OPINION: Make misogyny a hate crime and let's all vow to end it

Two women look at flowers laid on Clapham Common in memory of Sarah Everard

Two women look at flowers laid on Clapham Common in memory of Sarah Everard - Credit: PA

There's been a lot of talk in the media just lately about misogyny, despite which, our own deputy prime minister doesn't seem to know what the word actually means.

I have previously written about how harmful the 'boys will boys' excuse is and all of the recent conversations around 'laddish culture' and toxic masculinity, echo my earlier points.

A culture of misogyny has been identified within the Metropolitan Police (and also wider policing) and cited as a contributing factor in the murder of Sarah Everard. 

This culture serves only to cement harmful attitudes that place women at a lower value than men.

When women are de-humanised to the extent that it forms part of a working environment's culture, that is hugely problematic, particularly when part of your job is to protect women while also being in a position of power over them.

The individual abuser is always to blame for their crimes but those who ignored the multiple red flags, such as with Sarah Everard's murderer such as his interest in violent pornography, knowing that he was nicknamed "The Rapist" and his indecent exposure incidents, all share collective responsibility for allowing that culture of misogyny to blossom and thrive.

It is not good enough to just denounce them as 'bad apples' or say that they're 'monsters' when in truth they are not and pretending otherwise is a fallacy. 

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Yes they are at the extreme end of the scale but they're not a special breed - they're all someone's father, friend, husband, brother, colleague or son. 

Time and time again we've seen that many rapists have a history of escalating lower level harassments, such as indecent exposure. Yet news stories of flashing are met with laughing emoji reactions, even more so if it is cyber flashing where the burden of responsibility to manage that behaviour is placed squarely at the feet of women.

We cannot carry on as though it's not that big a deal or that abuse is inevitable. It's really important that we take an honest look at how this toxic culture has developed and explore what we can do to stop it.

Men play such an important role in this process as they have unparalleled access to other men and are more likely to be respected and listened to by them. 

Instead of awkwardly laughing at your colleague's domestic abuse joke or ignoring your boss' sexism. Instead of joining in with locker room talk  or staying silent when your friends make sexual remarks to women passing by - start calling it out.

Natasha Harpley, Broadland councillor for Sprowston Central.

Natasha Harpley, Broadland councillor for Sprowston Central. - Credit: Natasha Harpley

But this cultural change needs to come from the top, too. Misogyny absolutely should be classed as a hate crime, particularly as the rise of the INCEL movement has been found comparable to other forms of domestic terrorism. 

Boris Johnson said earlier this week that violence against women was “the number one issue in policing," yet he has refused to class misogyny as a hate crime. How can we expect misogyny to be taken seriously if we won't even name it in law?

Women must have more influence on policies and strategies that seek to protect us, so it's particularly disappointing to see that of the 12 members who sit on Norfolk Police's Independent Advisory Group only three of them are women. 

We need action, not platitudes, not distancing ourselves from 'monsters' and not hand wringing. It's time for difficult conversations and self-reflection and I really hope that this propels the cultural change that our society so desperately needs.

Cllr Natasha Harpley is leader of the Labour Group at Broadland District Council and Norwich Labour vice president

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