Should misogyny be classified as a hate crime?

Just as feminism put domestic violence on the map in 1970s, so should it be a voice to raise awareness of modern crimes against women in 2016.

Harassment of women in the streets, on buses and tubes is a problem and a growing one. I have seen it for myself and certainly heard about it from young women who have to work in the city at night as part of their job .  Working late, whether it be as a reporter on a radio show or a cleaner of an office, is now expected as part of an average working contract. Its also a part and parcel of the way of life women campaigned to live when they signed up to the feminist dream.

Visiting the Rape Centre in Nottingham

Visiting the Rape Centre in Nottingham

The move comes after police in Nottingham, where I stood as a Parliamentary Candidate last year, trialed a scheme to reduce this type of misogynistic crime. It launched 20 investigations in the first two months alone.  I agree with campaigners like Laura Bates of Everyday Sexism that  this type of behaviour is becoming normalised.

It is also intolerable to have nine and a ten year child in school uniform sexually abused and for parents to worry their daughter is going to be raped by a classmate.  Something is very wrong when this sort of incident is taking place in a civilised society where women have better rights than probably anywhere else in the world.

However some of the problem with dealing with this issue lies with some of the campaigners who have been calling for this for a while. For example, crimes against women have not always been helped by radical feminists. The call out culture that has been encouraged by them has now made it that anyone who reports real sexist abuse is judged on the standards of a group of women who seem completely intolerant to male behaviour of any type.

So should misogyny be classified as a hate crime, which will  give police the vital tool they need to address the problem? Or will it just lead to a spate of complaints about wolf whistles and a further dampening of the free spirit we enjoy here in Britain.  Let’s hope not.

To read more about how feminism has to moderate to be relevant for modern times 

 

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Why Girls Are Now Courting Sir Jihadihad Online

While feminism started out as campaigning for votes and jobs, its now more and more about safety issues. Back in the 1920s you would have been sectioned for imagining one day we’d each have tiny screens that could record images of us topless, let alone post them instantly to voyeurs on something called a world wide web.

Despite the post feminist age violence against women is increasing online

Despite the post feminist age violence against women is increasing online

With the news out today that violence against women online has doubled is alarming, but comes  as no great shock. The internet is a turn-on for jilted lovers and predators of all types. Good news is that if someone posts up tacky images of you then there’s that perfect photo evidence for a court case. The bad news is that it would still destroy half your life to go through this.  Part of the remit of the children’s charity I set up  Act Against Bullying is getting this information out to vulnerable teenagers who can be quite easily duped into providing sexual content for the masses.

Incidents of  sexual exposure to women and spying has always been around (in my youth these predators were referred to as Peeping Toms). But its no wonder they are increasing. They certainly don’t have to peep any more. They just have to go online.

Feminism deserves a ten star rating for flagging up some shocking domestic violence which was totally ignored by authorities until the 1970s. But a one star for its all-out anti-Western male campaign which deemed all old fashioned romantic gestures and formalities as sexist. Now look what we’ve got in its place!  Rape threats, revenge porn and leery lads who don’t know any better.

Plus banning Page 3 seems rather irrelevant now with even school girls doing all that sort of thing on their phones. New darker trends are emerging. Could be the reason why publicity seekers like former nude model Kimberley Miners are now covering head to toe and mistaking Sir Jihadihad types for ‘real men’, which they are certainly not.

To read more about how feminism has to moderate to be relevant for modern times 

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The Burkini: Provocative or Protective?

The whole point of female Islamic dress is modesty; so how come it’s become so trendy all of a sudden

Muslim_woman_in_YemenThe whole reason for the burka, the burkini, niqab etc is that they are items of modesty clothing.  While it is not essentially called for in the Koran, the female  “cover up” has become a strong cultural statement of women in Islam.

But burka wearing has now become quite trendy. I’ve seen black-cloaked women with Liz Taylor make-up, six inch heels and Dior handbags competing with one another for public attention. They may not be showing all their body flesh, but nor are they acting in a demure and restrained fashion.

And where a normal full swimsuit was the standard dress worn before by Muslim women on beaches if they wanted to go swimming to fit in and not attract attention, now a type of 50s style wet suit has been adopted and sexed up for sales as a ‘burkini’.

The other day I was passed on Chiswick High Street by women walking astride each other in full Western gear. The only thing out of the ordinary as they walked towards me was not their shoes and handbags but they were all wearing full black face veils or niqabs with eye slits. I suppose the point of this was to be able to gauge the reactions of passers-by too polite to react. It was a cross between something out of a Stepford-type horror movie and a replay of Riott, the feminists icons of the 1990s who used to shock the establishment by removing all their clothing in churches.  Again the statement they were making was anything but related to restraint and humility.

Pussy_Riot_by_Igor_MukhinVeiling up appears to be no longer about protection against the stares of  muslim males who apparently can’t control their sexual urges at the sight of a bared shoulder.  It is now more about one-upmanship and following fashion!

There is also an element of “slut shaming” in it. As one young woman said to me with real concern,  ‘If you are wearing western summer clothes like a bikini, shorts or a mini skirt you now feel these women are implying by comparison that if you are raped or assault then it’s your own fault.’

That is the disturbing part. Feminism, what are we to do about this one?

To learn more about similar challenges on modern feminism read my book “Moderating Feminism: The Past The Now And What Comes Next”

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Olympic Sexism And How to Deal With It

I’ve just been talking on BBC Newcastle with Anna Foster about the level of sexist reporting at the Olympic Games. There’s been heaps in the papers over the last few days so its been hot topic on Twitter. I agree that to denigrate a woman’s genuine achievement at winning the highest accolade in sport is out of place in today’s world. It’s unfair. It is also faintly ridiculous. Women are doing breathtakingly well on their own merit and deserve all the coverage and respect to mark their special moment in the sun.

However, by over-reacting to ever bit of banter and oafish criticism is probably not the best way to go.  Part of the legacy of an athlete is their ability to focus, to remove themselves from daily distractions and to mentally rise above the common herd.  That’s part of the reason we admire their accomplishments. Its not just that they can run faster, throw further, or tackle someone twice their size on a rugby pitch, but the discipline and stoicism they display is what we crave in our every day lives. Their unruffled demeanor becomes part of their legend. Therefore to complain about some ill-informed sexist reporSEXISM AT THEting could actually do their reputation more damage than to let it roll.

Women are garnering a huge new fan base at the moment because of their superb results and we don’t want to undermine that freshness by entering into the world of PC hypersensitivity over it.

To complain that Jason Kenny didn’t show enough excitement over fiancee Laura Trott’s medal is taking things surely a tad too far.   Surely most of the viewing public would react to the “what’s for tea comment” like I did. Part of their “backstory” is their love affair and the comfortable rhythm they have with one another.  That simple statement said reams, but not reams of sexism.  Just something rather lovely.

And what about the constant reference to swimmer Dana Vollmer being a “new mum”.  Again, not in my book “sexist”,  just fact. I would think there could be nothing more inspirational in this day and age when women are balancing (as they always have done) work and family, to have an example of someone who has achieved just that on the world stage to boot. Well done.

Yes there has been some silly trivial reporting about athletes and make up, but probably much of that flowing from the spirit of the entertainment of the games. The ones that were genuinely sexist don’t dignify writing about.  In fact I would think that the commentators who made them will have suffered far more by their Twitter barrage than the athlete!

Overall the incidents that advanced women’s cause have been many so far. When BBC presenter John Inverdale said to Andy Murray, “You’re the first person to ever win two Olympic tennis gold medals, that’s an extraordinary feat, isn’t it?” and he corrected him by pointing out that Venus and Serena had won about four each, was terrific.  He fought their corner and corrected the huge oversight as so many modern informed men and women do daily in a light and effective way.

I was also struck by just how many happy partnerships or relationships there seem to be in the sporting world which can only be an advantage to being a professional athlete.

Also what a great spirit of camaraderie appears to have been part of these Rio games.  These are the memories to savour and build on and hopefully we will have more  of this to enjoy before the finale.

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The Tenuous Link Between Feminism and Witchcraft

The other day I received word from my daughter in Salem. Of course had it been August 1692 I would have been more concerned. At that time the city was the centre for a series of hearings and prosecutions of those accused of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts. The trials resulted in the executions of twenty people, fourteen of them women, and all but one by hanging. But of course we’ve come a long way with our views on unorthodox practices in the last 320 years, Brooke was just visiting to research a future film, and the only spells we know between the two of us are of the dizzy variety following a few bottles of prosecco.

However, the witch is apparently the ultimate feminist icon according to an article in the Huffington Post last year. So this raised my curiosity. What on earth is the connection between a faction which seeks equality between men and women and the moon worshipping group of Wicca?

Surprisingly for its world popularity, the spiritual initiative which most people associate with today’s version of Salem thinking, was only created in 1954 by a retired British civil servant named Gerald Gardner. Fresh and sassy, it appealed to a collection of liberal thinkers known as the ‘women’s spirituality’ movement who, understandably because of how they treated women as second class citizens, rejected the established religious orders of the day.

Wicca was wonderful for them. It gave the perfect opportunity to scratch out one set of rules and replace them with others more in line with the goals of women’s liberation. Then when everyone went spiritualist mad in the 1960s and 1970s and the sale of Ouija boards went through the roof, the resurgent feminism movement had found a kindred philosophy. Myths and magic became core to understanding female subjectivity. Non-religious women now could claim the witch as a symbol of their feminist ambitions. It was the perfect community practice, anti-establishmentarianism, anti-Valium (‘Mothers little helper’, the drug all housewives were hooked on) and pro-Verbena, and the only broom they exercised was between their legs.

The new feminist witchcraft became synonymous with inner strong female power, nurturing and caring, and the indisputable authority of the tarot card. To be fair, though, it did give feminine intuition back its legitimacy. Which is where the rub comes in.

Radical feminists have long believed that men are involved in some nefarious plot to undermine and suppress this innate female clairvoyance. Personally, I don’t believe that for a second. If it were so, they would starve. For example, how on earth would men be able to find anything edible when they need it if it is hidden more than two jars back in the fridge?

To read more about the celebrations as well as the inconsistencies of feminism you can download my book Moderating Feminism: The Past The Now and What Comes Next

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William Shakespeare… Sympathetic or Misogynistic?

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‘Taming of the Shrew’ at Victoria Park, Bermuda. Directed by Kelly Johnston

Apparently for freelance theatre directors, the Taming of the Shrew is one of the least liked assignments and one of Shakespeare’s problem plays. This isn’t even a recent change in audience attitude, as more than one hundred years ago, George Bernard Shaw judged it as “disgusting”.  The text and premise is far too provocative for today’s theatre goers and unpalatable for many feminists.

A brief storyline. Petruchio (Maxwell King, very funny) woos headstrong Katherina (Brooke Burfitt, manically brilliant) to tame her until she becomes a compliant and obedient bride.  At the same time there is serious competition between suitors of Katherina’s sweet and compliant sister, Bianca.

We flew from London to see an open-air performance in Victoria Park, Bermuda directed by the formidable Kelly Johnston who’s been doing Shakespeare for twenty-seven years since his Masters at the California Institute of the Arts, through the Sirius Theatre in LA, The Arizona Shakespeare Festival and in umpteen regional theatres around New York, where he now lives. Back home, fellow directors, Alice Mottola and Pitr Strait, are running in Central Park with an all female nude cast of ‘The Tempest’, we were sweltering in the heat and humidity observing a traditional true to the Bard rendition of ‘the Shrew’.  A brilliant, high energy, rollicking performance which had even the youngest children bewitched.

Taming of the Shrew can go down two routes. If it is done “serious”, it’s basically a play about an abused woman.  As a comedy, it is something entirely different – more an ironic take on the male/female relationship.

As a historical exercise it is great this work is still out there, because it is factually based. The play is believed to have been written between 1590 and 1592. At the time, there was in fact quite a bit of feminist activity focused on the dispelling of established thinking that society was founded on the rule of the father. For a nation with a female Queen, women in Elizabethan times had few rights at all.  Only those of noble birth were educated. If a girl did get schooling, she had nowhere to exercise her learning. Women were not allowed to enter the professions. There were no female doctors, lawyers or actresses. This play is obviously inspired by just that predicament. Indeed, that is brought out in the story, as Bianca is wooed by her Latin and music tutors (who are dressed in disguise to court her). Even though Katherine and Bianca’s father, Baptista, educates both his children, the play is very clear that his greatest concern is marrying off his eldest daughter.

So was the Bard actually a feminist trying to help the cause?

Unfortunately some of the lines like the following do incite passions….

PETRUCHIO: She is my goods, my chattels; she is my house, My household stuff, my field, my barn, My horse, my ox, my ass, my any thing; (Act 3, Scene 2)

KATHERINE: I am ashamed that women are so simple, To offer war where they should kneel for peace; Or seek for rule, supremacy and sway, When they are bound to serve, love and obey. (Act 3, Scene 2)

Or is it, as Kelly Johnston suggests in his interpretation a game between men and women. The fascination with it can be reflected in the recent success of Fifty Shades of Grey, which has sold more than 100 million copies. A trilogy based on bondage and servitude. The jury is out.

This has been and always will be a big tongue in cheek. But when you write about something, you don’t necessarily endorse it, so to claim that because of the content of this play the Bard was a beast may not be entirely fair. What do you think?

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The Feminist Conundrum of Mysogyny On The Net

After The Guardian launched a campaign called The Web We Want, in preparation for a conference next month,  it was discovered that of the top 10 most abused accounts on Twitter, eight were women and two were black men.

As women make up the majority of internet users, tend to worry more about what people say about them online than men do, it comes as no surprise that they suffer more from the black web syndrome.  And it’s not just celebrities like  American rapper Azealia Banks, the outspoken columnist Katie Hopkins or the likes of Hillary Clinton getting bulk of the harassment.

When think tank Demos carried out a three-week study in the Spring (they used the words “whore” and “slut” to find these offenders) it turned up with 6,500 users in the UK users had  faced abuse from 10,000 menacing tweets.

Cyber harassment of any form is a serious affair. As the founder of Act Against Bullying I know the consequences on anyone can be life-threatening.

Discussing Internet Abuse With Maria Miller

Me discussing Internet Abuse With Maria Miller MP (right)

However, the investigation coincides with the launch of Reclaim The Internet, a political consultation about the worryingly high levels of misogyny on social media and online. It was spearheaded by a group of female MPs from both the political right and left, namely Labour’s Yvette Cooper and Jess Phillips, former Tory minister Maria Miller and former Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson. The aim of the cross-party campaign is to take down, in particular, women-bashing trolls.

Giving this operation a distinctly feminist overtone, Yvette Cooper explained that the campaign title had been inspired by the Reclaim The Night movement of the 1970s, where women took to the streets to protest violence against women by men.

So while this seems on the surface a worthy cause to bring gender abuse into the 21st century, the news that half of the authors of these “misogynistic tweets” were actually penned by women has rather put a spanner in the works.

What’s to be done about it? Death and rape threats are obviously terrifying. No one, male or female, should have to tolerate such aggression on the net for voicing their opinions in a free speech forum.  The whole ethos of the World Wide Web was positive and educational, not the opposite.

Sure, it would be good to get something done. However, the success of the operation will also depend on finding an answer to the conundrum of what to do when it’s not actually online sexism that is the problem, i.e. men against women or vice versa, but something far more complex and less politically convenient.

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