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Paddy Jackson's return to rugby is yet more proof that misogyny goes unpunished

Misogyny remains a huge issue in our society. Women are still objectified, hated, mistreated and killed because they are women. Steps have been made towards achieving equality but, evidently, we have a long way to go.

The last few weeks in particular have shown how much of an uphill battle tackling sexism tends to be. The signing of Paddy Jackson to London Irish RFC is just one in a long list of examples.

In March 2018, rugby star Jackson, along with three other defendants, was found not guilty in a trial in which a woman alleged that she had been sexually assaulted and raped. While the sexual acts that took place between them were ruled consensual, the deeply questionable behaviour of him and his teammates that came to light in evidence is definitely worth unpicking.

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Jackson was part of a group chat on WhatsApp with other members of the Ulster team that were misogynistic and deeply disrespectful towards women.

The group joked about how they “spit roast” a woman, that they were “top shaggers” and also how the distressed woman “was in hysterics”. The language was appalling, but the most disturbing part was the jovial tone of the messages that demonstrated their disturbingly callous attitude towards women.

By no means am I suggesting that that he is guilty of the crime of rape because of that behaviour – the fact that such a big club would so casually disregard Jackson’s misogyny is disgraceful enough in itself. The problem is, by signing him, they have put female supporters of London Irish in an extremely uncomfortable position. As expected, many fans have tweeted their frustration and revulsion.

One suggested that they were “genuinely unsettled” and that they couldn’t believe that “his past is simply brushed under the carpet”.

Another asked how London Irish could endorse this behaviour saying: “Does your club think this is an acceptable way to talk about women?” Sadly, it doesn’t seem to matter to the club. Jackson’s sporting ability apparently means more to them than how he views women.

There is something to be said about those messages and what they reveal about how deeply misogyny has permeated all areas of society.

Our judicial system hardly takes women seriously. Recently, a judge named Martin Rudland told Alexander Heavens, an abusive man who was found guilty of coercive control charges, that “everybody is entitled to a second chance” and to “put this behind you, put her behind you, there are lots more fish in the sea and watch how you go”.

This man had punched his girlfriend Stacey Booth in the face twice. He had held a knife to her stomach, bit her and bent her fingers back so far that she thought they might break. The judge’s comments did not reflect the gravity of the situation at all. Rather than pointing out just how unacceptable his behaviour was, they minimised the crime and let the victim down. How are women supposed to feel as though they are in any way equal when violence against them is just waved away?

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This is why we need to change things. Time and time again society prioritises men over women. Too often I find myself furious at stories that quickly dismiss men’s poor treatment of women. Failing to recognise the widespread nature of the problem is no longer an option. We have to stop downplaying just how dangerous misogyny is. We have to remember that misogyny kills.

In 2018, 147 women in the UK were killed by men. I often wonder how much we do collectively as a society to do enough to prevent some of those deaths.

Unfortunately, attitudes towards women aren’t changing quickly enough, so the law has to.

If misogyny were a hate crime, more women would feel able to speak up about being mistreated. Crimes such as groping and sexual harassment would be taken more seriously. It may even stop crimes such as stalking from escalating and becoming more violent. Most importantly, it would enable society to start tackling the problem head on, hopefully providing some protection for those who are vulnerable.

We have to push to make this happen. The system has to change and fully recognise that women are human and deserve to be treated with respect. It’s time more laws worked with us, not against us.

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