It’s hard to know where to even begin when it comes to discussing misogyny. It’s many-pronged, multi-layered and easily cloaked in anything from a compliment to a look. It can be complicated to fully unpack and even harder to legislate. I say that as a black person who despite technically being protected by racism hate crime laws, can rattle off at least three micro-aggressions I’ve faced since the week began. Having said that, Boris Johnson turning his back on calls to class misogyny as a hate crime is another example of the government being helpful to absolutely nobody. His reason? If you simply widen the scope of what you ask the police to do, you’ll just increase the problem.” I’m not fluent in Tory but I think that roughly translates as “the issue is so bad that the volume of complaints would take up far too much police time.” Of course this pretty much justifies the need for new legislation but what would I know - I’m just some woman.
“What you need to do is get the police to focus on the very real crimes, the very real feeling of injustice and betrayal that many people feel,” says Boris. What he doesn’t quite understand is that this “very real feeling of injustice and betrayal” is felt on a daily basis on the micro. I feel a sense of injustice whenever I’m out late and have to update my boyfriend in real time so that he knows to worry if I’m not back within a certain time. I feel it when my blood runs cold every time a cat caller in a car slows down to chat me up. I feel it whenever I read that yet another woman has been murdered by a partner who has been repeatedly flagged to the police as being abusive. Femicide doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Making misogyny a hate crime would ideally push law enforcement to take the small red flags more seriously before the “real crimes” happen.
Granted, some police do record acts of misogyny as hate crimes and are given the freedom to do so, and even then, legally making misogyny a hate crime won’t solve all of our problems. But in an ideal world it would force the government to take a top-down approach to addressing the different ways it shows up, which it seems would be far too extensive an undertaking for BoJo and co. It would mean taking a look in the mirror and listening to the women in Parliament who have voiced concerns about gender-based mistreatment, for one. It would mean actioning what we’ve all been calling for which is police reform. It would also mean making it mandatory to educate boys in schools on how misogyny shows up in the world around them and how they are complicit. At the moment all the government seems to be doing is echoing our concerns back to us to feign empathy, but we no longer need confirmation that those concerns are valid. We need tangible legislative change. That would be the ideal scenario anyway. In reality we’re still battling to help MPs like Dominic Raab understand what misogyny even is.