Is it normal to hate someone you’ve never met on a “cellular level”? Because that’s pretty much how I’m feeling about Jeremy Clarkson right now. Although granted, I don’t suffer sleepless nights “grinding my teeth and dreaming of the day when he is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain” while people throw “lumps of excrement” at him.
Because that all sounds ever-so-slightly extreme, doesn’t it?
When it comes to Meghan Markle, however, any reasonable expectation of moderation goes out of the window. And in his latest column for The Sun, Clarkson perfectly demonstrates the utter delirium – and rampant misogyny – fuelling much of the UK media’s criticism of Markle. After unabashedly detailing his fantasies of Markle being publicly shamed and sexually humiliated, Clarkson argues that the absolute worst thing about the Duchess is that young girls think she’s “pretty cool.”
In the weeks since Netflix released Harry and Meghan – a tell-all docuseries exploring Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s departure from the British Royal Family – Markle has unfairly borne the brunt of the backlash. However, Clarkson’s unhinged rant, so poisonous in its honesty, is apparently a step too far and has been condemned by leading political figures and women’s rights activists, including Dr Charlotte Proudman, Sadiq Khan, and Marsha de Cordova MP.
Neither Jeremy Clarkson nor The Sun has publicly addressed or apologised for the former’s lurid comments about Markle. And there’s no reason why they would (other than attempting to sway public opinion or generate more controversy). Although Clarkson unapologetically laid out a fantasy of enacting violence against an identifiable woman in the public eye, there is little to no legal recourse to hold him accountable: misogyny is not a hate crime.
In February earlier this year, the House of Commons voted against making misogyny a hate crime, rendering blatant acts of misogyny “invisible in current legal and policing responses” (per The Fawcett Society).
Then Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejected calls to class misogyny as a hate crime, saying (via BBC News), “To be perfectly frank, if you simply widen the scope of what you ask the police to do, you’ll just increase the problem.”
In a society where women are feeling increasingly unsafe – following the murders of Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa, and Zara Aleena – the ex-PM’s response felt grossly dismissive of the measures clearly needed to protect women from male violence.
Stella Creasy MP is one of the biggest proponents of making misogyny a hate crime. When asked for comment, she told GLAMOUR, “If Clarkson’s comments were about race or sexuality, we would rightly see it as inciting violence against those groups and creating an environment where abuse and harassment are normalised.
“Rather than expecting women to change their behaviour, we should be treating this misogyny as the dangerous hatred that it is. Since we introduced racial hate crime laws, we have seen a massive change in the way we as a society treat racism. There’s no free speech when 51% of the population live in fear of being targeted for crimes simply for who they are – challenging that culture is crucial to stopping these crimes.”
There’s a scene in Game of Thrones when the show’s villain-in-chief, Cersei Lannister, is forced to undergo a “walk of shame.” Her hair is shorn, she’s stripped of her clothes, and she’s paraded through King’s Landing while onlookers pelt her with rotten food and call her a ‘whore’. While Cersei is not a sympathetic character, the scene drew criticism for its sexualised depiction of female humiliation and brutalisation – even though it was based on the original text and alluded to a real punishment, historically dolled out to women.