The category of “hate crime” is now widely recognized, both legally and in the culture at large. To many activists fighting racism and homophobia, this recognition is welcome; but what value does it have for feminists dealing with violence against women and children? Is “hate crime” a useful concept, or is it ultimately divisive and unhelpful? Liz Kelly weighs up the arguments.
These reflections are prompted by my involvement in an EU study  which considered whether it was feasible to harmonise European national legislation on violence against women (VAW), violence against children (VAC) and sexual orientation violence (SOV). Since I was responsible for the section on SOV, I had to engage with the now-common framing of it as a “hate crime”. This is a concept I have had misgivings about for some time , and my unease was reinforced by my experience of working on the EU study.
Before I elaborate, I should make clear that I am not denying the existence of misogyny—woman-hating—or more generally of crimes motivated by hate. That both are real was underlined for me in summer 2010, when I spent some time with a close friend who had just attended the first gay pride march in Split, Croatia. 200 marchers were confronted by thousands of men chanting “kill, kill” and “you should all be dead”. Rather, what I want to argue is that there are problems with “hate crime” as an overarching concept. Neither hate nor misogyny provides an adequate explanation or theoretical framework for understanding all violence against women, especially when we examine the intersections with race/ethnicity, age, disability and sexuality. And the evidence suggests that while categorizing them as “hate crimes” has increased the recognition given to certain types of crimes, it has not delivered much in terms of justice and redress.
Read more The Trouble with “Hate”, by Liz Kelly at @strifejournal