‘DEAR Misandrists. If you spread hatred against men, you should be worried. If we hear you, you’ll be reported. Yours, Police Scotland”. Could we start seeing posters like that appearing in bus shelters across Scotland.
The UK and Scottish governments are planning to make misogyny a hate crime and, in England at least, the Law Commission is considering whether hatred of men, misandry, should be a crime also. As Scotland moves in lockstep with England on all this, and with the Scottish Government apparently determined to make misogyny a crime, you can be sure as night follows day that men’s rights activists will insist that misandry too is outlawed.
Daft, perverse, unfair, ignorant and counterproductive, you say. And of course that’s right. It is ludicrous to compare hatred of women, born of centuries of patriarchal oppression, with hatred of men. However, the law is stupid, in the sense that it doesn’t do nuance, or make these kind of moral or historical distinctions. Offensive behaviour towards men is vilification on the basis of gender. Ergo, if misogyny is illegal so is misandry.
Soon, angry men will be scouring Mumsnet for illegal remarks; condemning TV ads that portray men as dorks; referring dramas like Killing Eve, that feature acts of domestic violence against men, to Ofcom. Ironic Male Tears mugs will be banned. You won’t be able to dismiss male commentators like me as “ male, pale and stale”, or even talk about the “patriarchy”.
Start down this road, and you begin to see misandry all around. Psychology Today lists as hate-speak remarks such as: “Men only think with their dicks”. Those of us with long memories may remember Valerie Solanas’ feminist group SCUM – the Society for Cutting Up Men. That of course was ironic, and very few of its members actually wanted to see men castrated. But the law doesn’t do irony. It takes words at their meaning. It is a blunt instrument.
Indeed, it’s so blunt that offensive remarks about Goths, Emos and even punks are being classed as hate crime. Some police forces in England, like Nottinghamshire, are already recording “hate incidents” against urban tribes. The prospect of a foul-mouthed sociopath like Johnny Rotten going to court because someone called him a “wanker” would be funny, if it weren’t so serous.
Trans activists have largely shut down debate about the Gender Recognition Act by defining as “transphobic” anyone who disputes the dogma that “transwomen are women”. As a consequence, Edinburgh University seems unable to defend the definition of a woman as being someone with a uterus and XX chromosomes. How did we get here?
Look on any police website and you’ll find “hate crime” described as “a range of criminal behaviour where the perpetrator is motivated by hostility or demonstrates hostility towards the victim’s disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity”. If hatred towards women is made illegal, it will be very difficult to exclude the other half of the human race. Sex, male or female, is a protected characteristic under the Equalities Acts.
Moreover, because of the widely misunderstood Macpherson Principle that underpins hate crime legislation, the “victim” is the person who decides what hate crime is. Thus, Police Scotland’s website describes a hate incident as: “something which is perceived BY THE VICTIM or any other person to be motivated by hate or prejudice”. This is the so-called Tommy Robinson Clause, since it allows far-right activists to claim that white people are racially abused online. Some Jewish groups referred to the Macpherson Principle when accusing Labour activists of anti-Semitism for describing Israel as a “racist state”.
Hate crime is in practice almost impossible to define, because it is invariably in the eye of the beholder, and it is the beholder who gets to say what it is. Satire is under threat because humour generally plays on social stereotypes. The police list of hate incidents include: “verbal abuse, name-calling and offensive jokes”. A Scotsman, Irishman and an Englishman walked into a bar and…You’re nicked sunshine.
On the Scottish Government’s hate crime website, a transgender woman talks of the stress she suffers because of young people in the street asking: “Are you a laddie or a lassie?” Of course, such bullying is hateful. However, trying to outlaw remarks like that leads to massive problems.Men with long hair used to be constantly ridiculed about their gender – I know because I was one.
In the 1960s, David Bowie set up a group called the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Men with Long Hair. It wasn’t entirely a joke, either. Of course, it would be ridiculous to ban hair abuse, and no reasonable person would suggest that name-calling should be a criminal offence. But the problem is that the law has ceased to be based on what reasonable people think.
Politicians can’t resist trying to pass laws against things that seem unpleasant, offensive or nasty. They invariably say they want to “send a message” that behaviours like misogyny and sectarianism are bad – and make a name for themselves by passing laws against them. But nastiness is a part of human nature, and trying to use the criminal law to prevent it is at best unworkable and at worst a form of thought crime.
I despair of the Scottish Government trying to outlaw sexist jokes and wolf-whistling. You’d have thought it had learned its lesson with the infamous Offensive Behaviour at Football, and Threatening Communications Act 2012 – one of the most misguided acts of the Scottish parliament, and now repealed. That was an attempt to outlaw religious sectarianism, something everyone of course deplores. But in trying to outlaw songs and offensive behaviour by fans, the law was simply brought into disrepute.
It came down to middle-class people, well versed in the language of political correctness, trying to tell working class football-supporters what they’re allowed to say. It was loathed by fans of all classes, the police couldn’t enforce it, and a prosecuting sheriff famously called the act “mince”. By turning us all into victims, politicians are placing society itself in the legal grinder.