- Almost one in three women aged 16-59 will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime
- two women a week in England and Wales are killed by a current or former partner
- over half a million women are raped or sexually assaulted each year.
- there are more than 135,000 women and girls affected by FGM living in England and Wales.
- A third of girls report having experienced sexual harassment at school.
These acts do not exist in a vacuum. They are all too often part of a system of thought and behaviour which objectifies and dehumanises women. Prejudice against women (misogyny) is a ‘gateway drug’ which can often fuel worse acts and behaviour, including violence, harassment and abuse.
Thanks to the work of campaigners and activists like politics graduate Sylvie Pope, the issue of misogyny is finally being highlighted and discussed.
Pope is the founder of the award-winning Misogyny IS Hate organisation, which campaigns for the government to recognise prejudice against women as a hate crime.
In a recent article on the White Ribbon website, Pope wrote: “One in five young British men think feminism has gone ‘too far.’ Three out of five young British women report experiencing street harassment. For my age group, life is increasingly shaped by fear as a woman or being fearful of women.”
Pope is one of an increasing number of campaigners who make the link between certain strands of men’s rights activism (MRA) and the increase in online and societal misogyny.
Pope cites a recent Hope Not Hate report which showed how young men interacting with MRA groups online were often on the first step of a “sliproad to more extreme parts of the far-right.”
The research highlighted how a growing number of MRA groups treat rights for wonen as part of a zero sum game where increases in the rights of one group naturally lead to a reduction in the rights of others.This idealogy means that many of these groups see women as coating for equal rights as the enemy.
Writer Laura Bates also makes the link between men’s rights activism and misogyny.
The founder of the Everyday Sexism project, Bates recent book, Men Who Hate Women, delves into the subject of violence against women.
To research the book, the writer carried out in depth research on her subject, coming to the conclusion that some strands of the men’s rights movement was having a substantial impact on women’s real life experiences of sexism, harassment, and violence.
With so much sexism and misogyny around, the internet has become a minefield for women, with over 50% reporting that they receive abuse when using social media. Those from an ethnic background are even more likely to be targeted.
So, the message is clear: if we want to end male violence against women and girls, we must address the rampant misogyny that is so often present online and in wider society. This would allow men and boys to adopt a healthier view of gender issues without being subjected to bias and underlying agendas.
It is important to make clear that making misogyny a hate crime wouldn’t solve the problem of male violence to women, but it could be an important part of the solution.
Making misogyny a hate crime would have a huge symbolic influence on society – sending out a clear message that prejudice against women will not be tolerated in any shape or form.
This would ensure that women are more likely to come forward to report hate crimes as they are confident that they will be taken seriously.
Several police forces around the country have already adopted this approach with impressive results.
The Avon and Somerset police force recorded over eight hundred gender hate crimes in a three year period while Devon and Cornwall processed 118 gendered hate crimes and incidents over two years. Offences included violence, harassment, arson and criminal damage and sexual offences.
Prejudice against women is a gateway drug which leads to further unwanted behaviours like harassment, aggression and abuse.
Misogyny is widespread in society and is present both on the internet and in everyday settings.
The rise of male rights activism has been accompanied by a parallel increase in misogyny as individuals and groups come to see the ride of women’s rights as a challenge to securing and maintaining their own rights.
Violence against women will not end until we tackle the misogyny that often underpins such violence. Defining misogyny as a hate crime, with the associated legal and procedural powers which that brings, is the first step in adopting a zero tolerance approach to the matter.