No, men cannot be victims of misogyny

Humza Yousaf’s proposed misogyny bill has already descended into farce.

Ella Whelan

Ella Whelan

Topics Identity Politics UK

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What could be worse than a law that criminalises misogyny? A law that criminalises ‘misogyny’ against men.

This week, Humza Yousaf announced
that the SNP’s planned anti-misogyny law will cover literally ‘anyone’ who feels they have been ‘affected’ by misogyny. Of course, as everyone knows, misogyny means the hatred of women. Yet the Scottish first minister is adamant that transwomen should also be included in the proposed law because, supposedly, ‘they will often be the ones who suffer threats of rape or threats of disfigurement’ that are driven by misogyny. According to Yousaf, ‘the man making the threat doesn’t know’ whether he is threatening ‘a transwoman or a cis woman’, and that the ‘perception’ of womanhood is all that matters.

This is absurd. Over the years, spiked has been a vocal critic of the new identitarian feminism, which treats all women as inherent victims and men as their oppressors. We have also opposed the policies that flow from this sexist assumption – from gender quotas and women-only shortlists to anti-misogyny laws. Yet whatever the faults of these initiatives, Yousaf’s proposal to criminalise misogyny against men is altogether more deranged. It suggests that there is no distinction between women’s and men’s experiences at all, particularly in the realm of sexism and street harassment.

The proposed bill comes hot on the heels of the Scottish government’s controversial Hate Crime Act, which criminalises ‘stirring up hatred’ against people with certain protected characteristics, such as ethnic-minority people, religious minorities and trans people. Notably absent from these protected groups is women. The misogyny bill is widely viewed as an attempt to deal with this omission.

The new bill will likely be based on recommendations published two years ago by the Working Group on Misogyny and Criminal Justice, led by lawyer Baroness Kennedy. Her report proposed the creation of ‘a new offence of stirring up hatred against women and girls’ and ‘a new offence of public misogynistic harassment’.

The goal of this new law is not really to prevent violence against women, which is already illegal. No, its aim is to curtail free speech and to change Scottish people’s supposedly backward attitudes to women and girls. As Kennedy’s report stated, ‘while not all misogynistic behaviours will be captured’ by a new misogyny law, ‘the shift in thinking and the reappraisal of certain forms of speech and conduct will contribute to a resetting of cultural norms’. It seems the Scottish political elites truly believe that, unless Scottish men are restrained and re-educated by this new law, they will always be just one moment away from abusing a woman – or indeed a transwoman.

The Scottish government seems to have learnt nothing from the disastrous Hate Crime Act. The crime of ‘stirring up hatred’ is so broadly defined in the act that Police Scotland have struggled to cope with the thousands of spurious reports of ‘hate’ that have been levied since the law came into force earlier this month. When it becomes a crime to ‘stir up hatred’ against women and girls, will officers be bogged down in complaints made by teenagers bitching about each other? Who knows. But one thing is certain. Officers will have to spend so much time dealing with complaints about misogynistic ‘hate speech’ that they will be left with no time to do the work of catching and prosecuting real criminals – those rapists, assailants and murderers who are actually a threat to women.

Lumping women and girls into the same category as transwomen shows how little the Scottish government understands women’s experiences. Women aren’t harassed in the street or attacked by their partners because they are perceived as women, but because they are women. Of course, violence against trans people should be treated with the same urgency and severity as that against women – and against men for that matter. But transwomen and women are not the same. There is no point in the government passing a law in an attempt to protect women if it pretends that ‘woman’ has no meaning and no specificity.

Anyone who believes in women’s freedom should oppose this authoritarian and absurd misogyny bill.

Ella Whelan is the author of The Case For Women’s Freedom, the latest in the Academy of Ideas’ radical pamphleteering series, Letters on Liberty.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Identity Politics UK


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