International Women’s Day: Misogyny as a Hate Crime

Content warning: sexual assault

Ask any woman, and most will say they have experienced misogyny in their life. Whether it’s sexual harassment, intimidation, sexually graphic language, domestic violence, or sexual assault – the list is sadly too long to include all – it’s far too common to be ignored. But that doesn’t mean it should be expected or accepted.

In 2017, in a move to try and capture the scale of the issue and let women know that their reports will be taken seriously, Avon and Somerset Police became the third constabulary in the country to officially recognise gender-based hate crime. By recording gender as a hate crime category, it has helped give an idea of how big an issue this is.

However, even though Avon & Somerset police recognise gender-based hate crimes it’s unfortunately still not written into law. This despite several police chiefs saying that legally recognising misogyny as a hate crime would help the police tackle violence against women and girls.

Whilst some people argue that misogyny as hate crime would more adequately reflect the harm caused by gender-based hostility, others, including the Law Commission report, state that “recognition would not be an effective solution to the very real problem of violence, abuse and harassment of women and girls in England and Wales, and may in fact be counterproductive in some respects.” In 2021, in the debate around the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, the House of Commons rejected an amendment by the House of Lords to make misogyny a hate crime. The Home Office said that it had based its rejection on a Law Commission report.

At SARI, we welcome moves to include gender as a hate crime category and would encourage anyone in Avon and Somerset who is the victim of gender-based hate crime to contact us. One of our Project Workers, Tara, who focuses on gender-based hate crime, spoke about why she thinks the recognition of this type of hate crime is so important. She said: “I want women and girls to know there is support out there for them, that there are people and organisations who will listen to their experiences and support them.”

In the last year we opened 10 cases of gender-based hate crime. In one case, we supported a woman who was experiencing harassment and intimidation from a neighbour. In another case, our client was bullied after she rejected her neighbour’s advances. Sadly, there will be many more cases in our communities that just aren’t reported, with much misogyny normalised despite the devastating impact it has on victims.

Many women live in fear. They grow up with that fear. They are taught from an early age to be wary of walking alone, to modify their behaviour as self-protection; the onus is placed on them to protect themselves, rather than on the men who harass, intimidate and assault to not do that. On top of this, too often misogyny is minimised with phrases such as “Oh it’s just locker room banter.” “Boys will be boys.” “You’re being uptight and making a big deal out of nothing.” By recognising gender-based hate crime, it sends a strong message that misogynist behaviour is not acceptable and should be challenged.

Unfortunately, we can’t write an article about misogyny in 2023 without mentioning Andrew Tate. Propelled to fame on TikTok, Tate has built up a legion of followers who espouse his misogynistic rants. He has a worrying influence – in August 2022 his videos had been watched 11.6 billion times on TikTok – with teachers raising concerns at the effect his videos have had on young boys and their behaviour in schools. It is a scary step backwards; creating a narrative of extreme misogyny that is having far-reaching consequences.

When talking about misogyny, it’s important to recognise how often it intersects with other protected characteristics, including race, religion, sexuality, disability, age and gender identity – something which is often overlooked. The outpouring of understandable grief and anger at the rape and murder of Sarah Everard stood in stark contrast to the initial response to the murders of Nicole Smallman, Bibaa Henry, Sabina Nessa and Zara Aleena. Many felt that this disparity in response highlighted the systemic racism that exists in the UK; as Sabina’s sister told Radio 4’s Today programme, “She didn’t get the front pages on some of the papers and, in Sarah Everard’s case, she did. I think it’s just down to our ethnicity, to be honest. And I feel like if we were a normal British white family we would have been treated equally, I guess.” On a more general scale, the targeting of Muslim women has both Islamophobic and misogynistic motivations. According to Tell Mama in 2018, the majority of victims of street-based hate crimes are women, with many targeted whilst wearing an Islamic veil. At SARI, we’ve supported women with cases like this.

“I want to raise awareness that there is support out there for anyone who experiences gender hate crime” Tara continues. “I want victims to know that they will be listened to no matter how small they feel an incident is as we understand the impact that gender-based hate crime can have.”

Just because so many women experience it, gender-based hate crime should never be normalised or minimised. We want women to feel comfortable in the knowledge that by reporting it to us, they will be listened to. If you want to report a gender-based hate crime then please contact us.