We Will Not Criminalise Our Way Out of Misogyny

Last month there was a minor kerfuffle in the internet spaces when Boris Johnson said he would not support expanding the definition of hate crime to include misogyny. This was mildly controversial, with some protesting that it was a crucial step to aid women.

CW: Gender-based violence

Making misogyny a hate crime would compel police to record when a crime was motivated by hatred of someone’s gender, allowing for a clearer picture of the abuse, harassment and hostility women face. However, Boris rejected this idea, stating that “widening the scope of what the police have to do would only increase the problem.” He further stated that there was “abundant statute” under which to report violence against women.

As much as it nauseates me to say it – and hopefully this shall never be repeated – Boris and I are on the same page.

After everything that happened in the summer of 2020, and after a police officer was given a life sentence for murdering a woman, why on earth are we trying to expand the powers of the police to tackle misogyny? Does that really seem productive?

Criminalising misogyny is not the solution. Gendered crimes are already wildly, disgustingly underreported: creating a separate crime is not going to create an accurate picture of the abuse women experience. We already know that women face disbelief, patronisation, and even further abuse when they attempt to report gendered violence in any form. We know that women do not report gendered violence for a wide variety of reasons. Asking them to subject themselves to further humiliation so we can get some picture of misogyny, warped by mistrust on the part of women and negligence from officials, is just cruelty.

Criminalising misogyny is not the solution, because the police are an institution of the patriarchy and will not be the tool we use to dismantle the patriarchy. They will not be willing to punish their own. The existing legislation for punishing gendered violence is underutilised; adding more will do nothing.

Count yourself lucky, Boris. You have obtained my begrudging agreement this one time. It shall not happen again.

Caitlin Flavell, Politics Editor

Header image by Lucia Villegas, one of our wonderful graphic designers