By Sally Jackson
In March 2017 I attended the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic Abuse, which discussed whether or not misogyny should be a hate crime.
The group heard interesting presentations from the Nottingham Women’s Centre; a woman who experienced harassment; former Nottingham chief constable Sue Fish and Polly Neate, CEO of Women’s Aid.
Last year Nottingham decided to treat incidents of misogyny as a hate crime. Five other forces are considering doing the same, and Sue Fish is working with the Nottingham Women’s Centre to support a national roll-out. In their first year they have had just over 100 reports.
To define behaviour as a hate crime relies on the perception of the offended person, so if it feels like misogyny to her, then it qualifies. This was really helpful to women in Nottingham, as they didn’t have to meet the definition of a ‘crime’ to get a response.
The woman who experienced harassment spoke about having been shouted at abusively by men from a building site. However no ‘crime’ was committed. She had to walk past the site to get to the local shop, so she was very intimidated. Police spoke to the site manager, who called a meeting of all staff and made it clear this was against their code of conduct and therefore could be a disciplinary offence. No charges, but a successful outcome – and no more shouting!
Nottingham Women’s Centre manager Melanie Jeffs talked about misogyny being the ‘soil in which violence against women and girls grows’. The acceptance of these multiple microaggressions creates an environment in which violence against women and girls and victim-blaming become less shocking and more part of being female. By countering it we are saying clearly that treating women in these ways is unacceptable.
Sue Fish reported that women had told her they ‘walked taller’ knowing that misogyny was not accepted in their town.
Fancy a bit of activism? If you feel it would be helpful to have misogyny defined as a hate crime in your area, contact your local MP (via theyworkforyou.com) or your chief constable and police and crime commissioner (PCC) – contact details can be found easily online. London residents should contact the Mayor’s office. If those discussing this issue at a strategic level hear support from their local communities, rebranding misogyny as a hate crime stands a much better chance of success.