BOOK REVIEW: Fix the System, Not the Women

Review: FCN Founder, Vicky

Fix the System, Not the Women by Laura Bates is a terrifying dive into the multitude of areas in which women are discriminated against in every day life in the Western world.

The book opens with a powerful chapter, laying out a myriad of sexist and abusive experiences that Laura has experienced throughout her life.   Some of them ‘every day sexism’, some of them more terrifyingly abusive.  Laura encourages readers to remember their own incidents and examples of discrimination and sexism stating “we are taught to suppress, to accept, to swallow, to absorb and to carry so much that it can take time and sometimes painful effort to remember.”

After laying out the issues women face in politics, the media, realtionships and the workplace throughout the 9 Chapters,  Laura asks the all important question “How do we fix this?”.  Her answer: “we don’t”.

“We have wasted decades telling women and girls how to fix things.  How to fix themselves.  How to stay safe.  It hasn’t worked, because women were never the problem in the first place.”

Her book echos our message of ‘fix the system, not the women’ as we push for change in the sports systems that create barriers for the progression of female coaches.  Whilst many federations continue to plow resources into creating ‘women coach development programmes’, the actual barriers that exist to women reaching the elite levels is the system of poor recruitment practices, bullying, sexual abuse, unavailable networks and lack visibility. 

Laura has to be applauded with highlighting so many abuses women face day in day out and in the way she calls out and holds a number of institutions accountable for the lack of progresses society has made towards the safety and true equality of treatment of women.

If I were to recommend this book to anyone – it would be to the male decision makers in sport.  The only way to create change is to understand the experiences of those who need their environments changing.  Understand the fears, the experiences and discrimination that the women in your sport face day in and day out and use that understanding to be empathetic to their needs and the barriers they face.

Laura finishes her book with a powerful statement: “It is noble and natural for us to fight because we want to protect our daughters.  But let’s also fight for ourselves.  Let us demand systemic change and reject individual blame for our own sake.  For our own futures.  For the peace we deserve.  For the right to be free.”