I find it impossible to support the campaign, led by the Labour MP Stella Creasy, to make misogyny a “hate crime”.
How do you define misogyny? Like the concept of hate crime itself, it seems it can be anything that someone thinks it might be. Some feminists are saying that the tennis umpire Carlos Ramos displayed blatant misogyny (and possibly racism) when he gave Serena Williams a penalty point for an irregularity, and then another when she smashed her tennis racket on the court in a tantrum.
“Misogyny” can be a wolf-whistle, a cat-call, a harassment or a threat of rape, to which Ms Creasy says she is frequently subjected. But it is also sometimes seen behind a courteous gesture, such as offering a woman a seat on public transport. The former Irish president Mary McAleese has nominated the Catholic Church as the prime “carrier” of “the virus of misogyny” throughout the world.
Definitions of misogyny range from the trifling to the criminal. Something with so vague and abstract a definition is a poor basis for law. Hate crime itself is, in my view, highly unsatisfactory, since the definition depends on how an action is perceived. This is close to George Orwell’s description of “thought crime”.
Yes, there are men who are misogynists – the novelist Kingsley Amis used to say, grumpily, “women are trouble” – and there are women who are man-haters, depicting all men as oppressors and brutes. But most men and women don’t see people that way. Most men and women get along with one another as individuals, and the majority are decent human beings.
When I was a young journalist, I was consistently encouraged, helped, and supported by male colleagues and employers. There were laws to be modernised and opportunities enhanced, but most men were not misogynists – Kingsley was a much-parodied exception. I dislike this constant demonisation of men, and I believe that suggesting that misogyny is everywhere could promote, not diminish, “hate”.
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