‘Hay is a wonderful physical manifestation of hope for the future’ – Laura Bates

‘Hay is a wonderful physical manifestation of hope for the future’ – Laura Bates

In her new book, Shrill, Lindy West argues that it is only by communicating, and, specifically, by standing up and shouting about the things we feel passionately about, that we can create tangible cultural change. Sure, it would be a hell of a lot easier for somebody like Lindy, who receives an exhausting daily barrage of death threats, rape threats and online abuse, to keep quiet, make herself smaller, apologise, hide away, and everything else misogynists would like to force her to do. But if she had, tens of thousands of people around the world wouldn’t have been forced to confront the idea of rape culture, consider the ramifications of hate speech or recognise the detrimental and dehumanising impact of fat shaming. In short, Lindy is a hero, and so is everybody who takes a deep breath, weighs up the cost and speaks out anyway; about change, about inequality, about their hope for a different future.

Hay is a wonderful physical manifestation of that hope for the future – a place where you can hear from Lindy and others like her about their ideas and passions, where you can have a lively conversation with a group of inspiring school pupils about their feminist societies or anti-racism activism or battle for LGBT inclusion in the school syllabus. I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of passionate young people I have met who have told me about their own personal battles against everything from sexist school dress codes to sexual violence, and the number of older women who have expressed their frustration that we are still fighting the same battles they took on a generation ago, and who have been so generous and supportive in passing on their wisdom and hard-learned lessons to us.

When you trudge through the daily barrage of abuse, like so many of us who do this work, it is easy to feel like the stakes are against you, and the world is hostile to even the slightest hint of change. This week has been a welcome reminder that the world is changing, already, that people are rolling up their sleeves and standing alongside one another, and that we might be closer to that future than we think.