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Making misogyny a hate crime is pure window-dressing

October 12, 2021 - 7:00am

In the wake of the Sarah Everard murder, the former victims’ commissioner and Conservative peer Lady Newlove has tabled an amendment to the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill that would make misogyny a hate crime, sparking debate within the Tories and elsewhere.

Does this make sense? The difficulty with this debate is that like any media-driven demand for legislation, it is highly emotive, and tends to skip without much rigour between the dimensions of moral pronouncement and real-world law and order policy.

On the moral pronouncement side, it’s relatively clear what we achieve by making misogyny a hate crime. Making misogyny a hate crime says, in effect, that women have a right to never experience hostility on the grounds of being women, and that this right has (in theory at least) the backing of state power.

I’ve previously written about the social function of hate crime law as an expression of contemporary sacred values. We may debate the wisdom of granting women blanket immunity from opprobrium, but it’s at least clear what a hate crime law does: it’s a statement about our public moral priorities.

From the perspective of actionable policy, it’s more difficult to see what this statement achieves — and far easier to see what it conceals. To illustrate, consider an example from my small town, where a teenage girl was recently sexually assaulted on her way home from Guides, by a gang of young men notorious locally for violence, burglary and vandalism.

Initially, the girl identified her attackers to the police. But following a campaign of intimidation against her family, she subsequently withdrew the positive identification. The case has now been dropped.

Would it have made any difference if her assault had been treated as a hate crime? Unlikely. Would it have made any difference if local police were not administratively overburdened and hopelessly under-staffed? Quite possibly.

Perhaps they’d have been able to attend, investigate and prosecute the innumerable prior thefts, assaults and burglaries committed by this gang, which police simply refuse to investigate — even, as in some cases, if there are witnesses or CCTV footage. Perhaps these thugs would have been in prison, unable to terrorise young women.

But that’s not where we are. Policing overall continues to be cut to the bone, even as expectations mount on officers to enforce an ever-growing array of sacred moral values with little bearing on everyday public quality of life. Half the country’s police stations have closed since 2010, meaning outside cities officers are often too far away for rapid response. And our political leaders have effectively abolished UK beat policing, except in high-crime urban areas.

The upshot is a police force without the resources to tackle common or garden ‘antisocial behaviour’, to the detriment of the countless women for whom safe streets are a prerequisite for participation in public life.

Against that backdrop, making misogyny a hate crime is pure window-dressing. Making the streets safe for law-abiding citizens is a policy that would benefit women most of all. But making misogyny a hate crime instead implies leaders who’ve abandoned this as a realistic policy, and are now hoping weakly that people will be fobbed off with a burst of moral mood music.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago

There are all kinds of problems with having a “hate crime list”, one of which is the illogicality of having anything excluded from the list.
Is it more wrong to have committed a crime based on a persons hatred of Jews, but fine if it’s based on a hatred of Buddhists ?
Is it less wrong for a violent thug to beat up another man (based on hatred of weak men) than assaulting a woman ?
Why would Misogeny be added to the list without adding Misandry ?
Could an omission like that be considered a form of hate crime in itself ?

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Barton
John Wilkes
John Wilkes
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Straight white people are currently the only unprotected groups, soon the only one will be straight white men.
Sorry, should have said straight, white cis-men.

JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago
Reply to  John Wilkes

“Equality”

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  John Wilkes

Don’t get me started on the equally nonsensical listing (or non-listing) of “protected characteristics” 
.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Barton
rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Maybe not many people hate Buddhists. Just wondering

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  rodney foy

I was spoilt for choice 🙂

Steven Campbell
Steven Campbell
2 years ago
Reply to  rodney foy

only in airports, beating a drum.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  rodney foy

Well they did blow up the great Bamian Buddhas, But that was really just the Sunni Taliban getting back at the Hazra Shia who owned them, as it were.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 years ago

Mary gives the example of the local girl who was sexually assaulted on her way home from Guides and asks if it would have made any difference had the case been treated as a hate crime. The answer surely is no, and nor should it have. What she describes is simply a crime, with its own legal remedies.
The whole notion of hate crime is totalitarian in nature and has no place in a liberal democracy (older readers may remember that we used to have one of these).
But if we are to treat misogyny as a crime, surely the most basic and glaring example would be to deny the objective biological reality of women. In which case the PM, Leader of the Opposition and leader of the Lib Dems should all face prosecution.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew D
Gavin Stewart-Mills
Gavin Stewart-Mills
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Meanwhile Cambridge Student’s Union issues a new guide “How to Spot TERF ideology”. Issued by the women’s officer, (who incidentally identifies as he/him), who says that TERF’s “have no place in women’s spaces”. These people are the flag wavers for misogyny in 2021.
https://www.cambridgesu.co.uk/resources/guides/spottingterfideology/

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

When I was at Cambridge literally nobody paid any attention whatsoever to CSU.

D Ward
D Ward
2 years ago

Interesting article has just been published on the University and College Union’s decision to back the “activists” who are trying to destroy Kathleen Stock’s career at Sussex Uni.
Can you have a “hate crime” against a “hate crime”? I reckon you could.

Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
2 years ago
Reply to  D Ward

Could you give a link please? I haven’t been able to track this article down. Thanks,

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
2 years ago

Good article and I broadly agree with much of what you say, but I must disagree on one point: There is no shortage of police officers or funding. They are no longer carrying out the duties for which the police force was originally established.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Token, ‘Peter Principal’, woman head of the Met is not helping get law and order functioning.

Paul Sorrenti
Paul Sorrenti
2 years ago

Just like those who ‘feel’ their transgender status is under attack, I presume this will mean that any woman who feels like their womanhood is under attack will likewise now have the capacity to contact the police who, without any investigation, will be impelled to add another figure to the reported hate crimes statistics, meaning that soon enough there will be stories of a shocking rise in anti-woman crime, which women and girls will read about and presumably feel less safe about, and so more on alert
And as society saves misogyny in this way, we will continue sending women to jail for dodging the tv-license, and potentially placing them in cells with male-bodied sex-offenders, and extending their sentences should they ever point out that ‘there is a male in a female space!’ on account of it being a . . . hate crime
On the plus side, some of those journalists who have turned a blind eye to police turning up at people’s homes for sending out a rude tweet, may soon be rudely awoken to the absurdity of all this, with a knock on their own door

Last edited 2 years ago by Paul Sorrenti
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

If I were to say I hate Sally Rooney because she’s a virtue-signalling leftist anti-Semite, would that be hate speech because she’s a woman, or is that OK?
Imagine the plod trying to fathom that one,.

George Glashan
George Glashan
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Jon you give plod too much credit, they couldn’t fathom their arse from the bottom of the ocean. You would get as far as :

” …I hate Sally Rooney…”

before plod charged you with a hate crime and they shout Palestine will be free in your face

Last edited 2 years ago by George Glashan
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

First and foremost she is a Neo-Marxist, Post Modernist, hard leftie who uses her writing to include massive propaganda for her twisted ideology.

ralph bell
ralph bell
2 years ago

‘Making the streets safe for law-abiding citizens is a policy that would benefit MEN most of all,’ surely in terms of crime statistics?
Another excellent well argued article.

Last edited 2 years ago by ralph bell
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  ralph bell

Time to revisit the Rotherhan cases. Puts a new spin on them.

JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago

Successful prosecution of a ‘hate crime’ requires evidence of bias and prejudice. It sounds good in theory, but in practice it just adds to the prosecutorial and evidentiary burden. Crimes that qualify, like some acts of terrorism, often get prosecuted as ordinary crimes because it is very hard to prove the specific motive.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  JP Martin

Does it? I’d be glad to be proved wrong, but it was my impression that calling somebody a ‘*$ÂŁ%ing black &*^%$’ during an assault was enough to turn the assult into a hate crime.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

But does a statement like that actually prove “hatred of black people” ?
Many people would choose the term that they thought would most upset/annoy their victim (in the same way that many verbal domestic arguments are conducted)
If an attacker called someone a “fat ba@£€rd” when they hit them, it in no way proves that the attacker hates fat people.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Barton
JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Yes, you will need to prove that the word is not just descriptive but evidence of bias based on the totality of the context.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  JP Martin

Can you expand of that? For in practice such words are never just descriptive but part of the insult – which is why you never describe people as ‘ten-fingered’ of ‘two-eared’ when you are cussing them. Linguistically the point is to position the other person as part of a different group, an outsider, that can be exposed to scorn.If I am trying to demean somebody and incude the word’black’ in my phrases, is that in itself enough ot prove a hate-crime, or do you need some actual evidence of hate?

JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Judicial fact finding is a different process. In everyday life, we make these sorts of conclusions all the time. Judges have to apply legal rules to the fact finding process and will need to give reasons for their inferences.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Agreed. I was trying to say how the current law worked – not that I thought it made sense.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The answer is Yes. The whole thing hinges on the victim’s view of the matter. If enough victims say, “It was a hate crime” you are almost there.

William Cameron
William Cameron
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Looking askance across the street at someone is a hate crime if the someone says it is.
Thats the problem.

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Watch it!
You could be accused of using the word: ‘n16635’ (a slang word for someone from Nigeria)

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  JP Martin

What gets prosecuted as a hate crime is almost entirely in the discretion of the CPS.
I wonder whether how the chose to exercise that discretion will vary depending upon the ethnicity of the offender.

JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago

Yes
 I suspect there are some women in Rotherham who might be wondering the same.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago

Would rape automatically be a misogynistic hate crime or would the prosecution have to produce evidence that the rapist disliked women? Would rapists be able to produce evidence from their wives, girlfriends etc that they loved women? Would a bag snatcher be able refute an allegation of hate by showing he had snatched man bags or other items from men? The proposal seems merely one designed to waste police time and achieve nothing of value except to signal political virtue.

David Morley
David Morley
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

The proposal seems merely one designed to waste police time and achieve nothing of value except to signal political virtue.

and to get us all to implicitly buy into the idea that misogyny is both a significant social problem in itself and a significant cause of crime. Ideologies become real by being enacted – not least by being enacted in law.

David Morley
David Morley
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Would rape automatically be a misogynistic hate crime or would the prosecution have to produce evidence that the rapist disliked women?

Might be a good idea for prospective rapists to add a few feminist tracts to their book collection. Or make some donations to feminist causes and declare oneself a feminist online. Though it doesn’t seem to have worked for Harvey Weinstein.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

Some of the most patronising men I have conversed with have been self proclaimed male feminists, to the degree that I see little difference between them and misogynists. I suppose this is another problem with self identification.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Not if carried out by a trans woman still equipped as nature intended.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

Perhaps they’d have been able to attend, investigate and prosecute the innumerable prior thefts, assaults and burglaries committed by this gang, which police simply refuse to investigate — even, as in some cases, if there are witnesses or CCTV footage. 

This police refusal to investigate crimes is not just in the UK, either. In San Francisco they don’t press charges if you shoplift goods worth less than $1,000 from a store.
One guy on YouTube got so fed up with the US police’s flat refusal to follow up videoed thefts of parcels from his porch that he invented and built a thing called a Glitterbomb, which is a parcel he wants to be stolen (search for “Glitterbomb 3.0 porch pirates” if you want a childish belly laugh at what then ensues).
The UK police cost ÂŁ21.5 billion. What do they actually spend it on?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

And particularly how much on non-criminal hate speech “crimes” ?

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Paying out compensation to those wrongly arrested, harassed, raped, murdered by police, etc?

John Wilkes
John Wilkes
2 years ago

One of the most important principles of justice is that it is blind. Think of the statue at the Old Bailey.
This means that the nature of the victim is irrelevant. The murder of an innocent well loved individual, should attract exactly the same sentence as the murder of a drug dealer or pederast, given all other factors being equal.
I realise that this is difficult to achieve as we all behave in a human (i.e. prejudiced) way, and I don’t mean this in a bad way necessarily. However, when policing and sentencing begins with the principle that some individuals are more worthy of protection under law then the idea of blind justice is lost.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

My wife is now accusing me of misogyny if I want to watch a different TV programme. Or if I disagree about today’s lunch.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Maybe “misusing the term misogyny” should be added to the list ..

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Barton
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Are you trying to watch some really misogynist show?

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago

More law less order seems to be the way of things. As my chances of passing off some callous sneer as harmless banter decrease almost to nothing, my chances of getting away with rape and battery increase exponentially. Frightening times.

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
2 years ago

(Your quote): Policing overall continues to be cut to the bone, even as expectations mount on officers to enforce an ever-growing array of sacred moral values with little bearing on everyday public quality of life. (end quote)

Take the mask mandate policing off the table, allow people to demonstrate, stop worrying about mandating and policing the seasonal flu shots, and ONLY then we may be getting closer to an efficient workable policing policy.

Douglas McCallum
Douglas McCallum
2 years ago

Yes, this is indeed a good article – and it stimulated a variety of interesting and useful comments.
I totally agree with Andrew D.: “The whole notion of hate crime is totalitarian in nature and has no place in a liberal democracy…” And as John Wilkes pointed out, “One of the most important principles of justice is that it is blind. …This means that the nature of the victim is irrelevant.” Surely, a key foundation of our society must be that all people, regardless of whatever descriptive category is applied to them, are entitled to equal protection under the law. It is totalitarianism when some become “more equal than others”.
It can be debated whether policing is adequately resourced. But there is no debate of the point made by Terry Needham, that in reality the police “are no longer carrying out the duties for which the police force was originally established.” I believe this is the single most important reason for the wide-spread and growing failures of the police to cope with what the ordinary citizen would consider “real crime”.
Police recruits spend more time listening to sociologists twittering on about race relations, or gender relations, or any other social issue imaginable, than they spend in training for operational police work dealing with actual crime. Police officers are forced to spend their (necessarily limited) time and energy on enforcing political correctness (including hate crimes) rather than focusing on murder, rape, GBH, physical assaults, house-breaking, bag-snatching, malicious damage, etc. Front-line police officers are ham-strung by careerist-bureaucrat-police bosses who are only concerned to do whatever the woke crowd want them to do.
Clearly there are social issues which society needs to address; but these can seldom if ever be effectively dealt with through legislation, especially laws such as hate-crime which are so transparently media-driven exercises in virtue signalling. And in any case, the police forces are not the appropriate bodies for trying to enforce conformity in 60 million different sets of personal attitudes, thoughts, and feelings.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

My father’s late wife called the police because he refused to put up the curtains when they came back from the cleaners. Presumably he did not want to do it there and then.
Would his refusal to put up the curtains be a hate crime under the proposed legislation?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago

No doubt Twitter mobs will be more than happy to the do the work of the police for them. Why bother wasting money going after small-time criminals when you can get the people to inform on each other for hate, speech, and thought crimes?

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago

Yes indeed – make the streets safe, rather than yet another hate crime, because the more such ‘crimes’ we have, the more the police are distracted and confused from making the streets safe.
Indeed, that would be an obvious and simple objective for every police force.

Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
2 years ago

A wasted opportunity to reframe these conversations into a more nuanced look at how to be respectful to one another based on our fundamental unalterable common humanity. There is no other place to begin to consider options for constructive social and political change, or how to protect us from one another when unfortunately it becomes necessary.