From Donald Trump’s claim that calling himself a feminist would be “going too far” (and that’s one of the less toe-curling comments), to the time Boris Johnson promised that “voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts” in the run up to the 2005 general election, as a woman alive in the year of 2021, you’ve probably become somewhat anaesthetised to the sexism endemic in the world of politics.
Entering the arena of politicians with a poor grasp on what feminism means and why it’s necessary is UK Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, who just more or less exposed that he doesn’t understand what misogyny means on live television.
Raab, whose position means he’s responsible for the judiciary, the court system and prisons and probation in England and Wales, appeared on BBC Breakfast to discuss whether misogyny should become a hate crime following the brutal murder of Sarah Everard by serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens last March.
Initially rejecting the idea, Raab subsequently appeared confused about the meaning of misogyny, claiming that it applies to abuse against both women and men.
(Misogyny is largely defined as hatred or prejudice aimed specifically at women.)
Raab, who has joined the Trump club in saying that he is not a feminist, said on the live breakfast programme that it’s his “number one priority to make sure women feel confident in the justice system”.
However, when questioned by BBC journalist Sally Nugent on whether the issue should be treated as a hate crime (i.e. a crime carried out against someone because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity), Raab appeared not to understand the term, saying, “Misogyny is absolutely wrong, whether it’s a man against a woman or a woman against a man.”
When pressed on the matter by Nugent, who later recited him the dictionary definition of misogyny, the Justice Secretary persevered, saying, “What I meant was, if we are talking about things below the level of public order offences of harassment, intimidation, which are rightly criminalised – if we are talking about, effectively, insults with a sexist basis, I don’t think that criminalising those sorts of things will deal with the problem that we have got at the heart of the Sarah Everard case, which is a question partly around the police but also the broader question and the fear women face that their cases don’t get to court and don’t end up with a conviction.”
He continued, “And therefore just criminalising insulting language even if it’s misogynistic doesn’t deal with the intimidation and the violence and the much higher level of offence and damage and harm that we really ought to be laser light focused in on.”
Naturally, Raab’s comments resulted in a flurry of criticism, with Labour’s shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy saying, “No wonder the Conservatives are hopeless at tackling violence against women and girls.”
While Liberal Democrat equalities spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said, “It’s little wonder the Conservatives are failing to tackle misogyny when their justice secretary doesn’t even seem to know what it is.
“These comments are an insult to the millions of women and girls impacted by misogyny and show just how out of touch the Conservatives are on this issue. Women and girls deserve better than these callous remarks.”
Regardless of political stance, I think we can all safely agree on that one.