Haven’t you got a sense of humour, love?

Joan Smith on the resurgence of misogyny.

The murder of Jo Cox rightly caused an outpouring of emotion, from shocked disbelief to calls for more civility in public discourse. But memories are short, especially in the feverish atmosphere of a Labour leadership contest. I could hardly believe my ears when Owen Smith, in a campaign speech about equality, said he was upset that Labour did not have the power to “smash” Theresa May “back on her heels”.

Woman-hating has come roaring back, borne on a tide of recession, economic uncertainty and religious extremism. In this country, we have just witnessed misogyny in its “jokey” form, prompted by May’s arrival at No 10 Downing Street. “Heel, Boys” declared the Sun, showing a pair of kitten heels trampling on the heads of six of her most senior colleagues. Haven’t you got a sense of humour, love? It revived memories of an old trope of Margaret Thatcher as the Conservative party’s dominatrix, confirming that some people cannot see a woman assuming power without thinking of men being humiliated.

It’s true you know. I remember a “political” cartoon of Thatcher with guns firing out of her tits, hahaha geddit she has tits so it’s funny to pretend her tits can fire bullets hahaha.

Misogyny has deep roots. It sometimes becomes dormant – usually when the economy is doing well – but it never really goes away. It is a mistake to regard it as just another form of abuse; it is a peculiarly intimate form of hatred, rooted in relationships carried on behind closed doors but that frequently spill over into the public world. (Racists rarely marry their victims but misogynists often do.)

It needs to be met with zero tolerance, because once it starts being culturally sanctioned, there is no end to it. When a well-known woman starts receiving rape threats on Twitter, hundreds of other people join. In a more extreme example, the prohibition of rape has been abolished in areas of Iraq and Syria occupied by Isis, attracting recruits who like the idea of having coercive sex with 14-year-old girls.

What are its deep roots though? I don’t  know. I’ve been trying to figure that out my whole adult life, with not much success. I suspect it’s just itself – deep hatred is deep hatred. Women are inferior, so we hates’em.

A day after Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, the three great offices of state in his shadow cabinet were given to men. It came as no surprise to feminists, who know that the hard left rarely pays more than lip service to a movement it regards as a distraction from the struggle against imperialism. Nor am I surprised that Labour has become a poisonous environment for women MPs. Last week 45 of them signed a letter to Corbyn, demanding that he do more to stop harassment, vilification and intimidation.

I have watched these developments with outrage – and a weary sense of deja vu. Many brave women died for freedoms that are under attack once again, all over the world. And I am as offended by people who play down outbursts of misogyny as I am by those who unashamedly revel in it.

So am I, and unfortunately it’s commonplace right now – masses of people defending outbursts of misogyny as free speech, pushback against PC, a rebuke to the excesses of “SJWs,” jokes, banter, normal give and take, high spirits, social media, the internet, whaddya gonna do. It sucks.

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