All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Fix The System, Not The Women by Laura Bates

on December 7, 2022

Fix The System, Not The Women
Laura Bates
Simon & Schuster UK
2022, 206p
Read via my local library/Borrow Box

Blurb {from the publisher/}: Too often, we blame women. For walking home alone at night. For not demanding a seat at the table. For not overcoming the odds that are stacked against them. 

This distracts us from the real problem: the failings and biases of a society that was not built for women. In this explosive book, feminist writer and activist Laura Bates exposes the systemic prejudice at the heart of five of our key institutions.

Criminal justice

Combining stories with shocking evidence, Fix the System, Not the Women is a blazing examination of sexual injustice and a rallying cry for reform.

If ever you want to read a book that taps into fury you barely knew you had, give this one a go.

Laura Bates is behind the Everyday Sexism Project, where women began sharing the instances in which they experienced sexism in any form, in every day life. They can be smaller episodes or major incidents of sexual assault. And I think every woman has at least a few examples that they’ve experienced during their lifetime. I know I do. There are two incidents in my life where I genuinely felt in danger and both of them involved being threatened with rape in the most casual of ways.

This whole book is full of stories just like those, many which escalate. It was written in the wake of the brutal murder of Sarah Everard, who was killed by a police officer. A lot of the book is framed around the response to women who are murdered, the differences in media attention between white victims and those of colour as well as the responses to violence against women: well what was she doing, why was she out at that time, what was she wearing, why did she comply with a police officer on his own. My personal favourite is a response from the Metropolitan Police which details what people should do if they are stopped by a single police officer (or anyone, I guess) and feel uncomfortable. One of the things was “wave down a bus”. Okay, because the world is just full of buses passing you by, ready to assist if you’re ever about to become a victim of a crime. One of the other things was “call 999” – sure. I feel uncomfortable with this police officer, please send more of them. Especially after reading the amount of police under investigation for terrible things (most of whom face no consequences for their actions). The very people charged with supposedly protecting people are quite often, the very people you should be wary of. Who mock domestic violence victims, share evidence pictures of a rape victim’s underwear, who have WhatsApp chats calling women disgusting things and using racist language. Who get excused for their actions because of “the stresses of the job”. Who dragged women away from a vigil for Sarah Everard by their hair and manhandled them. At a vigil. To protest. Violence against women. Under the guise of breaking covid 19 protocols and yet stood back and let thousands of people gather for sporting events. There are plenty of stories in here about the culture in the police force, including from both female police officers and also women who have tried to report crimes and been laughed at (“what do you want us to do?”) after a women tried to report a man exposing himself to her, or told simply that they’re wasting police time. The amount of rapes and sexual assaults reported is far below the amount that would occur – on average it apparently takes up to 5yrs for a victim to come forward and the amount of convictions received is miniscule. They’re very hard to prosecute. One of the grossest things in here is a story from a woman who testified against her father, who had sexually abused her and her father’s lawyer told her “she must’ve wanted it”. She was six when the abuse started.

If you want something else to make you mad, look up the killings of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, sisters and women of colour who were murdered in 2020. Police officers were charged and jailed after sharing selfies they took with the victim’s bodies. The bodies that one of the women’s boyfriend found themselves, because after 36hrs of them being missing, police were seemingly uninterested in searching for them. The Independent Office For Police Conduct found the level of service provided to family members of the murdered women to be “unacceptable”. And when women MP’s raise the issue of violence against women in parliament and how it’s a crisis and needs to be prioritised, they are often shouted down as being “hysteric” and “emotional” and that really, these are just isolated incidents.

One of my favourite quotes from this book was that we often see rape watered down and described as “non consensual sex” but this doesn’t extend to other crimes. You don’t see theft described as “non consensual borrowing” or kidnapping as a “non consensual excursion”. There are other quotable moments here too, relating to how it’s always on women not to be harmed or raped, things they should or should not be doing rather than actually on men not to attack or harm women. It really does reveal in so many ways, how far things still have to go. This was a critique of a system as a whole in the UK, from the Houses of Parliament to the police force, to the every day moments. It made me super mad but I’m also glad I read it. I’ll definitely be looking for her other books.

Book #193 of 2022

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