In May this year, a bill offering protection from attacks committed against police officers on the basis of “actual or perceived status” was enacted in the United States, and all 50 states are allowed to impose penalties for such an offense. Then, just this October, a call to consider crimes motivated by misandry, or the hostility toward men, was pushed in England after a Member of Parliament, Stella Creasy, campaigned for misogyny, or hostility toward women, to be treated as prejudice for hate crimes. Hate crimes are crimes directed at people of a certain race, religion, or sexual orientation, and in some cases disability. But should assaults against law enforcement officers and men be categorized in the same way? Do these groups really need protection under the law?
Police attacks are rising The Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Police Organizations, and the National Sheriffs’ Association expressed their support over “The Protect and Serve Act,” which aims to protect law enforcement officers from assaults committed against them for simply being a police officer. The supporters argued that attacks against them have increased between the late 2000s and early 2010s, citing a report from the Department of Justice. Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah explained in a statement that “the Protect and Serve Act of 2018 makes clear that no criminal will be able to escape justice when he singles out and assaults those who put on the badge every day to keep us safe.” He added that attacks on police officers are also attacks committed against the rule of law.
The Act is patterned after the federal hate crime statute. Misogyny vs. Misandry Labor MP Stella Creasy wanted to place crimes motivated by misogyny under hate crimes, arguing that women are harassed at a higher level than men. Her campaign backfired with Minister Baroness Williams’ counter argument of treating misandry as part of the hate crime statute as well. If an offense is tagged as a hate crime, it will be given stronger penalties, such as longer prison sentences and fines compared to an ordinary offense. The counter-argument on misandry is an all too common outcry when women finally decide to speak out and uphold their rights. In the era of #MeToo, men and other sympathizers are quick to defend, “not all men” or “what about us?”
In the process, these people undermine the struggles that many discriminated groups like women face every day. When the Law Commission decided to consider misandry as a hate crime statute, in the same way that it is considering misogyny, it blurred the lines and trivialized the impact of crimes motivated by hate. Today, it is already easy to blame women even if they are, by accounts and evidence, the victims of abuse. All too often, they are scrutinized from the way they dress, what time they go home, for drinking too much or for not asking for help. Jessica Eaton, writing for The Guardian, said that making misandry a hate crime will only open more excuses for abusive men. She noted that misogyny has been present in our cultural and scientific history, which has revealed the sheer oppression of women. “When we talk about misogyny, we are talking about the global societal issue of the life-threatening prejudice, hatred, harm, oppression, rape, marginalization, and harassment of women and girls purely based on their gender—millions of women and girls being mutilated, sold, objectified, dehumanized, and even murdered for being female.”
A false narrative Opponents of the Protect and Serve Act argue that the bill presents a false narrative of a “war on police” and extends protection to groups that do not need them. The American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, called on the Senate to oppose the bill. In an open letter, the organizations said: “Rather than focusing on policies that address issues of police excessive force, biased policing, and other police practices that have failed these communities, the Protect and Serve Act’s aim is to further criminalize.” Meanwhile, for Eaton, talking about the struggles of women is not about leaving men behind. She said, “This is not because we believe that men are not harmed, that men cannot be abused or that men cannot be oppressed – but because misandry seems to be thrown around (generally at women) for some pretty tenuous things that definitely are not hatred or hostility to men.”
Crimes against race, religion, and sexual orientation are tagged as hate crimes because there is a concrete, culturally and statistically proven evidence that people of color, Muslims, and transgenders are usually being attacked for simply being themselves. This is not the same case with law enforcement officers and men. These two groups usually hold positions of power in the society and extending hate crime to them could possibly lead to more abuses and more hate, creating a false dichotomy of protesters versus police officers and women versus men. Chief Constable Sara Thornton, one of UK’s senior police officers, said that rather than focus on misandry and misogyny, better policing for crimes should be addressed. “We all think misogyny and misandry are an issue…I’m questioning whether a criminal offence is the best way of dealing with what is essentially an issue about how we all treat each other,” she concluded.