On October 6, Dominic Raab, the new Justice Secretary and a British politician suggested that misogyny can be directed at both men and women. The comment came after Boris Johnson ruled out misogyny as a hate crime. The Prime Minister of Britain said that tackling rape and domestic violence is his number one priority.
“That is what I am focused on. To be perfectly honest, if you widen the scope of what you ask the police to do, you will just increase the problem,” he said while adding that he wants police to focus on “very real crimes“.
He used words like “very real” at least two times to narrow down to the question: Is misogyny not very real? Are women wasting the precious time of the state by asking not to be prejudiced against? or hated?
Over this, Raab confidently dictates the meaning of misogyny without once taking the effort to google for the factual one.
After Dominic Raab’s comment on the BBC Breakfast on the meaning of misogyny, the conversation on what it actually means has stirred up again. Netizens are pointing out where he went wrong.
“Misogyny is absolutely wrong, whether it’s a man against a woman, or a woman against a man” pic.twitter.com/fTmPWkb9VU
— James Felton (@JimMFelton) October 6, 2021
What is Misogyny?
According to the Merriam-Webster English dictionary, misogyny means hatred of, aversion to or prejudice against women. How to use it in a statement: The idea that women love to shop on men’s money is misogynistic in nature, telling women that they cannot drive is misogyny, not listening to your boss because she is a woman is misogyny, etc.
The word originates from the Ancient Greek word, misogunia used by many philosophers in 150 BC. People who believe or act on this prejudice are known as misogynists.
Take another example, that of Niccolo Machiavelli and what he writes in his book, The Prince. The chapter title read- How a state is ruined because of women. Maybe Machiavelli too was not aware of what misogyny means like our politicians?
This comment by Raab is not unfamiliar to Indian readers. Men, particularly ones in power who make headlines in India, have multiple such instances where they have ended up making a misogynistic statement against women in the garb of ‘protecting’ them. That is the saviour complex- bechari auraat?
In 2014, forget protecting, the Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said, “Boys will be boys, mistakes can be made.” This comment was in reference to Yadav’s opposition to capital punishment in rape cases. He said that girls befriend boys, then due to differences file rape charges while accepting boys make mistakes. “So should we hang them?” he said in a rally at Moradabad.
Things don’t change in case the woman in conversation is a powerful one. Dayashankar Singh, leader of Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) compared Bahujan Samaj Party chief and former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati with a prostitute. He said that even a prostitute fulfils her commitment after getting paid. But Mayawati, such a big leader in UP, sells party tickets to anyone who pays her the highest amount.” Singh told reporters, repeatedly using the word “vaishya” in Hindi, which means ‘prostitute.’
The Prime Minister of India too was questioned a few years ago for how he congratulated Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina for her zero tolerance towards terrorism. He reportedly added, “despite being a woman.” Can women leaders not fight terrorism?
— Sona Mohapatra (@sonamohapatra) June 8, 2015
Going back to Boris’s comment on misogyny, several police forces within Britain have adopted misogyny or gender as a form of hate crime. It includes Nottinghamshire, North Yorkshire, Avon and Somerset, according to a report by iNews, UK.
Associate Professor Loretta Trickett of Nottingham Law School in a report said that Boris Johnson’s comment display an unwillingness to listen to women’s experiences and recognise the crimes against women are misogyny driven.
By including misogyny as hate crime, one recognises that most of these crimes against women come from a space of hostility towards women.