Misogyny is characterized as hatred of women or girls, manifested as disgust, intolerance, or ingrained discrimination, and used to justify women’s oppression. It takes the form of hostile folklore and jokes; the sexualization and objectification of women through art, film, literature, the mass media, and pornography; animosity towards women in positions of power; dehuman harassment and domestic despotism; female genital surgery and foot-binding; and the visceral hoax held towards women’s secretions, including menstrual taboos and phobias. Misogyny damages the physical and mental health of women, putting them at a disadvantage throughout their lives and stifling the development of their societies.
Men’s envy of women’s ability to reproduce, castration anxiety contributing to fear of menstrual blood, frustration-aggression resulting from unfulfilled sexual desires for women, and psychic disparity resulting from men’s dependence on women, coupled with regressed fear and longing of being physically consumed, are all psychological reasons for misogyny. Misogyny also helps men emotionally, politically, and socially by preserving women’s status as the second sex. Misogyny underpins gendered power imbalances in patriarchal culture, and misogyny can continue as long as patriarchy does.
Misogyny, discrimination, sexualization, patriarchy
Sexist and misogynist speech takes the form of hate speech when it includes practices such as slut-shaming, making sexualized threats of death, rape, and/or any other form of violence, and making disparaging and humiliating comments about the target. To do justice to the myriad of agonizing experiences that women face, the current legal framework for gender-based violence must be viewed through the lens of hate speech.
This essay seeks to evaluate and then suggest that misogynist speech that promotes sexism falls firmly into the hate speech category. In doing so, I argue that women have been the object of hate speech on multiple occasions, and that a legal framework that dismisses this as negligible is patriarchal. I dare to position the regressive Indian society’s misogynist narratives in an explicitly feminist framework that positions speech-induced violence within the spectrum of violence.
When a child or a woman deviates from socially appropriate feminine standards, or, at the risk of sounding shamelessly vulgar, engages in casual sexual intercourse with multiple partners, she is branded as a’slut.’ In a culture where slut-shaming should be considered hate speech, it is accepted as a playful provocation, one that can intensify to a degree of accusation that is synonymous with misogyny. Slut-shaming a woman for her sexual preferences by calling her a “easy lay” is a textbook example of slut-shaming by people with weak egos who need to hyper-‘masculinity’ at all costs.
Perspective under Indian Scenario:
The incident in the ‘Bois locker room’, reinforced the reality that the best way to express masculinity is to denigrate women with expletives and overt objectification. Rather than convicting perpetrators of this nameless and unrecognized crime, our government seeks to disarm the feminist movement against it, and without advocating actual physical violence, seeks to inflict permanent psychological and emotional harm on women by depriving them of their rights, discriminating against them in the labour market, and confining them in idealized domestic spaces.
Perspective under International Scenario:
North America was the birthplace of the women’s movement, owing to the fact that women in North America were able to attend school earlier than in Europe, and women who can read and write, as well as those who are empowered to think for themselves, are more likely to challenge how society works. The first activists travelled through North America, fighting for the abolition of slavery and the oppression of women. They convened the ‘First Women’s Rights Convention’ in 1848 and proceeded to advocate for women’s equality in society. In Europe, the campaign started with the same broad goals: activists gathered signatures requesting that working women earn their own wages rather than their husbands, that women should be able to own a house and have custody of their children.
Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) makes it illegal to promote enmity between groups of people on the basis of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community, or any other land, as well as to carry out actions that are detrimental to maintaining peace. The primary weakness in this law is that it expressly excludes “sex” as a significant part of a person’s identity. The use of the term “any other ground whatsoever” does not encourage a more inclusive hate speech law and is a sham in the name of a legal remedy that reinforces hate speech laws against women.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2017, proposes adding Sections 153C and 505A to the IPC to make inciting hatred and violence on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, among other things, illegal. To distinguish offensive speech from hate speech, the Law Commission looks at the status of the authors and victims of the speech, its potentiality and context, as well as the extremeness of the speech. However, the goal of this amendment is muddled because there is no clear definition of hate speech that identifies the harm that it can cause, leaving the provision ambiguous.
Our law considers these misogynist remarks, which are motivated by unjustified hatred, to be just offensive. Our legal system has no provision for expression that not only reinforces gender roles but also damages the self-esteem of an entire population. The Press Council of India (PCI) Act, 1978 gives the PCI the “right to censure” based on complaints against news organizations for violating journalistic ethics and popular taste, among other things. Since it empowers the council to simply “disapprove” journalistic behavior, a law like this offers no real legal protection to women who are victims of hate speech.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has suspended the sentences of three students who were found guilty of raping another student by the trial court. The victim’s “misadventures and tests,” her “promiscuity,” and the lack of brutal abuse following the sexual attack serve as the foundation. On an appeal, the Delhi High Court convicted filmmaker Mahmood Farooqui of rape after he performed forced oral sex on a visiting woman scholar. In doing so, the Delhi High Court deliberately misinterpreted the law on what constitutes consent, and seems to have been swayed by the victim’s previous relationship with Farooqui’s, her education (a “woman of letters”), and the victim’s previous relationship with Farooqui’s.Farooqui’s bipolar disorder and the alleged feebleness in which she said “no” to the sexual act.
Instances like these raise the issue of judges practicing judicial mindfulness. A judge has a significant and influential role to play, not only in providing justice or avoiding a miscarriage of justice, but also in influencing substantive social change. The terms used by jurists when rendering judgments and passing orders can have a monumental impact on future jurisprudence in a country like India, where the Doctrine of Stare Decisis or the Rule of Precedents is followed.
We must abandon our “what about it” attitude if we are to achieve our aim of understanding misogyny as a form of hate speech. Attempting to discredit a woman’s position on indecent and degrading remarks directed at her by refuting or attempting to disprove them strengthens our society’s entrenched discrimination toward women. Our constitution recognizes a person’s inherent integrity, and patriarchy and patriarchal notions of sexual control have no place in our legal system.
Many teenagers and young adults are unsure what to do if they are insulted or humiliated with gender-based insults, whether it is a friend calling them a “slut” or “bitch” jokingly or by someone they don’t know. It is important that we, as parents, assist our children in developing techniques for self-defense and reducing the likelihood of the perpetrator injuring others.
Slideshare, https://www.slideshare.net/mobile/ssuser47a019/combating-sexist-hate-speech-2016, (Last visited march 3, 2021)
Nishitha Gupta, India today, https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/bois-locker-room-delhi-schoolboys-create-group-to-share-lewd-photos-chats-on-classmates-1674303-2020-05-04, (last visited march 3, 2021)
 Donna L. Lillina, A Thorn by Any Other Name: Sexist Discourse as Hate Speech, Discourse & Society, vol. 18,Nov. 2007, pp. 719–740, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0957926507082193.pdf
Louise Richardson‐Self, Woman‐Hating: On Misogyny, Sexism, and Hate Speech, 33 Hypatia 256–272 (2018).
Dr. Justice B. Chauhan, Hate speech, Report no. 26, Law Commission of India, Rev. 1, 3 (2017), https://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/Report267.pdf