So would you look at that: Dominic Rabb, our esteemed Justice Minister, isn’t actually sure what defines misogyny, as he blundered his way through an interview this morning. He must have spent all of about six minutes preparing (and that’s being generous to him) for what is one of society’s most pressing issues. Boris has dismissed any plans to make misogyny a hate crime, since there is already an ‘abundance’ of laws out there to protect women. Well, try telling that to the 214 women who were killed last year in the UK, 9 out of 10 of which were at the hands of men. I’m sure they all felt that their safety was an absolute priority.
Could it be that Boris is reluctant to implement such a law, lest an officer knocks at the door of number ten to arrest him for one of many blatant misogynist comments which he has bandied about over the years?
Yes, he may protest that his remarks were ‘flippant’ or ‘said in jest’, but isn’t that how it starts? Normalising the objectification of women? That is perhaps the same argument used by Wayne Couzens in his WhatsApp chat with his police cronies. It’s all just ‘wee jokes’ and ‘bantz’, until it isn’t, of course.
When it becomes acceptable to undermine and demean women, through everyday rhetoric, it will inevitably lead to men being less empathetic, less respectful, less kind. And that, sadly, is where we’re at today, with tragic news headlines.
We’ve been forced to have some difficult conversations at home as a result. My girls have asked what happened to Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa. I can’t flick off the radio every time the news comes on, and I’ve watched the colour drain from their faces as they try to compute what has happened. But I’ve decided to be honest with them, rationalising that they should have some awareness about the world around them. So we talk and I try to answer their questions. I tell them that these things don’t happen often, but that they do, on some very rare occasions.
They are still of primary school age, but we have only just let the older one start walking home from school by herself. What has been lovely is that other neighbours know, and they look out for her going past, and some stop for a chat. It truly does take a village to raise a child.
I don’t want my anxiety to burden my girls; to temper their sense of adventure and enthusiasm: they have to learn how to navigate their way through this world. But we must give them the tools, so that they grow to be independent, curious and assertive.
And that’s where the hate crime comes into it. I don’t want them thinking that it’s acceptable to be spoken about in a degrading fashion. That’s why awkward discussions need to become the norm. While most men and boys aren’t remotely misogynist, we all have a part to play in calling out those who are. Maybe they will make fewer locker room jokes and lewd, salacious comments, if they aren’t let off with it.
I don’t believe that Couzens was called out- in fact, it is rumoured that the was referred to as ‘The Rapist’ in his group chats, which defies belief. So, while misogyny may not yet be a hate crime, at least in considering it as such, as a society we are challenging it. Our young people deserve better.
Image credit to Vyvyan Nguyen