We were fortunate enough to have Laura Bates speaking to our Year 11 and Lower 6th students the other day. This talk was also available as a live stream, and we will share some of the key parts with other students as well, through houses and tutorials. Laura founded the website 'Everyday Sexism Project', which asked for contributors to document examples of sexism from around the world. Laura is also a writer, and has had several books published, including 'Men who Hate Women' and 'Everyday Sexism'. In 2015 she was awarded the British Empire Medal for her contribution to gender equality, and she now speaks at schools, universities and businesses. You can watch her Ted Talk here.
Laura's talk was hugely engaging, and very challenging in parts, but such an important topic, especially in the wake of Sarah Everard's rape and murder, the murder of Sabina Nessa, and all the testimonies that were posted on the Everyone's Invited website over the summer. Laura delivered her talk with incredible clarity, with personal stories, data and statistical evidence, and most importantly showing that this is a time for positive action. This was not just directed at the girls in the audience, but also at the boys. The seeming social acceptance of sexual harassment was made to look as wrong as it clearly is when she said that this was so unfair on all the young men in the audience. If sexual harassment is inevitable, then the boys can do nothing to stop themselves. Instead, she challenges all of us to consider what we can do to make the world better. Either by being a strong woman, who is prepared to demand better, and speak out if it is worse; or by being a strong man, who shows strength through respect for all others; by being someone who stops banter, who looks out for friends, and stands up for what they know to be right. Laura described an incident that she had suffered on a bus, when she had been sexually assaulted. She stood up on the bus and said what had happened, but she said that the other passengers just turned away and looked out of the window. Would you look away, or would you act?
My challenge to the whole Felsted community is to believe that we can be, and commit to being, part of the solution. We can make a difference, first at Felsted, and then by going out into the world beyond with these values. We can show respect to everyone, and push past stereotypes in order to ensure that we all value our whole community.