Episode 4: Hating Women (Transcript)
To listen to the episode, please visit the episode page here. What follows is a transcript of the episode, lightly edited for clarity.
I think a lot of us, especially women of marginalised genders, I think we feel instantly shameful and instantly silenced when these kinds of things happen to us. Because we’ve received so much messaging growing up that that’s just the fee we pay for being feminine in the world.
Hello, and welcome to Hidden Hate, a brand new podcast series from the Centre for Hate Studies at the University of Leicester. I’m Neil Chakraborty.
And I’m Amy Clarke.
And we’ll be shining a light on some of the biggest challenges of our time, challenges which destroy lives, challenges which have escalated during these difficult times, and challenges which, all too often, slip under the radar.
To help us unpick these challenges, we’ll be joined by some fabulous guests who will be sharing insights from their research, their activism and their own lived experiences. In today’s episode, we’ll be exploring the theme of hating women. In a world that feels increasingly misogynistic and hostile. We’ll be discussing the toxicity which feels systematically rooted within our institutional cultures, and what we can do as a society and as individuals to make all women safer.
Amy and I are ridiculously excited about today’s episode, and I know that our listeners will be feeling the same. We’re thrilled to be joined by the wonderful Gina Martin and Sue Fish. They’re both done so much to generate momentum within this space and it’s a privilege to be talking to them today. So first, some quick introductions. Our first guest, Gina Martin, is an activist, an author, a campaigner and an inspiration to all of us seeking to generate change within the context of gender equality. Hi, Gina. How are you?
I’m good. Thank you for having me.
Oh, thank you for being here. Now, listeners might not realise that you’re in Australia right now. So it’s quite late.
Yeah, it’s 8pm. And I’m upside down.
Thank you very much for being upside down, for being here. We’re really chuffed. Let me introduce our second guest, who is Sue fish, a former chief constable who has a stellar list of achievements in policing, and has worked tirelessly to challenge toxic cultures and misogyny within the police. Sue, it’s great to have you, how are you?
very good, thanks. Great to be part of the podcast. Thank you.
In all honesty, I can’t think of any one better placed than the both of you to talk about these difficult issues surrounding hating women. And I’d really like to start by learning a little bit more about what led you both towards the work that you do to shine a light on these issues. So Gina, if we could start with you What led you to be a campaigner within this space?
I think there was a couple of things, there was one one very specific moment, kind of a turning point moment in my life, which was that I was at a festival and I was upskirted by a group of guys in the crowd next to me for kind of rebuffing their advances, they did it as a bit to teach me a lesson because I said no to them kind of hitting on me and my sister while we were at this family festival, and for the first time in my life, when that happened, I actually did all the things that we ask victims and survivors of sexual violence and assault to do. I got the phone with a picture of the upskirting picture on it and got one of the guys to the police, I had witnesses because I instantly had this sense that I’m going to have to complete a checklist now to be taken seriously. And I’m gonna have to do this really, really well. Because I had previous experiences before where they’ve come to nothing. I’ve actually had a stalking case for two years that had been dropped by the CPS three months before I was upskirted. So I was kind of at the end of my tether, and that incident of being upskirted led me to campaign and change the law. So to become an official campaigner, I guess. But, you know, throughout my kind of teenage years and early 20s, I’d been someone who had read a lot of feminist literature and kind of tried to find language and ideas about why certain experiences had happened to me and like why the men in my life weren’t having those experiences, too. So there was a kind of slow buildup. And then I guess there was a straw that broke the camel’s back as well.
Yeah. And I would really love to learn about how you went about perhaps making upskirting illegal because that sounds like a process in and of itself. But I wonder also, you know, how important is it, do you think for you, that you you did have a bit of knowledge or perhaps previous experience of these types of issues? Because I imagine there’s a lot of listeners that will have had these negative experiences but wouldn’t know where to start? So how important was it for you to be a little bit informed and know how to go about this in order to report it in the first place?
Yeah, I mean, I think that was absolutely essential, like just to have be able to have the kind of innate instinct that something had happened and it wasn’t right and not to brush it off, like I had done my whole life. I mean, I was brought with a pretty progressive set of parents who kind of taught me in non direct ways about like bodily autonomy and consent and stuff. And I feel like I had a really good foundation for that. So I was instantly like, okay, I can recognise this as something that isn’t my fault. There’s not a huge amount of shame, shrouding it, where I’m just kind of kind of fade into the background. And was like, I need to do these things to get myself listened to, and to, hopefully get some kind of accountability for the guys who have done this. But, you know, even practical things like I knew, whenever I go to an event, like I know where the exit is, and where the police and security are like, I just do like being a young woman, I just take that stuff in. And I also had a set of skills, I sound like Liam Neeson, I had a very particular set of skills. Because I was working in marketing at the time and advertising. And I’d been upskirted, and I went to the police, because what happened is, I ran to the police with the phone and the guy chased me and I actually went to security and the security amazingly helped me and they called the police and the MET police arrived, and said, you know, we’ve looked at the photo, and it shows more than you’d want it to show and it’s definitely you, but like, you won’t hear much from us, there’s not much we can do. And I was super confused and super upset. And after they kind of dropped that they called me the next day on the phone is that the case was dropped. I got really angry. And I decided to use the skills from marketing to campaign. And I think a lot of people have skills that they can use to try and bring awareness to things. All of us have talents. But I think a lot of us, especially women of marginalised genders, I think we feel instantly shameful and instantly silenced when these kinds of things happen to us. Because we’ve received so much messaging growing up that that’s just the fee we pay for being feminine in the world. And so we instantly shrink. And I think we don’t have a lot of faith in our institutions. So it’s really important to have that basic knowledge. But it’s more important to act on that knowledge. And I’m proud of myself for doing it. I can’t say it was enjoyable. But you know, I think sometimes it gets to the point where you just get so angry, you can’t.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think research also supports what you were talking about there about how some of those coping strategies and mechanisms and those skills are so highly gendered. Because you said, you go into an event, you know where the exits are, you know, where the security guards are. You know some of these things are so gendered. And I think maybe that’s something we’ll pick up later in the podcast as well. So, I would like to ask about this process. I’m sure there’s, there’s lots of listeners that would want to be sort of more actively engaged in this space, and maybe venture more into the campaigning world. I wondered if you could tell us about some of the challenges you faced in seeking to make upskirting illegal and you know, how did you do it? How do you get this into legislation.
So give me six hours… There’s many ways to change legislation, there’s not one way and my way of campaigning was not the only way. It was an effective strategy. I think in terms of challenges, those challenges, macro, you know, huge challenges, to processes in Parliament, massive challenges to try and get through. And there was also everyday challenges, there was also massive emotional challenges, because it was really hard. And I think there’s a perception of campaigning and activism that’s like, definitely with the commodification of activism and campaigning now that we’re seeing with brands and on social media, where it’s like, you know, I was definitely painted as, like, they put a picture of me in a red suit on the front of, you know, a piece in a magazine, and it would be like, I woke up every day, like, yes, just smash the patriarchy and like, let’s just burn it down. Like, no, I was crying most of the time. And I didn’t know what I was doing for the first third of it. My best advice for that and overcoming those challenges is that like, when it comes to like human rights issues about whether you should have the choice to say no, to someone who’s taking non consensual images of your body without you knowing, you don’t have to have all the skills in the world to know that’s wrong. And you have to be very, very honest about what your skills are. And then you plug your gaps with people who have the skills you don’t have. So I was very good marketer, so I could sell, you know, I was doing big alcohol campaigns in my work. And I was like, Well, why can’t I make the public care about an issue instead of a brand? So I could apply those skills to it. I did a big media strategy, I was really good at like, getting people engaged in the concept of this and why it should be a sexual offence. And then, you know, as someone who’s an arts major, and was not very academic at school, I had absolutely no legal or political experience. So I decided to get a lawyer and was really creative about how I got my case to a law firm and got pro bono representation. And Ryan Whelan, my lawyer, who’s now my great friend took that part of it and we worked as a team and I think you can overcome a lot of challenges if you can be really honest about what your skills are and what your skills aren’t. And you can plug your gaps and because campaigning is never something you do on your own. It’s always a collective effort. So that was kind of how I found it. But yeah, I mean, I cried most days and we had bills pushed back, denied by backbench MPs and it was really just about having a really strong strategy that was both a really strong cultural media strategy, a really strong political strategy and using that to leverage political momentum and just not stopping when things get really, really hard.
Yeah, that’s a really honest answer. Actually, I really, you know, really appreciate that you kind of saying you can’t do it on your own, you need to be really upfront about your strengths and your weaknesses, I should imagine it took a hell of a lot of resilience as well, because of all the pushback that you would get in this space. So that’s probably something that people aren’t always aware of, is that the amount of time that it might take and resilience that you have to have so yeah, that’s really commendable.
It’s wild, it is wild.
Sue, can I get your thoughts on some of this? I’m really struck by something that Gina said, that she referred to the fee we pay for being feminine as a way of describing all of this, which I think will strike a chord with many of our listeners. Does that strike a chord with you from from your vantage point? You’ve had a very long and glittering career within policing, and you do so much to campaign on women’s safety. But that theme in particular that Gina raised, how relevant is that for you?
I think that’s been hugely relevant. Both, I guess, during my time as a police officer, and also subsequently, and some of the work I did, both in challenging sexually predatory police officers, which I started prior to introducing misogyny as a hate crime. I think that is one of those core things I think that works through. So the fact that I think every woman matters, and actually thinking about how does the law which is often both systemically and specifically inadequate, in terms of how it deals with gendered issues, how policing generally tries its hardest to do a good job but actually fails women dismally. And I guess sort of coming to terms with that later on in my service was really difficult. And I think that fee I would describe, I think, is a really brilliant way of describing it. I would describe it as sort of that normalisation you know, that’s what happens when you’re a woman, Girls, get a phone, children, get a phone, girls get phones to keep them safe, to phone home to message Mum, Dad, parent, grandparents to say they’ve arrived safely, somewhere. Boys got it to play games, potentially take photos, look at porn. That’s perhaps not the primary reason why parents may give their kids phones, for boys anyway. But certainly, that’s what they then do with them. So it’s a very different set, and how that early socialisation happens about how what’s normal for girls, about risk taking or lack of, and what’s normal for boys about risk taking. And that continues, I think, as I’ve seen, through life, through how police officers are recruited. And when the research that led to us creating misogyny as a hate crime for the first time in Nottinghamshire back in 2016. What profoundly struck me was listening to women’s experience, and listening to the impact of that normalisation on their lives, on their future, on their present, and how different life could be for them. And I and I say that as a white middle class, middle aged woman, I have a significant position of privilege, both in terms indeed, by virtue of the job that I did, as well as anything else. And and that sort of issue of you couldn’t take account in the law as well of… You had to as a woman, you had to define yourself differently, you had to deny parts of yourself. So for us when we introduce misogyny hate crime, intersectionality or considering a variety of different protected characteristics, so enabling people to be themselves and represent themselves fully felt hugely important. This wasn’t just something for white women. This was something for everyone. And that felt powerfully important in making those decisions. But I think it was thinking and reflecting back on that research that showed that women also didn’t report to the police stuff that I knew, that academics have been talking about for years, but actually, policing hadn’t really taken any action on. So it was when crime happened to women. Assaults, the sort of thing that Gina was talking about when she was upskirted at that festival, she actually took action, but most don’t and they rationalise it in ways of, and this was well evidenced to us, that the police have got proper crime to deal with, or something else is more important, or they won’t take me seriously or they won’t believe me, or I feel really ashamed that it’s happened to me. And I don’t want to relive that shame and that trauma again. And so, what we found when we introduced misogyny hate crime, was that it gave legitimacy to women to say, actually, the police will take it seriously, they will listen, they do get it. We might not always get it right but we really want to try. And that message both internally and externally, was quite profound. And I guess who would have thought it back in 2016. It was before Me Too, and, and things like that when it seemed to be… Or I was told that I’d been incredibly radical and that wasn’t what policing was about. And certainly in protecting women’s rights, that I’d done a very bad thing. Generally. I think that my sense was that policing had a moral responsibility to step forward and to do the right thing and to acknowledge when it doesn’t always get it right. And to be brutally honest with itself and to be accountable to the public who it serves. And that certainly that’s, I guess, has been, I’ve tried that to be my ethos through my career. But it’s been, it’s been disappointing, that’s sort of an understatement, that many of my colleagues both haven’t and still don’t see that.
Thank you Sue. I think that the vigorous nodding that listeners won’t be able to see but it’s taking place right now, I think highlights that all of this really resonates with Gina with Amy, with myself, it’s depressingly familiar, and there’s lots to unpack in what you’ve just said around normalisation, legitimization, cultures of denial, and I want to come back to what you did at Nottinghamshire in terms of recording misogyny as a hate crime, because I remember speaking back in 2016, the world felt slightly more hopeful then. And we were just struck by what a brave step it was, but also what a logical step it was, you know, but also all the evidence pointed that way, it seems entirely logical. And yet there was pushback and continues to be so. Before we get there, can I just rewind the clock a little bit? So you started out in policing in the 80s If I’m right? So people might assume that attitudes towards women in policing were very different then compared to what attitudes might be like now, or people might assume there hasn’t been much of a change? I’d be really interested to get your thoughts on any of your early experiences or your your thoughts on attitudes towards policing, towards women in policing within those early days in your career?
Well, I think attitudes are very different is what I’d say now. But back then I joined in 1986, when I joined Nottinghamshire police. And it was 11 years after the Sex Discrimination Act, yet they only had 8% or 167, whichever was the fewer of these special people in terms of the numbers of women in the force, because clearly, they didn’t want too many of these special people. In addition, you weren’t allowed to join if you were married, another breach of the law. That’s as a woman, you weren’t allowed join if you were married. If you are a man, it was clearly a very good thing. Because you may have a mortgage, you’d obviously have a wife, you’ve probably got children at home. And so you’d be a responsible, hardworking, you’d be worth employing, but for a woman, you know, they’d go off and have babies and that would be it. But the irony was that I was actually, what was described to me by the recruiting sergeant was I was living in sin. And that wasn’t allowed either. So I was living with a man who I did, in fact, marry. And I had to regularise the position was the words that were used to me, for them to offer me a job. If I’d actually have married him by then they wouldn’t have offered me the job because I was married. We did get married, it was nothing to do with them, but I lied. It jeopardised my integrity completely, but actually, yeah, I was… I was so angry. But I didn’t walk away because I thought this is something I’ve got to take on. And I didn’t really understand the scale of what I was taking on. But that was, if you like, the sort of mentality and also the double standards, the utter hypocrisy of policing. So on a Friday and Saturday night, I wouldn’t ever go out on a van when the male officers went to pub fights and street fights and stuff like that. And also ogled women and scored women and did all sorts of things. Until I said, Why haven’t you ever posted me on that patrol? And then… They didn’t quite know what to say. And also, on rest days both midweek and weekend for football matches, the men were routinely offered overtime. I was never offered overtime until I asked why I hadn’t been and then there was this sort of huge backtracking and stuff like that. I don’t think they really knew what to make of me, some of them. So those are some of my very earliest experiences… Oh, ritual humiliation. Like, we used to get shirts and tights allowance or stockings allowance and ran the briefing table in the morning, every few months, you’d be asked what size shirt you wanted. And women’s shirts obviously only came in colour sizes. So that was really helpful, slightly less demeaning than giving you a bust size, and whether you wanted stockings or tights. And that was another sort of interesting that you weren’t allowed to wear trousers except in the winter or for football matches. And women’s shirts were white, when men’s shirts back in those days were blue for PCs and sergeants, and they didn’t have breast pockets. And they were very thin. And you’d be sent out first thing in the morning. Shirtsleeve order, the inspector would decide it shirtsleeve order and then send you out with just your thin shirt on. And then the men would drive around and look at you because you’d be cold. So there’d be something quite obvious going on. And I guess it’s those sorts of ritual humiliations. But having said that there was an awful lot that was great fun. I loved the job. And actually, I was quite good at it. And loved arresting people, dealing with victims, supporting them, getting convictions at court. That was fantastic. But actually enduring and surviving all of that was was awful. And my intake of twelve constables, we were sort of recruited at the same time. Four of us were women, all four were graduates, none of the men were graduates. Two of the women left because they were badly indecently assaulted at work by colleagues. Gina talked about resilience in terms of campaigning. I think if anyone ever asked me what were the most important skills you needed as a police officer, well, certainly as a woman in policing, resilience every time. Those are some of the sorts of my deep joys and reflections of the mid 80s.
You can’t win!
Thanks for being so candid again, listeners, all of us are dumbstruck and listening to this with fases of confusion, dismay, profound sadness. It’s not great. You’ve referred there to ritual humiliation, harrassment, assault. Did you feel able to report any incidents that you experienced or that you witnessed when you were in the police?
No. Latterly, yes, and I’ll come to that. But absolutely not as a constable. I mean, speaking out was impossible and I think it’s still impossible for many and incredibly difficult for everyone else. The pressure of the team, of conforming, and fitting in was enormous and stuff that was normal. So on nights, I remember very, very clearly being out on mobile patrol in a police car, I hadn’t yet been on my driving course so a more experienced officer was driving the car and he said he’s just gonna stop and go off and see this woman that it met through work and the fact he was married was neither here nor there, I make no judgement on those values. And he said, oh you drive the panda around… The police car. And if a call comes in just say we’re busy, we can’t do anything and this is the signal I’ll give you when I need you to come pick me up and I was just like, you can’t do this. And he said Oh yes I can! Get over yourself… That wasn’t a phrase then but it was the equivalent phrase. Again, feeling so absolutely vulnerable and isolated and it was sort of it was so normalised that if I’d have spoken out, it would have been Who are you to speak out? Because this is what we do. And this is someone who’s really experienced, he’s a really good cop, you know, you’re just a newbie on the block, who are you to say this isn’t right? And just feeling absolutely sort of paralysed by what the hell do I do and I and doing nothing. And it’s only been recently that I’ve been able to speak about it in context. And I was… I’ve been indecently assaulted twice, at work, the first time I was an inspector, by a senior male officer, and I didn’t feel able to report that… He was popular, much more senior to me. I was absolutely mortified. I didn’t think anyone would believe me, I didn’t even tell my husband because I, I mean, whilst we have an amazing relationship, I just thought it would upset him enormously. And… And then you sit and then you start to analyse your own behaviour. And because is it my fault? Had I encouraged him in any way? Absolutely not, by the way, but not that if I did or didn’t, it wasn’t an issue, that wasn’t the issue. So I do all that sort of victim blaming stuff. I was really very proficient at, I think, you know… So I, I sat on that for a very long time, as well. And then when I was an Assistant Chief Constable, a very senior person in policing, touched me inappropriately in front of a number of very senior colleagues, some Chief Constables and Deputy Chief Constables. And I absolutely froze, and then left that setting very quickly. And I asked one of my friends who was one of the Chief Constables, they were all men, by the way, this is what had happened, had he seen anything, and he said that he hadn’t seen a thing. And if he had, he would have intervened. And if he’d seen anything, he would have supported me. But he hadn’t seen anything. And I just take it on face value that he didn’t see anything. But I wasn’t prepared to let that rest. So I phoned my Chief Constable, my boss, who I trusted completely. And he was in his car being driven back in those days, Chief Constables had drivers, and he was being driven by his driver, who’s the most sort of the soul of discretion, because God knows what he must have heard on the phone over the years. And I told Steve, my boss what had happened, and he was absolutely brilliant. The driver told me afterwards, it’s the only time he came close to driving off the road in absolute shock. And we had an intervention with this particular individual. That was informal, because I didn’t want to go down a formal route because again, I just, it would, you know, I’ve got all those other people saying they’ve not seen anything, or the person who knew me and liked me the best had seen nothing. So it was it wasn’t going to go anywhere in terms of misconduct or criminal activity. So I suppose I was realistic enough to understand that, but I wanted him to know, in no uncertain terms, the impact that it had had on me and that he cannot behave like that. And apparently his response was I don’t remember it. I must have been drunk. So that… We’ve seen that in Parliament quite recently, haven’t we? It’s alcohol apparently, is the reason why so many people misbehave as opposed to them being predatory and also drink. So my understanding afterwards was this man was predatory. But no one had ever called him out before because he was again, absolutely adored and is still an icon in policing terms. So it’s that power differential, not just in status, but in society. The differential just between men and women is so incredibly disproportionate. So yeah, I guess to answer your question, had I ever called it out? No. And, towards the end of my career, yes. And that’s, and that’s because I felt I had people I could trust. I had some locus and some power. And I, but only to take it so far.
Sue, thank you. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your experiences so candidly with us and with our listeners and I’m conscious that that process in itself, makes you relive traumatic experiences. And yeah, thank you. I know, we hugely appreciate it and our listeners will, as well, because it’s important. And if there’s anything that we can take from this podcast, it’s all of us already care deeply about these issues. But we can care more, we can do more, we can be inspired. And yeah, if we can take inspiration from what you’ve gone through then we’re getting somewhere.
Yeah, I was just thinking, I think, Sue what you talked about there also shows how the way in which women and people of marginalised genders are socialised. And to think about these issues as normal, that we should expect this type of behaviour. Really, it transcends any identity characteristic or profession that we might have. So you were a police officer, but you were going through all of these same normalising victim blaming processes that so many of us are familiar with, and have probably been through ourselves. And in that space, when you are vulnerable, and you feel like people won’t believe you or understand. There’s a lot to resonate with there, even though you had that professional experience, of course, you shouldn’t victim blame, of course, you shouldn’t feel ashamed, of course, you shouldn’t go through those thought processes. But you, you did. And so I think there’s a lot to learn from for all of us now, moving forward is that we have to try and unpick some of that learning and some of that socialisation and normalisation that we’ve all been so exposed to our whole lives. So yeah, just to echo Neil’s comments, really appreciate you sharing that. I think it’s really valuable that we all hear it. Gina, did you have any thing you wanted to say? Reflecting on Sue’s comments?
Yeah, I mean, just listening to Sue talk about it, I think is an incredible, is just an excellent demonstration of exactly the kind of thing that starts to solve this is having conversations about it, that are based in vulnerability and honesty about what’s happened. And also, you know, when you’re discussing misogyny, as a kind of cultural well, like Kyle Meyer says, you know, it’s, it’s not the shark, but the water, right? Like, it’s not this problem we have in society that we need to solve, but it’s this hard baked it is society, is how our society was created is how the UK was created, the West was created by and for a very specific, a specific group of people. And so that politically, economically, socially just builds a system with levers and pulleys that are working all the time in one way. And suppresses anything that isn’t that and restricts anything that isn’t that, whether you’re talking about institutions and workplaces, or you’re talking interpersonal relationships, or talking in schools or whatever. And so misogyny is like, you know, listening to Sue speak, it’s like well, the thing that people will never understand, I feel like, because it’s like well, yes, of course misogyny exists in policing. Because there’s always these conversations right of like something happens we you know, the more formal report comes out about how almost one woman a week is coming forward about her partner or husband abusing her, domestic abusing her who was in the police. And then you hear these stories, you know, after the whole Wayne Couzens, horrendous scandal when we lost Sarah Everard, you read about all these other officers who had a nickname for him and these WhatsApp groups sharing these hundreds of messages that are misogynistic and racist, enablist and we all clasp our hands to our mouths and go hang out how can the police be misogynistic? And it’s like, because we are. Because all of society. We all are. I would say I’m misogynistic. Deeply. I’ve internalised those things. If I’m victim blaming myself for being upskirted, that’s because I’ve internalised misogynistic ideas about femininity and about power dynamics, and whose fault is this? And there’s so much shame. I’m not free of that either. And I literally make it my life to try and unpick it right. So if, as a society, we can’t be free of it, then policing can’t be free of it either. And just to be able to have these conversations makes it very clear that policing isn’t free of it. And if we can start to accept that, at least we’re one kind of step along the way, but it feels like culturally, we’re not having that conversation. It’s like this idea that there’s a kind of a scourge on society that we should sort of fix instead of this realisation that it is a very hard baked fundamental part of our society and it influences every single part of our society. And that none of us are free of it. And, you know, even as Sue very astutely put it, like people with extraordinary privilege because of their identity markers, but also because of the positions of power they hold being a police officer can still be, you know, restricted and and tormented by that misogyny daily. And I don’t think that there’s any need almost for this kind of constant, for me that constant cultural conversation we have about… Let’s look at the stats and the figures. Let’s prove that this is an issue, how many, we need to listen to more women, can we get a bigger study about the fact that women are going through it. It’s like we’ve been doing that for hundreds of years. Like we’re past the point of awareness now. So as I was listening to Sue speak, I was, I mean, very thankful that you’re being that honest and that vulnerable, which just shows how little we see that from someone who’s held that position of power.
Thanks, Gina. One of the things that I was asked is, did I only introduce misogyny hate crime because of those incidents that I’ve just shared? And I look absolutely blank, apparently. And went… No. It never occurred to me that it was my experience driving that, I don’t know, I probably need hours of therapy to know whether it was, but it was that much, that bigger picture. It wasn’t about me it was about other women’s experiences.
Even if you did… Valid. Because, like, you know what I mean? It’s like saying to me, like, did you ever change the law because you got upskirted. And you’re like, Well, yeah, but also no because it was so much bigger than me. But even if I did, did you only do… The awful… I’m trying not to swear… Do you only do the awful things you do, and treat people the way you do because of the experiences that you’ve had? Like, we could go around in circles? It doesn’t matter. It’s valid. Oh, God, frustrating.
Can I come back to this, because it’s something that I wanted to pick up on around like these toxic cultures. That are still denied despite the compelling evidence base, everything that both of you said is so true, we don’t need yet more evidence, we don’t need yet more studies to to provide evidence of this because we know it’s there. We know it’s there. And yet, there’s still remains this culture of denial, or this preference to individualise problems, the kind of rotten apples thesis that we continue to see as a way of denying institutional racism. It’s very, very similar in the case of institutional misogyny, I think, within the context of policing and other systems and other cultures to. What do we do about that? What can we do to start dismantling that toxic culture, and you two were both very active in that space already, in terms of that dismantling process? You’ve started already, Gina, by saying we need to have conversations more openly and to share. But what what are the next steps? What can we do to challenge that culture?
I mean, I think that denial culture was like very understandable, right? When you look at you’ve got a dominant culture that are going to have to sacrifice quite a lot if there’s a change. So it’s like very normal for a dominant culture to deny a problem when they’re benefiting from the systems that create that problem continuously every day, but also structurally in their lives. In the same way that, you know, white women, like me are benefiting from racism every day. And so lots of white women don’t want to have the conversation. Because it’s a lot harder. It’s very, very hard to do the introspective work, and understand the structural, kind of zoom out and look at the constellation of everything that’s happening that’s causing this problem, while also constantly doing that kind of emotional excavation of how you’re part of it. That’s hard work, right? And people don’t want to do that. Understandably, it’s sometimes because also life is really hard now. And I think when we look at the kind of conditions people are living under as well, it’s like, we have to be very honest about it. It’s very nice for me, you know, my situation, I can sit here at my desk, and I can read papers, and I can read books, I can research and I can go do workshops on gender, I can really emotionally excavate. A lot of that is down to the kind of privileges I’ve had to get to this point where I can make this my job, but a single father isn’t going to have the time to sit down and self excavate about his internalised misogyny and what does that mean for hours and hours and hours, right? So I’m really keen on the idea of both my job, let’s take it to a personal context and make it easier to understand say, my job is to try and unpick misogyny that’s well, my life’s work is like, why does it happen? Where’s it coming from? And how do we free ourselves of it? I don’t focus on the people who are denying it, that I need to get from one end of the spectrum to the other end of the spectrum, because there’s a very actual, I think, a small percentage of people who are willfully hating women and hurting women and are absolutely comfortable in that ignorance but also in that violence will not leave and it’s serving them. That’s a smaller percentage of people than there are people in the middle who kind of know it’s a problem and are sympathetic towards it but are doing absolutely zero to help, right, and they’re not showing up in small ways or big ways to try and figure it out within themselves and in their communities, or the workplaces, or whatever. And I think if we can focus on those people in the middle, because there’s so many of them, it’s an easier job somewhat, because we don’t have to get them from one end of the spectrum to the other end of the spectrum from being this kind of misogynistic predator to this enlightened being, right. But we also give people a real sense of the fact that this isn’t about a binary left and right. It’s not about like an an awful group of people and a benevolent group of people. It’s just about lots of normal people who are under lots and lots of pressure, and from lots of different backgrounds and lots of different lifestyles. And think it’s going to be a massive, massive job to try and understand misogyny and don’t understand how they can kind of do it throughout their life in small and big ways. And so I think kind of focusing on those middle people can be really useful. But also, it’s very much about doing it inside yourself with the capacity that you have available to you in the moment, I think. So often we talk about structural issues, and we talk about process as the answer to it, and I’m really keen to see, you know, I could go into police, do a talk for a police force tomorrow. And the whole talk could be like, it starts with you guys going and picking up a book, or watching a TED talk or talking to someone next to you and asking them questions in your life. Like, that’s the actual work, this isn’t going to be solved by another process that means you have to read 10 pages on misogyny, because people’s minds don’t change with that, right. It’s about real life experiences. So I think focusing on the people in the middle, but also taking the responsibility in small ways each day, in ways that feel comfortable to you and building that up is probably the only way that we start to see some change.
Yeah, completely agree. Thank you, Gina. Sue, did you want to add anything to that?
Yeah, I think, absolutely agree with what Gina said, and I think I find the sort of the not all men, that sort of thing really unhelpful? Because it isn’t. But it is this sort of continuum. And people sort of do move in that. And I think men have to take responsibility to be part of the change. And I think I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been asked by well intended, both men and women to be fair, to say, what’s the checklist? What are the things that men should do differently? And it’s like, oh, it’s really simple, isn’t it, it’s read this book, do that, you know, have that conversation. And, and half of me sort of turned out, I know, that’s your responsibility. It’s not mine. But actually, I probably softened a bit about helping to try and find some framing and things like that. And one of them, I’m told, has had some resonance, probably on that sort of middle group of people, the largest group in the middle that Gina has described, which is about responsibility, not blame. And I think that feels to be really important, rather than them having a sort of a more negative effect actually taking them with as opposed to making it more competitive. And I think I learned quite a bit when we did the misogyny hate crime training in Nottinghamshire, where police officers generally are white male, straight, ostensibly anyway, of a Christian heritage. Able bodied, you know, they really don’t have the protective characteristics that we we’ve seen reflected through hate crime legislation, or indeed, choices that police forces have made around additional categories and characteristics. So understanding what it feels like, is really difficult for most police officers. And talking through that sort of lived experience and sharing that lived experience of women, but also their male officers turning around to their female colleagues going, But that doesn’t happen to you. Because, you know, you’ve always got my back in a fight. Actually, you’ve probably first one in, you know. And, you know, they’re feisty, you know, assertive women, this doesn’t happen to you. And, you know, and watch it because I sort of looked at the back after it and after an hour or so and they’d forgotten completely I was there. And they just turned around on the female officers turned around went, Well, let me tell you what, um, to me yesterday, let me tell you what happened to me last week. And male officers going, but. And they’re going have you ever talked to your wife, your girlfriend, your daughters? Have you ever listened to their experience? However unwilling, they might want to share that experience for all the reasons we’ve talked about now. And, and that was fascinating in terms of starting to understand or get a different take on victimisation and victimology. Which I think policing can say, Oh, well, you know, it happens to people like you because you’re a druggie or an alchie. You live in poor housing, you’re unemployed unemployable, you know, there’s a label, that means actually, that sort of stuff happens to you, but it rarely happens to people like us. And really starting to see it differently. Also seeing the sort of behaviours that we were talking about in essentially hate crime, as bridges into domestic violence, and actually understanding that power dynamic that it wasn’t about sexual attraction that made men in white vans, lean out and hurl sort of intimate invitations at women walking or cycling past, or to abuse them in the street or on public transport or whatever set of circumstances. But actually, there was something very different going on, and something very different going on in abusive domestic relationships. And that, to me, was one of the most exciting opportunities to start to shift the dial in policing. Because all the years of domestic abuse training of equalities, training, all of a sudden, there was a different frame, that meant that particularly male police officers, but all police officers could start to have a different conversation that was much less threatening, much more constructive, and much more open.
I think this is really, really important because it also links back to something that Gina said earlier. And that’s that, as a society, we have this tendency, and I think we always have, framed issues like misogyny and racism, and ableism in moral terms. And so it does create this binary where you are either a good person or a bad person. And when you then try to engage in these conversations, people are naturally going to become very defensive, because they think you’re accusing them of being a bad person. And so by trying to access this, this middle group that we’re talking about, actually, we can start to reframe it and say know that the systems that we all live in, they’re not really moral, they’re economic, that you have very tangible benefits for some people living in these structures. And it’s nothing to do with whether you’re a good person or a bad person. It’s more to do with with how you empathise and then how you build on your own behaviours and, and I love the idea that this is how we’re going to chip away at some of these issues. I would love to be more radical and think that we can do things quicker and in bigger ways, but actually just changing individuals perceptions, personalising it more, getting them to have conversations with the women in their lives. If that’s going to work, then I can get behind that, as radical as I’d like to be, I can do things in a different way, I think.
Can I also add to that as well that like this conversation we’re having about? I’m very interested in the language we use right around, like, when we inter personalise things, okay, how do I articulate this… It’s incredibly important to have interpersonal conversations, that at the root of them have people’s experience, to be able to use that as a pathway into solving this problem, exploring what misogyny is, like exploring behaviours and attitudes, right. But there’s also something I think, to be said, for having conversations about masculinity and femininity, because they’re the basis of the problem. If I sit in front of some guy who’s never ever thought about these issues, and say, Well, the problem is men this and blah, blah, blah… But if I say, the way we’ve developed masculinity, is that it’s just a full suppression of femininity. So if you think about like in school, in school, what was like the worst thing you could be called? Like, by the boys? What did it feel like? He’ll he he’ll probably say, the worst thing he could be called, was gay, because you know, kids learned to be homophobic, like five, because they’ve already learned that all these kind of normalised homophobic ideas about what masculinity looks like, and what femininity looks like and which one’s better and which one you want to suppress, and which ones you want to uplift. And I’ve always say, oh, you know, if I didn’t hit on the girls, or kiss the girl in the forest for five seconds, they called me gay, or if I hung out with you know, girls in the playground, they called me gay or, and then you start to figure out that actually, a lot of men have developed these kinds of attitudes and beliefs, because they’re suppressing any notion of femininity in themselves, because the idea was for them to be… You know, they were told to man up at seven, there was, as Tony Porter calls it, there was this man box that they were put into, and it was a set of rules and ideals. And this is what being a man is, and you can’t pick and choose, and incredibly prescriptive. And so to be able to have conversations that aren’t prescriptive, you actually find that the conversation gets to the misogyny thing, but I feel like we often start too late. It’s like, okay, women are being assaulted. How do you like that? Well, I don’t know bad. And so like, what do I do then? When I get off the train do I walk behind the woman, or… No, no, no, let’s go back. Let’s talk about why this is happening. And what was it like for you growing up as a young boy, like when we had sort of had those very human conversations, we’re able to be super interpersonal, but also be like fairly understanding and have that compassion piece, I think things start to actually change for people, because instead of being told what you need to do, you need to do this as a man. And this is very prescriptive, you start to ask questions about what it means to be a man and what it’s meant to them and what it felt like growing up, and that leads to a really interesting place. And I just don’t think we’re having that conversation in any way in the mainstream. I think the conversation is like, misogyny is a problem. How do we solve it? Like, you need to solve it. And the not all man thing that Sue brought up is just fascinating. I’ve actually just written like, 1000s and 1000s of words on this, and I’ve been doing it for months. But just it’s a very basic notion. I find it so interesting that you know, if I had to if I was talking to Neil about like, tax fraud, or like assault or someone robbing me…
Don’t talk to me about tax fraud!
Okay, robbing, robbery. Yeah. Imagine if, like Neil turned around and was like, Yeah, but Gina, a lot of people don’t rob, I’d be like, That makes no sense. Like, why? Why, when I’m talking about something very real and very painful and very emotional and very honest, would the immediate feeling be to bring up people who don’t do the thing I’m talking about, right? Because it’s all about distraction tactics, because these conversations are uncomfortable. So if we go to a place where they’re more comfortable for the person and we start there, I think we get a lot further down the line and, and some beautiful stuff can happen.
I couldn’t agree more with with all of that and it’s really interesting seeing the synergies in our conversation today in some of the conversations that we’ve been having on other podcast episodes when we’re talking about other themes around hate and hostility. You know, these everyday conversations and encouraging people to think from a different vantage point and at different moments in their life and to reflect. And what you said about childhood then Gina, I see it as a parent of young children, all of that still happening. And all of that even if it’s not as overt as might have been the case before it’s still culturally acceptable within the schooling system, it is still normalised, it’s still legitimised, except we now have more levers to excuse our behaviour or to neutralise it by saying, Oh, but we broadcast like the lionesses in front of a whole classroom of kids, so So therefore we’re free of that. So I think there’s so much that we can do obviously, just structurally, systemically institutionally, but so much that we can do individually, in terms of thinking about solutions to and I think that offers me a degree of hope going forward. So yeah, like, Amy, I can I can go with that. Amy, should we move to quickfire questions? Because, you know, it’s my favourite part of the podcast?
Yes, absolutely let’s move to our quickfire round. So as the snappy title suggests, these are three questions that I’m going to pose to you that require as concise of an answer as you can muster…
Just a warning, everybody else has failed in that. Yeah, so there’s a challenge for you guys.
Okay, so the first question, I’m gonna come to Sue first. We want to know what we should be doing better. So if you could change one thing about society, the justice system, the law, social media, or anything else, what would it be?
I’ve been really thinking about what that one thing could be. And I’m torn between that sort of early years stuff. But actually, probably because I’m an ex cop, I’d probably go with with law, because I think law has a really transformative effect. And it can be used to lever education, it can be used to lever all sorts of things. So I would say, you know, what we need to do is to have a Misogyny and Criminal Justice Act that covers a whole variety of offences that are gendered around both online space, public space. And that covers incitement to rape and to abuse women. Because I think this we have to take on the range of issues and the sort of the current… Yeah, was really chuffed when upskirting became law. I was really chuffed when misogyny hate crime, actually passed a vote in the House of Lords, that bastion of sort of radicalization and radical thinking that is now compared to the commons. So we’ve got, you know, we’re starting to see better laws in some part, but it’s not comprehensive. And we’re not seeing the sort of issues and the huge gaps in gendered legislation that we need. And I think in simple terms, that Misogyny and Criminal Justice Act could make such a difference and lever some of the other things that we need to put in place.
Fantastic. Thank you. So and you know, what is the one thing that you would change?
I’m sorry Sue, because my answer is not your answer, because I’ve got I’ve moved so far on from my previous work, but my one thing I would change is to is to prioritise prevention over punitive options all the time, I would have funding put into every single school in the UK to do workshops on gender, and equip kids with critical thinking to be able to navigate the systems that are in equal in our society.
Maybe we could do both. That’s the two things to do.
Absolutely. The world would be a much better place. And actually critical thinking, teaching critical thinking to children has come up in other podcasts as well, I think it’s super, super important. Okay, a second question is something that we’ve alluded to already, actually. And that’s in thinking about listeners in particular, and if they want to become upstanding citizens in this space, and particularly for any men that are listening, so what can men do to have a positive impact on women and helping keeping women safer?
I can go because I’ve got two words, or four words. What can men do to have a positive impact on these issues? Sign up to Beyond Equality’s Masculinity Workshops.
There you have it, yeah, easy. Done.
And I would, I would say, do that. But learn, you know, think talk, listen, listen, listen and take that time to do some reflection. And it’s really hard. You know, as Gina’s already said, there are some amazing TED Talks out there. There are some amazing resources. If your organisation, if you work, if you’re working, look to the White Ribbon Campaign. As one, there’s there’s a whole host of different organisations and make it more than just making the optics look right. I think that’s probably what I’d say is this isn’t about optics, this is about genuine change. And if you’re doing it for the optics, or think it might help your next promotion, or, or your share price or something like that, don’t do it. Absolutely. Because it has to be about the right sort of motivation. And I guess I’ve had a bit of reflection as to whether policing are doing stuff because there’s lots of paper being written and action plans and frameworks. But actually, I think it’s about optics, and it’s about protecting, preserving organisation and individuals reputations, those have to be secondary. Absolutely, because the only way you preserve and protect is by being radical. And by taking things on, and being brave, and that is really uncomfortable. And you need to be prepared to be uncomfortable.
Absolutely. So our third and final question of the quick fire round. And Sue you’ve already alluded to some of this. So if you could recommend a podcast or website or a book to anyone wanting to find out more about these issues, what would it be?
Oh, there are, there are so many. I suppose one of my fall backs in the nicest sense is to Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez, because it just sort of it… For people who think that the world is absolutely equal. You know, then this is a really good reminder about actually how invisible literally, women are in public discourse in, in decisions, in data. And then the other bit I would say wouldn’t I, is Misogyny as Hate Crime. A lovely book published by Routledge, edited by Irene Zempi and Jo Smith. I happened to write a chapter, but that I think is a really interesting set of essays, pieces around misogyny hate crime and misogyny more broadly. And from so many different perspectives that I think are informing and I would hope enlightening, as well.
Oh, podcast, the Man Enough podcast, it’s American podcast, very interesting conversations around masculinity and gender, lots of men coming on. They’re being very, very honest and vulnerable about their past, what they’ve done and why and trying to figure things out and unpick everything. A book, Men Who Hate Women by Laura Bates. If you need more information about the scale of the problem, and you need to, I mean, you’ll be terrified. But if that’s what you still need to make changes in your life. You will after you’ve read that book.
Fantastic. And we will be putting all of these up on our websites for listeners to access as well.
We definitely will, thanks for those recommendations. So our final question. We want to end on a positive note. We’re all positive people working in very difficult spaces. And we live in an increasingly hostile times. So within that setting, that context of hostility and grimness and darkness, what gives you a sense of optimism going forward? I’m going to come to Gina first, what gives you a sense of optimism Gina?
So much, all the time. So I feel this work is defined, I think by the fact that it like breaks my heart on a daily basis. And then at the same time I’m like constantly, like inspired by other people, because I’m surrounded by people who are just trying to push the dial forward every single day. But the real hope I get is spending time looking at the past, at the people who have done all these things and have pushed the dial forward. We literally, it works. Like activism and campaigning and advocacy and organisation actually works like it’s worked, it’s the only thing we know to be true historically, is that regular people fighting for change, because of the experiences they’ve had or the inequalities that they’ve witnessed or have been forced upon them do actually change the course of history. And you know, we only have a weekend because of unions like we did like genuine things like very fundamental parts of our experience, are only in place because of regular people who didn’t wait for permission, and just did something anyway. And I think it’s very, very easy to not see those people because we’re never served to them. Because those are the people that rock the boat, so you’re never going to see them in the media. But when you look for them, when you follow 1000s of accounts, when you watch the documentaries, when you listen to the podcasts, when you listen to the conversations, when you read the writing of Bell Hooks, when you listen to Tony Morrison, when you you know look at Jackson Katz, like our entire history has been shaped by people who have been like, no, actually, this isn’t good enough. And it worked every single time. And the beautiful thing about it, I think is that in every other part of life, you have to fulfil some kind of, you know, list, you have to do an application, you have to have this experience to get this job or you have to have this UCAS points to get to uni or… You don’t have to have any of that to try and make the world a better place. You can just do it. Because we need more people who do that and you meet incredible people along the way. There’s always hope. I think we create it for each other. And I wouldn’t do this work if there wasn’t.
I’m feeling more optimistic already. Sue what makes you feel optimistic?
I probably feel hopeful, I think, rather than optimistic, I think they’re subtly subtly different. Because like Gina said, you know, there are days, there are moments, there are hours that it feels incredibly hard, it feels we’ve taken steps backwards. But actually, I think if I look back, say to both to 2012, 2013, when I started the work on sexual misconduct, for police officers and calling it corruption and starting to address the issue of predatory cops, and misogyny hate crime back in 2016, I guess who would have thought that we would be where we are now with more than half of police forces in the country now recording either gender or misogyny as a hate crime, to have upskirting legislation in place, to have the conversations that we’re having today, that we’re having in the mainstream media instead of being belittled by the mainstream media, which I was utterly, six years ago. And I think that to me is that sense of optimism, and also increasingly men being part of the conversation, because I it is critically important. And having fewer women go well there’s nothing wrong with that. I really love it. It’s a compliment, you know… I can take being groped under the dinner table, why can’t you type thing, you know? And so I think that sense of this isn’t normal, and we can make a difference. And so many people now active and feeling, it does feel like there is a real shift in momentum every so often. It’s a bit like a wave, you know, sort of then it sort of comes into shore and you think oh, where’s the next one then and you’re looking for and but it comes it’s there. There really is significant change. There has been and I think, as Gina said, looking back, it’s only when you look back, you see how far you’ve come rather than I think we often only look ahead. And think, God there’s still another mountain range in a mountain range in a mountain range to climb. And we look back and see, you know, on the back and shoulders of others, how far we actually have come.
Thank you, Sue. Thanks, Gina. We have to stop there. We could go on for hours and hours. But apparently you don’t do that. For podcasts and besides it’s very late in Australia. And I need to read up on tax fraud stuff for Gina and I’s next podcast recording and so we have places to be. Thank you so, so much. You’ve been amazing. I think you’ve given Amy and I so much hope and so many ideas to take forward and I’m utterly convinced that our listeners will feel the same. So huge thanks to both of you.
Thank you so much.
Thank you for asking.
And a big thank you to you our listeners for joining us today. If you enjoy our series, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and be sure to follow the Centre for Hate Studies on Twitter so you can keep up to date with our work and future events. And a final big special thank you to all of our guests who have joined us on the first series of Hidden Hate.