Misogyny Could Become A Hate Crime Soon But Not Everyone Is On Board

Photographed by Kenion Charisse.
On Wednesday, MPs will vote on whether misogyny should be considered a hate crime across the UK for the first time, following an intensification in the campaign for police to take street harassment against women more seriously.
Labour MP and women's rights champion Stella Creasy is calling for the upskirting bill, which criminalised taking photos up a woman's skirt without her knowledge or consent in England and Wales, to be amended to add misogyny as an aggravating factor. MPs including Jess Philips, Tonia Antoniazzi, and Luciana Berger, support the amendment.
The change would compel police forces to record acts against women, such as groping and using explicit language, and allow courts to consider misogynistic behaviour when sentencing offenders (as well as more serious offences such as assault).
Offences motivated by race, religion, trans identity, sexual orientation and disability are already recognised by police as hate crimes in England and Wales. Women are protected from being discriminated at work because of their sex, and Creasy believes it's time to remedy the situation in the courtroom.

Whistling, leering, groping, being followed home, upskirting, sexually explicit language, threatening/aggressive/intimidating behaviour, indecent exposure, unwanted sexual advances and online abuse.

The acts that some MPs want to be classified as hate crimes

What counts as a hate crime?

Wednesday's vote will come two months after the end of a two-year trial in Nottinghamshire, whose police force began recording instances of "misogyny hate crime" in July 2016. The force became the first in the UK to include the following behaviours within its definition of hate crime: whistling, leering, groping, sexual assault, being followed home, taking unwanted photos on mobiles, upskirting, sexually explicit language, threatening/aggressive/intimidating behaviour, indecent exposure, unwanted sexual advances and online abuse.
Other police forces – North Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, and Avon and Somerset – have since implemented similar policies, and there are calls for London's Metropolitan Police to do the same.

Why it matters

A huge majority of young women (85%) and nearly half (45%) of all women in the UK have been sexually harassed in public places, with just a tenth receiving help after these incidents. Campaigners argue that without recognising the impact of misogyny in the experiences of women, our legal and criminal justice system fails to record the true extent of hostility based on gender.
Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said the charity supports Stella Creasy’s amendment, "because unless we recognise the scale of misogyny in our society we won’t begin to address it. Misogyny is a hate crime and targeting women because they are women should be regarded as an aggravating factor in such crimes."

What it means in practise

There have been a string of high-profile instances of misogynistic harassment against women in the public eye in recent years, which would would been classified as misogyny hate crimes if the proposed law had been in place.
Numerous MPs who support women's rights have spoken about the abused they've suffered for being female and in the public eye. In March, the SNP's Mhairi Black revealed the full scale of misogynistic abuse she has faced since becoming an MP, which included being "physically pressed up" against a colleague accused of sexual misconduct and verbal abuse. In June, Labour's Jess Phillips revealed she once received 600 rape threats in a single night from anonymous trolls online.
Female bloggers and influencers and feminist commentators have similarly spoken out about the abuse they've suffered online as a direct result of their gender. "The emails rarely mentioned the topic at hand: instead they focussed on my age, used phrases like 'little girl', described rape fantasies involving me and called me 'ugly' and 'disgusting'," said journalist Dawn Foster in as far back as 2011.
In 2015, barrister Charlotte Proudman, 29, found herself at the centre of a sexism row when she accused a fellow lawyer of inappropriate behaviour on Twitter. He had called her LinkedIn picture "stunning" and said she "won the prize" for the best photo, and when she called him out she received rape threats, death threats and newspaper front pages labelling her a "feminazi".
Then there's the everyday sexist behaviour that women have reported putting up with offline that would also be classified as misogyny hate crime: from wolf-whistling and inappropriate comments (as a 19-year-old experienced from a club bouncer in August), to being touched on the Tube and exposed to porn on public transport.

What it means for women

The charity Citizens UK, which is spearheading the calls for a national roll-out of the policy, says the it would encourage more women to come forward and report offences and believes it would contribute to a change in social attitudes towards women. "By recording cases of misogynistic abuse and harassment as hate crimes, the police, the public and lawmakers will be in a position to map out when and where women are being abused, so we can build a society that does not tolerate hate directed against any person on the basis of their identity," Charlotte Fischer, senior community organiser at the charity, told Refinery29.
She said treating misogyny as a hate crime is "one step in the long-term process of addressing societal norms and generating the cultural shift required to make this behaviour unacceptable." Fischer continued: "Women would also be encouraged to come forward and report offences, knowing that the police are taking these incidents seriously and are dealing robustly with the root causes of more serious forms of violence against women."

... but not everyone agrees it's worthwhile

Research into the impact of the change in Nottinghamshire by Nottingham and Nottingham Trent universities, published in July, found that such harassment remained "highly prevalent" and "still significantly under-reported" in Nottinghamshire two years on. A staggering 93.7% of respondents said they had either experienced or witnessed street harassment, with the following behaviours experienced most frequently:
Whistling (62.9%)
Leering (56%)
Sexually explicit language (54.3%)
Threatening/aggressive/intimidating behaviour (51.8%)
Unwanted sexual advances (48.9%)
Groping (46.2%)
The continued prevalence of misogynistic hate crimes, the report conclude, was "partly due to the ‘normalisation’ of these incidents and people’s lack of knowledge that the policy exists." Women in the county were also still reluctant to report physical or sexual assault, "often through fear that the police will not take their complaints seriously, or through a fear that they will be blamed."
The public said they supported the policy, the women who reported misogyny hate crimes were largely positive about it, and the police were also largely in favour, but a small number of officers were “dismissive” and “not in favour" of introducing it, the research found. Some officers said it was a waste of time and resources, while others described "feel[ing] sorry for blokes because they must be confused by what they can and can’t say."
Overall, however, the force is proud to have been the first to introduce misogyny as a hate crime, Paddy Tipping, Nottinghamshire’s police and crime commissioner, told Refinery29. “It may be that a small number of officers expressed doubts during the research but that’s the nature of large organisations. The research showed strong support from women in Nottinghamshire that they want the policy to be extended nationally. So do I. I’m fully supporting Stella Creasy’s amendment.”

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