Three days ago, Vogue published an interview conducted by Amelia Abraham with Amelia Womack during a junket to Nottingham.
“It’s a grey afternoon when I meet Deputy Green Party Leader Amelia Womack in Nottingham, the first city in the UK to make misogyny a hate crime by law. Over the last six months, Womack has been tirelessly campaigning for this rule to apply to the rest of Britain, lobbying other politicians, and travelling up and down the country to talk about why it’s important.
“I think, sometimes, we let things slip away without addressing them,” she tells me. “It’s almost as though, walking down the street, we expect harassment.” [J4MB: translation from feminist into English- “It’s almost as though, being in public places, women expect some level of human interaction with male members of the public”].
While we have enshrined our condemnation of racism or homophobia in law, claims the politician, we are not treating sexism as the same kind of priority. Yet, ask any woman if she knows what Womack is talking about, and the answer is likely yes. According to statistics, 90% of British women experience street harassment before the age of 17 [J4MB: according to a survey by Hollaback! which they explicitly admit “cannot be generalised” as they survey was not distributed to a random sample of participants – more than 50% were previous visitors to their propagandist website. It is not entirely clear what constitutes harassment in this survey other than that the most common form is the – usefully conflated – “verbal and non verbal harassment”],and 85% of women aged 17-24 have been subjected to unwanted sexual advances [J4MB: according to a YouGov poll of 106 18-24 year old women commissioned by the End Violence Against Women Coalition who appear to have removed the results from their website… a BBC report on them is here. Clearly, this is a tiny sample that cannot be generalised. Furthermore, “unwanted sexual advances” is vague and subjective, probably behaviour that near-everyone could accept having experienced and engaged in at some point – and there is no record of the young women surveyed having been asked if they felt that they constituted meaningful incidents – or how they responded to the behaviour, which may have been telling].
Personally, at 33, Womack [J4MB: ‘claims that she’] has been slapped on the arse, grabbed in a club, and threatened with violence after a man told her to smile and she “gave him a dirty look”. But these were not the sole events that triggered her national campaign against misogyny [J4MB: do these feminists ever think of asking men whether they experience such behaviour from women? Perhaps they would find that their campaign should be against humans being a sexually reproducing species rather than “misogyny”]. In October 2017, she stood up at a Green Party conference and shared her haunting experiences of [J4MB: “alleged”] domestic violence [J4MB: according to this interview, she did not see fit to report her alleged abuse to the police…]. She sees the two issues as interconnected: “I thought, we need this law to show that you don’t have to wait to be physically abused before you can go to the police.”
A few days after Womack’s speech, #MeToo happened. Across the internet, thousands of women started posting about their experiences of misogyny, harassment and sexual assault. Womack was proud to see women speaking up, but worried that the movement didn’t change much: “After so many people had the bravery to scream from the rooftops, no one thought we would carry on as we were,” she says now, “but nothing much happened.” [J4MB: apart from forcibly extracted apologies, a charity event being cancelled and money for children’s hospitals being rejected, job losses and a suicide or two, or three. But yeah, nothing much…] For her, making misogyny a crime by law would be a way to ensure that future generations don’t have to go through another big movement like #MeToo.
Nottinghamshire became the first county in the UK to make the leap, back in April of 2016. The event I’m attending with Womack is a review of how things are going; a conversation between Police Commissioner Paddy Tipping and Helen Voce, who runs Nottingham Women’s Centre. They tell me they realised something serious needed to be done about street harassment after a group called Citizens Nottingham found that 38% of women reporting a hate crime explicitly linked it to their gender, and that one in five hate crimes that took place were reported.
The Women’s Centre held a conference, where Tipping asked women who had experienced misogyny to raise their hands [J4MB: great, another representative sample]. “Every woman without exception put her arm up,” he says gravely. “I’ve got daughters and granddaughters, I like to think I’m a feminist. I just thought, ‘people shouldn’t be treated like this’.”
Under the law, any crime or incident which is perceived by the victim, or any other person, to have been motivated by prejudice – in this case, misogyny – can be reported. Over two years, Nottinghamshire police have received one report every three days. From April 2016 to March 2018, there were 174 reports of misogyny hate crimes. But Helen tells me that women in Nottingham say they’ve been able to “walk down the street with their heads held higher” since the law was passed, and that it has made a lot of men realise the extent of the problem.
With these benefits, where is the resistance to the law being brought in nationwide? “I think there’s an assumption that it would take up police time on a trivial matter,” says Womack. However, Tipping maintains that this shouldn’t be a hurdle: “Do the police feel this is our top ranking issue? Perhaps not,” he says. “But we need to create a culture that says, ‘whatever the hate, it’s unacceptable’. When I talk to women in Nottingham, unanimously they say this is a statement; it’s about changing the standard.”
Tipping’s officers received basic training in how to deal with misogyny and reports are responded to with a simple conversation with the perpetrator where possible. There have been four arrests and one charge so far, which was sentenced with community service [J4MB: definitely not wasting police time then…].
Other parts of the country are starting to adopt similar laws, but not in the way that Tipping and Womack would like. Northamptonshire now recognise “gender-based hostility”, for example. “Some forces say that if you discriminate in favour of women you could be at risk, but I think it’s ultimately women who bear the brunt of this, which is why I’m keen to call it misogyny as a hate crime,” says Tipping [J4MB: feminism – about privileges, not equality].
Womack, meanwhile, wants the law to be brought about nationwide via a ruling from the Home Office so that there are no discrepancies between how a woman is treated from one county to another. In a bid to achieve this, she delivered a letter to Home Secretary Amber Rudd in February. It was signed by Labour MPs Harriet Harman and Jess Phillips, Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson and head of the Women’s Equality Party Sophie [J4MB: “doughnuts”] Walker, among others.
In explaining why misogyny should be a cross party issue, Womack compares it to same-sex marriage in that “one party does not have monopoly on knowledge or moral judgement, because these things affect too large a part of our population.”
This year she will also urge Mayor Sadiq Khan to use his power over the London Met to implement the law across the city; “he keeps talking about the fact that he is the feminist mayor and I feel like, if he wants his legacy to be in feminism, this is an opportunity to make sure of it.” [J4MB: …no comment!].
How can more people get involved, I ask, thinking of all the times I’ve been on the receiving end of violent and sexist language from a stranger. “Sign our petition, lobby your MP and your police commissioners,” Womack responds passionately. “And spread the message of what this law would mean. We can’t let the #MeToo movement die with the hashtag.”
~Our thanks to Steve for the link.~