What is misogyny? Meaning of the term explained, what is its opposite, and what Dominic Raab said about it

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The definitions of misandry and misogamy are often confused for misogyny

There have been growing calls to make misogyny a hate crime, and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab caused a stir when discussing the issue on TV.

Mr Raab rejected calls for misogyny to be made a hate crime and defended the Government’s decision to establish a non-statutory inquiry into the Sarah Everard case.

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It follows widespread discussion about action needed to improve women’s safety in the aftermath of Ms Everard’s kidnap, rape and murder by Wayne Couzens, who was a serving Met Police officer at the time.

However, not everyone understands what misogyny means - and during a TV appearance it seemed as if the Justice Secretary might also be confused.

What does misogyny mean?

Misogyny applies specifically to women. It is a form of sexism, which is defined by a hatred or contempt of women and girls.

It can result in harassment, rape and physical intimidation and other behaviours aimed at controlling women.

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According to the Merriam Webster dictionary the word stems from Greek roots: “The word is formed from the Greek roots misein (“to hate”) and gynē (“woman”).

It can sometimes be confused with misogamy, which means an aversion or hatred of marriage.

What is the opposite of misogyny?

Misandry. This is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against men or boys. Use of the word dates back to the late 1800s and the word, like misogyny also has Greek roots.

There has also been discussion around making misandry a hate crime.

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Justice secretary Dominic Raab delivers his keynote speech during the Conservative Party Conference at Manchester Central Convention Complex. Picture: Ian Forsyth/Getty ImagesJustice secretary Dominic Raab delivers his keynote speech during the Conservative Party Conference at Manchester Central Convention Complex. Picture: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Justice secretary Dominic Raab delivers his keynote speech during the Conservative Party Conference at Manchester Central Convention Complex. Picture: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

What did Dominic Raab say?

While speaking on BBC Breakfast on Wednesday (6 October), Mr Raab was asked about misogyny being treated as a hate crime.

He said: “I think what we have often seen in the criminal justice system over decades is people trying to legislate away what is an enforcement problem.

“So I think insults and misogyny is of course absolutely wrong, whether it is a man against a woman or a woman against a man. But I don’t think that will tackle the problem in cases like either Sarah Everard, which is very serious and we take very seriously, or the wider challenge of getting more prosecutions through to successful convictions for violence against women and girls.”

When asked for clarification and if he had meant to say ‘whether it is a man against a woman or a woman against a man’, Mr Raab said: “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.”

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After the definition of misogyny was read out to him, Mr Raab did not address his earlier comment about misogyny also being directed at men, but responded: ”Inciting hatred, intimidation, harassment are already criminal offences so what I would say is don’t create lower level offences. What you want to do is focus on how we enforce the offences we have got in law.”

He went on to say: “Reducing the bar and saying insults should be criminalised - I don’t think will deal with what women across the country are fearful of which is the risk to life or limb, the risk of intimidation, the risk of harassment.

“All of these things are already criminal, the question is how we enforce those laws much more effectively and sensitively to women.”

How did people react to what he said?

Many were astounded by his comments and Mr Raab has received some backlash over his misunderstanding of what misogyny means.

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Labour MP for Coventry South Zarah Sultana said on Twitter: “The Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary, @DominicRaab, told the BBC this morning: “Misogyny is absolutely wrong, whether it’s a man against a woman, or a woman against a man.” That should dispel any illusions about how seriously the Tories take tackling misogyny.

While Jo Stevens, MP for Cardiff Central, and Shadow Secretary of State for Digital Culture Media & Sport, tagged Mr Raab in a Twitter post that said: “Happy to lend you a dictionary #misogyny”.

The Women’s Equality Party posted: “It’s no wonder our government won’t initiate an independent inquiry specifically into police misogyny - they don’t even know what the word means.”

What have others said about making misogyny a hate crime?

Boris Johnson appeared to rule out making misogyny a hate crime, saying he believes existing laws should be enforced rather than new legislation brought in.

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When asked directly, Mr Johnson said: “I think that what we should do is prosecute people for the crimes we have on the statute book.

“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.

“What you need to do is get the police to focus on the very real crimes, the very real feeling of injustice and betrayal that many people feel.”

Several police forces, including Nottinghamshire, North Yorkshire and Avon and Somerset, have adopted misogyny or gender as a form of hate crime for recording purposes, but dozens of forces have not yet done so.

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In an opinion piece for NationalWorld, former Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police Susannah Fish spoke of the need for all forces to adopt misogyny as a hate crime.

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