotion, changing careers, or giving a speech, for example — Bates recommends planning ahead. “The more prepared you are, the less likely nerves and jitters are to derail you. Practice in the mirror, write out notes, and get a friend to throw as many questions at you as possible so you feel ready for anything. And in the moment itself, remember that you can take your time. Don’t be afraid to take a moment to stop, take a deep breath, and gather yourself before speaking. Taking along a friend or family member for moral support can sometimes be really useful too,” says Bates.
4. Know you have options.
Oftentimes, we feel stuck in a situation like a bad relationship, unhealthy habits, or stagnant jobs, but it’s important to remember that there are options. You don’t have to stay silent and just keep plugging away if you’re unhappy or treated badly. “Young women are so often told to just deal with it, and keep quiet. I wanted to say the opposite — there are lots of options if they want to challenge these things, ” says Bates. “My main goal was to provide a lifeline for young women who are bombarded with sexism, online abuse, street harassment, discrimination, slut-shaming, body image pressure, and more. I wanted to create a book that shouted, loudly, that these issues were ridiculous, hypocritical, and unfair, and that nobody should have to put up with them.”
5. There’s no right or wrong way to handle harassment.
After starting the Everyday Sexism Project, Bates was bombarded with terrible online threats. For anyone handling harassment, Bates believes that the victim has the right to respond and react however feels right for them, and she advocates putting pressure on social media platforms and police forces to tackle the problem at its source. “For those who do want to speak out, there are a number of great tips from feminist activists who have experienced online harassment, on how to reduce it and deal with it, here,” says Bates.
First published on Brit + Co.