Wera Hobhouse MP: Misogyny and the objectification of women is so deeply ingrained in our society

Misogyny and the objectification of women is so deeply ingrained in our society – in our legislature - that the feelings of his fellow MPs were barely considered.

Wera Hobhouse is the Liberal Democrats’ Climate Change, Women and Equalities Spokesperson and MP for Bath 

Recently, Neil Parish, the Former Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, was forced to resign after watching pornography in the House of Commons.

For days, the Conservative’s refused to name the culprit – a haphazard attempt at trying to spare the party’s already-tarnished reputation.

Neil Parish admitted that his actions were totally wrong but claimed that he didn’t intend to intimidate his female colleagues. But that is perhaps more disturbing.

Misogyny and the objectification of women is so deeply ingrained in our society – in our legislature – that the feelings of his fellow MPs were barely considered.

Obviously Neil Parish’s resignation was unquestionable. But other accusations of sexual misconduct seem to have been swept under the rug. 56 MPs are currently under investigation for accusations of sexual misconduct. Among these are three cabinet ministers.

These allegations range from groping in parliamentary bars, inappropriate advances towards staffers, sharing (unsolicited) explicit images with colleagues and so on. It is unclear what action is being taken to address this. 

Worse yet, female MPs are being blamed for the perversion of their male colleagues. As outlined by The Mail on Sunday, a number of unnamed Conservative MPs accused Angela Rayner of deliberately ‘distracting’ the prime minister by crossing and uncrossing her legs during PMQs.

Sexism is merely a facet of the government’s immorality, backed by speculation that a ‘sexist of the year’ award was presented at the illegal Downing Street parties in 2020.

No wonder the government has repeatedly opposed calls to make misogyny a hate crime.

Women of all ages experience violent misogyny with 97% of women and girls experiencing unwanted sexual advances in their lifetime. It is nothing short of a disgrace that this country’s representatives take part in such awful behaviour.

Parliament should not just be a safe workplace, but an exemplar of British values.

The business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, dismissed the notion of inherent sexism in parliament and tried to blame ‘a really intense environment’ and ‘long hours’ that, in turn, create ‘some bad apples’.

This logic is flawed.

The reputation of ‘Pest-Minster’ precedes Kwarteng’s own parliamentary career, and new allegations are all too common. Undermining the severity of ‘some bad apples’ normalises their rotten behaviour and spoils the entire batch.

It is not enough to simply act outraged – to outline our disgust, only to acclimatise to it and move on. Bigotry must be challenged when and where we see it. It is in this vein that dozens of female MPs have spoken against parliament’s misogynistic culture.

Our parliament prides itself on its ever-growing inclusivity, with representation for women and minorities increasing every election. There is still a long way to go before the chamber’s composition is anywhere near reflective of British society. Women comprise just 34% of the Commons and I fear, if misogyny continues to go unchallenged, this will only lessen.

The Conservative’s must stop dragging their feet when it comes to misogyny and sexual misconduct. Allegations deserve proper attention, while the perpetrators must be named and punished appropriately. 

The Government must commit to tackling misogyny. They can start by making misogyny a hate crime, sending a clear message that these attitudes are unacceptable in our society.

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