Review by Shivani Sahaya
Being an activist who attempts in so many ways to dismantle the toxic narratives surrounding feminism, expose the insidious radicalisation of young boys, and push forward a rhetoric that is conducive to real change – change that accounts for the far-reaching effects of toxic masculinity and the devastating impact of the men’s mental health crisis on both the gender binary and non-binary – is no mean feat, yet Laura Bates does it single every day. Whether through her extensive writing that sheds light on the dismissal of abuse towards or violence against women, or through her website, Everyday Sexism Project, that documents the voices of those who face sexism and whose launch has been seen to mark the start of fourth-wave feminism, Laura Bates plays an indispensible role in the collective fight for equality.
Bates’s event for the Durham Book Festival this year is insightful, compelling, and (as mentioned time and again by Professor Claire Warwick), at times quite horrifying. The feminist writer talks her audience through the complexities of the “manosphere” and tells us of the anti-feminist worldviews that incel and alt-right communities hold, which materialise into abuse both online and offline. She realises how indescribably important it is to discuss these extremist groups, and points out that counter-terrorism organisations in and beyond the UK are still oblivious to the dangers that they pose. And although misogyny meets every international definition of terrorism, it is yet to be recorded as a hate crime.
My personal favourite aspect of Laura Bates’s feminism is its intersectionality: she recognizes that different types of prejudice and bigotry are all “part of the same tangled web of hatred.” Both in her book as well through the course of the event, she highlights the racism present within incel communities, and the misogyny present at the root of white-supremacist organizations. The author’s activism, despite being primarily focused on feminist issues, creates dialogue around a range of other subjects such as LGBTQIA+ identity, race hierarchy, etc. that cannot be detached from the movement that she so brilliantly spearheads, alongside others.
I urge everybody reading this review to not only watch the event in question, but also read Men Who Hate Women, log on to The Everyday Sexism Project, and engage with the works of Laura Bates and other writers like Gloria Steinem, Roxane Gay, and Alok Vaid-Menon to gain more insight into issues of identity, race, and privilege, all of which are inextricably linked to Bates’s central message.
You can watch the event until 1st November here.
This work was produced by participants on our Durham Book Festival Reviewers in Residence programme, a cultural journalism programme run by New Writing North Young Writers. Reviewers in Residence gives aspiring journalists aged 15-23 the chance to review books, attend events and interview authors at the Durham Book Festival. For more information about New Writing North Young Writers visit the New Writing North website.