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Misogyny matters

Empowering women and girls against sexual harassment
Vision Politics and Society Misogyny matters

It’s been three years since Professor Louise Mullany and colleagues started working with Nottinghamshire Police as they became the first force in the world to classify misogyny as a hate crime. She reflects on the far-reaching impact.

Although my work has featured in the media, sociolinguistics is not your typical tabloid fodder. But when our work with Nottinghamshire Police focused on them becoming the first force in the world to class misogyny as a hate crime, we were thrust into the centre of a media storm.

Stories appeared in virtually every national news outlet and TV interviews became a daily occurrence for myself and fellow researcher Dr Loretta Trickett of Nottingham Law School.

Not all this coverage was positive, with some of the tabloid press trivialising the issue – claiming “wolf-whistling had become a crime” – something that was untrue, but also showed exactly what women and girls are up against at times.

The bulk of the interest, however, was hugely encouraging and the overwhelming response only served to prove our point that more needed to be done to tackle misogynistic harassment in all its forms.

We were the first people to investigate the language of misogyny hate crime and its impact on people’s everyday lives, as well as how it affects the way women report such incidents.

Working with Nottinghamshire Police, the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner and Nottingham Women’s Centre we analysed its prevalence and the impact it was having on women’s lives.

A few stats...

87%

said they felt the policy change was a good thing

174

reports of misogyny were made from April 2016 to March 2018

93%

of those who took part in the research said they had experienced or witnessed this type of behaviour

Three years on and the impacts of our collaboration are still being felt.Six other police forces have adopted the same stance as Nottinghamshire Police and our work has informed parliamentary debate. Our findings were submitted as evidence to the Women and Equalities Select Committee’s investigation into street harassment and also influenced the Voyeurism Bill – perhaps better known as the upskirting bill – which came into force earlier this year.

Our largest and most detailed piece of research took place in Nottinghamshire in 2018, two years after the introduction of the changes, and found it has made a real difference to public perceptions of the issue.

From April 2016 to March 2018, 174 reports of misogyny were made – 73 of which were classified as crime and 101 as incidents. Perhaps most startlingly 93% of those who took part in the research said they had experienced or witnessed this type of behaviour. And 63% of those said it had caused them to modify their behaviour in some way, proving the impact it continues to have on the everyday lives of women and girls.

It also showed that the public are overwhelmingly supportive of our attempts to tackle it.

Over 87% of those who took part in the research said they felt the policy change was a good thing. I’m very proud to have been involved in a piece of work that has had, and will continue to have, such a profound impact on women and girls.

My future research will continue to tackle the issues that affect those who are most at risk and discriminated against in society.

Louise Mullany

Louise Mullany is a Professor of Sociolinguistics in the Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics, School of English. She has conducted research on professional communication with national and multinational organisations for the past 20 years and is founder and director of Linguistic Profiling for Professionals, an innovative research-based consultancy and business unit based at the University.

Vision magazine front cover - Issue 4, Autumn 2019

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