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8th November 2018

The faces behind the Misogyny Is Hate campaign

Sophia Ashby spoke to three students behind Misogyny Is Hate to understand their involvement and the challenges they have faced
The faces behind the Misogyny Is Hate campaign
Photo: Misogyny Is Hate @ Facebook

Misogyny Is Hate is a rapidly growing campaign run by an admin team of over 20 students. I spoke to three of the students involved, and asked what the campaign means to them.

First up is Sylvie Pope, the movement’s Campaign Leader. “I oversee the organisation of the Misogyny Is Hate student team,” she says. “I also work in conjunction with Greater Manchester Citizens and Citizens UK, to ensure the campaign is first and foremost community-focused.”

When Sylvie first heard about the proposed Greater Manchester Citizens campaign to make misogyny a hate crime, she leapt at the chance to get involved. “GMC held their first meeting around this issue around April 2018 and I was invited to a subsequent meeting with Greater Manchester Citizens Community Organiser Furqan Naeem, who asked me to lead on the campaign. After meeting with Mayor Andy Burnham to explain the campaign, we held our launch event at Levenshulme High School for Girls.

“Our campaign reached national coverage in relation to Stella Creasy MP’s proposed amendment to the upskirting bill to make misogyny a hate crime, and I was invited to speak on BBC Breakfast and ITV News. Finally towards the end of the summer, we had our meeting with Bev Hughes, who showed great support for the campaign. She informed us that it was Ian Hopkins, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, who has the operational power to recognise Misogyny as a hate crime. From this point I built up the student-led team and together we branded and began to market Misogyny Is Hate.

“In the wake of #MeToo, the campaign continues both the cultural conversation that misogyny is a deep-seated issue that affects the lives of millions of women and men. It sends the message that misogyny will not be mitigated, and protest will continue until our institutions recognise the struggle faced by women and girls.

“Acts of everyday misogyny, intimidation, and harassment begin when we are children. When our society normalises the harassment of girls and women, everyday misogyny permeates into more serious cases. These include sexual and physical assault, violence and even murder. We are spreading awareness, raising the voices of women in our communities, and highlighting that a cultural change can only be predicated upon institutional acknowledgment and reform”.

Joe Penny acts as Misogyny Is Hate’s head of Social Media and shares with me why it is so important for men to get involved. “A lot of my female friends have experienced misogyny, such as sexual assault and being stalked. It’s also a very personal issue for me as my mother was in an abusive relationship. I’m also aware of how misogyny affects men,” he says. “It’s responsible for a lot of toxic masculinity in our society. Misogyny is a hatred of women, meaning that stereotypically feminine traits like showing emotion are seen as weak. This means that men can never show emotion, which is ultimately damaging to their mental health.

“A lot of guys don’t seem to be aware of how common misogyny is. Their viewpoints aren’t often challenged because of group mentality. Also, they have never experienced it themselves, so find it difficult to recognise the scale of the problem. It’s about getting past group mentalities and changing the way people think about misogyny.”

Of course, there are challenges faced in getting people involved in the campaign. Joe admits that it can be hard engaging with people online and even in person. “Engaging with people in person and online. The people that come to us are very divided in opinion, either they’re like ‘yes, this is wonderful, this is a great cause’, but equally we have the opposite response from trolls telling us that we’re ‘thought police in skirts’.” The key, he says, is getting people to listen, then empathise and understand why we’re doing this. “We’re not trying to demean men or outlaw wolf-whistling; we’re just trying to empower women.”

So how does he think making misogyny a hate crime will benefit men and women? “It’s helping women come forward and talk more about sexism in general,” he says. “It has led to the first conviction of misogyny as a hate crime. Also it’s getting the message across that misogyny needs to be talked about, at the moment it is also a taboo, especially with men. Making it a hate crime will increase awareness and highlight the issue.”

Next I spoke to blog writer and curator, Rosie Johnson, whose interest in joining the campaign was rooted in her at first not understanding it. “I was intrigued as to how making misogyny a hate crime was feasible. At the beginning I just wanted to help out, but as I started going to more meetings, I became increasingly passionate about the cause. Now I am in the process of setting up an official blog page and we are hoping to receive contributions from the public about their experiences of misogyny”.

During her time working for the campaign, Rosie has learnt that a reason for its importance is that it is relatable. “The things we’re trying to target are understandable for men and women, so it makes feminism accessible. Rather than push people away, we are trying to open up conversations surrounding misogyny. I think this is an important aim for feminism as a whole”. The campaign hopes to clear up misconceptions surrounding feminism. “At the moment, there are a lot of huge feminist campaigns circulating, all of which are important. But it does mean that words are being thrown around like ‘feminazi’. This campaign deals with everyday issues, ones that are visible in our city and society.”

Tackling these misconceptions has been one of the toughest elements of campaign. “Lots of people think we are trying to make wolf-whistling a hate crime. They don’t understand why we are spending time on this when it would be difficult to monitor, and is perhaps a minor issue compared to other forms of harassment. The truth is we are not dealing with wolf-whistling; we are only dealing with crimes that are already considered illegal”.

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