‘Hate crime’. It sounds serious, doesn’t it? Something you’d immediately associate with racism or homophobia. Something that most of us can agree is abhorrent.
After all, who could defend racial slurs being hurled after an interracial couple? Who could defend the beatings of a man and a man who simply held hands in public?
Not many. We band together for these causes, and so we should. We try to teach our children, even in post-Brexit times, even with the looming possibility of Trump as President, that diversity is a good thing. People cannot help their skin colour, where they were born, how they were raised, after all.
It’s the same for homophobia; we proudly raise rainbow striped flags to the skies and proclaim loudly that LOVE IS LOVE, that anyone should be free to care about, to kiss, to marry whoever holds the other half of their heart, no matter their gender. People cannot help who they fall in love with, after all.
But misogyny, that’s a whole new ball game. We’re not as outspoken about that, are we? We don’t always rush to the defence of women who feel their boundaries have been crossed. The same rules don’t apply to women. They choose what they wear, after all.
They choose how much they drink, after all.
They choose the routes they walk home, after all.
It’s not a ‘feminazi’ issue. It’s a ‘human rights’ issue.
Summer shifts into autumn, autumn cools into winter. The nights are getting darker, earlier. People are going out to after-work drinks, Christmas parties, festive events, shopping late for Christmas gifts.
If foreign tourists are Christmas shopping in London, excitedly talking in a language different to our own, and are sneered at and told aggressively to ‘go back to your own country’, and that escalates into violence – that’s a hate crime.
If a lesbian couple are on the train home, and their closeness makes someone feel uncomfortable, if they’re labelled ‘dykes’ or ‘unnatural’, and that escalates into violence – that’s a hate crime.
If a girl is walking alone after having drinks with a friend, and passes a group of men with a distinctly misogynistic mentality, and has her way blocked with a smirk and a ‘alright darlin?’, then what? If she tries to politely make her exit and won’t give a phone number, won’t tolerate that hand on her bum, won’t entertain the idea of a conversation and is faced with a barrage of abuse, ‘slut/bitch/frigid’ – if that escalates into violence… then what?
Is it her fault?
Should she have worn a jumper, instead of a tight dress, so she didn’t catch their eye?
Should she have worn trainers, instead of heels, so she could get away faster?
Should she have dealt with the unwanted physical contact, instead of making a fuss?
Should she have handed out her private information, so as not to offend someone’s pride?
No. Misogynistic assault isn’t because a women didn’t take the feelings of an attacker into account.
It’s a hate crime.
Granted, it’s difficult to police. Some women have actively spoken out about their enjoyment of catcalling, some find it intimidating, some simply don’t care. But surely we can all agree that we shouldn’t be raised or raising women to accept that harassment, assault and abuse are all just ‘part of life’.
We’re not commodities. Nobody is entitled to touch us, nobody is entitled to call us ‘slut’, nobody is entitled to our personal space and details without our consent. That’s what’s important here – it’s not about setting strict guidelines to human interaction, making it harder for men to pull or making out that every man on the street is a walking sex offender.
It’s about being treated with respect.
After all, if you’re going to turn around and declare a woman was ‘asking for it’ because she’s got a short skirt on, then don’t expect sympathy when your smartphone was snatched right out of your hand.
You chose to have it on display, after all.