Criminalising misogyny

  • Harassment
- SUZANNE MOORE

Jul 11, 2018-

We are going to have to start building more prisons. Huge ones for all the men who are going to be banged up for wolf-whistling. (God knows who is going to build them.) The knee-patters will have to be put away. The blokes who say: “Nice legs, want something between them?” when a woman walks past in the street. Sorry, men, that’s just the way it is. All these things you call flirting, “banter” or just showing appreciation will now come with a custodial sentence. This is what will happen if we make misogyny a hate crime. Or you would think so, by some of the outrageous reactions to the idea.

In Nottinghamshire, police have been trialling a scheme since 2016 that records misogynistic behaviour, which can be regarded as a hate crime or a hate incident depending on whether the behaviour is deemed criminal. Researchers are said to be shocked by the volume and the nature of incidents reported by those surveyed. Where have they been? Clearly, not out of the house.

No, that’s unfair. What they are shocked about is that much of the behaviour women are reporting is already criminal —intimidation, unwanted touching, comments and threats that cause fear of assault. As with many crimes, there is an element of racism here, too: Muslim women, for instance, suffer from sexist and racist menace in public.

What is happening here is the promotion of changing attitudes about what is acceptable. I like the cloak of invisibility that middle age brings; I know if a guy is looking at me too long he is probably going to try to steal my phone. But I have three daughters who have been regularly harassed from about the age of 11. How is this OK?

Please don’t tell me it’s a bit of a laugh. We learn young to walk hurriedly with keys splayed in hands; we learn not to meet men’s eyes; we learn it doesn’t matter what we wear; we have learned, lately, that upskirting is something to debate, rather than obliterate. On it goes —and yet the usual suspects tell us that criminalising misogyny will be the end of the world as we know it. Which is exactly what I would hope for.

One of them is that man from the online magazine Spiked. (I won’t say his name, but remember that Spiked grew out of the Revolutionary Communist party’s magazine Living Marxism, which denied the existence of concentration camps during the Bosnian war.) So, you know, unreliable, to say the least. He tends to think this is all a middle-class conspiracy against working-class values and that: “We are sleepwalking into tyranny, where thought-policing has become an actual thing.” Then there are always daft women who think being leered at is no bad thing. Here is Celia Walden: “Women enjoy being wolf-whistled at. Shocking as it is, simple creatures that we are, we appreciate the compliment.” She married Piers Morgan. Need I go on?

Actually, one-third of women report unwanted touch in public places. The reality is that women in Nottinghamshire didn’t rush out to report wolf-whistling, but existing crimes. Even if making misogyny a hate crime is unworkable —we have no way of policing online misogyny, for one —the Nottinghamshire trial has already caused attitudes to shift a tiny bit. Misogyny is the wallpaper of our lives. Look at social media. Indeed, I would extend the hate-crime policy myself. Community service, at least, for men who patronise women. Huge fines for the “Cheer up, love” brigade. And the penalty for men who call me Susan, as well as the man-spreaders? Life.

—©The Guardian

Published: 11-07-2018 08:13

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