I’m from Nottinghamshire. It’s slap-bang in the middle of the country, tends to be pretty flat and has a river. By population, it’s the 29th biggest county in England, and in 2015 we got a Five Guys.
As far as I can work out, my county’s primary selling point seems to be that it provided the stomping ground for Robin Hood. If you’re after an example, think the manner in which Warwickshire has managed to commodify William Shakespeare, except our respective MVP probably didn’t exist.
On the one hand, this makes a lot of sense. Romance! Camaraderie! Rebellion! Taking from the rich; giving to the poor!
As an encompassing figurehead, Mr Hood does a fair job of representing an eclectic range of colourful, midland folk, all of whom take the utmost pride in moving in a way that differs from the status quo. Bravo.
On the other hand, it makes absolutely no sense, either. None. Nil. Nada. I mean, come on – he wasn’t real, was he. A county that has provided the world with Nottingham Forest, Shane Meadows, Torvill and Dean, Paul Smith, Traffic Lights, Ibu-fucking-profen, and we’d give voice to the fictional character that wasn’t even Kevin Costner’s best role. For me, the little old place has much more to be proud of than the myth of the freedom-fighting outlaw.
Take, for example, something that happened last week.
On Wednesday 13th July, 2016, Nottinghamshire Police became the first force in the country to recognise misogyny as a hate crime.
In what I’m going to refer to as the ‘Wolf-Whistle Law’, incidents including street harassment, verbal abuse, uninvited contact/advances, as well as the titular aggravation, are all being recorded within the hate crime classification. According to Chief Constable Sue Fish, Nottinghamshire Police want to ‘make Nottinghamshire a safer place for all women’.
Now THAT is something to be proud of. With one, simple ruling, Nottingham has placed itself at the centre of progressive, feminist thought. When I first saw the news on Twitter, the existential heartache of discovering my hometown managed the 8th highest ‘Leave’ percentage in the EU referendum was all but eradicated.
In a world where total fucking dildos are given smartphones and unlimited data plans, the decision was always bound to have its dissenters. As a writer, I pride myself on my meticulous research, so before I sat down to construct this very opinion piece, I made sure to justifiably investigate the ruling’s reception – by typing ‘Wolf Whistle Hate Crime Nottingham’ into the Twitter search bar.
Inevitably, I was met with responses such as these:
‘so its now a hate crime to wolf whistle someone in Nottingham ? classic’
‘ what an insult to suggest Nottingham women can’t cope with a wolf whistle!’
‘Omg now I know the world is going crazy. Apparently it’s about to be classified a hate crime to wolf whistle at a woman in Nottingham!!!’
‘I never have and never will wolf whistle someone but how can Nottingham decide it’s a hate crime?? Please can someone explain?’
My personal favourite is the last one, in which the author seems to think that in some kind of spiritual, urban transcendence, the city of Nottingham itself has made the decision. Perhaps they’re not questioning the ruling at all, and simply demand to know how a collection of buildings and parks learned to speak, or wield constitutional power, for that matter. A valid query.
All jokes aside, though – the backlash, expectant though it may be, was sad. Opinions such as the aforementioned usually become actions, and with these actions, we have the reason that such a decision was required in the first place.
I’ve been in the company of female friends when they’ve been harassed in the street, and it’s an infuriating process to watch unravel. If the proprietor of these kind of remarks was genuinely attempting to chat my friend up, you could almost find it in your conscience to forgive him. Granted, a chastising would still be required, as well as an extensive re-education in the art of courting, but at least then you could categorise the inappropriate advance as a broken, misinformed procedure. But it’s not. These kind of things are a plain-spoken attempt to make somebody feel uncomfortable at the expense of a laugh, distorted internal reward, or reiteration of a testosterone-fuelled superiority complex. It’s behaviour that comfortably falls into the category of sexually predatory; bigoted, self-entitled and wrong.
‘But how are they going to police that kind of thing?’ I overheard a man of about 40 years old triumphantly ask his friend, with none of the crooked, outmanoeuvring charisma of Top Cat, and all of the creepy perceived superiority of, say, for example, a 40 year old man under the height of 5.7 who shouts ‘get your tits out’ at teenage girls from the 9-5 sanctuary of his company van.
Well, to answer that question, who gives a fuck. I’m not a police officer. In a post-recession world that seems obsessed with the Theory/Practise ratio, why not just applaud a sincere and genuine effort to make a difference. I imagine that with the nature of the offence, it is probably going to be fairly difficult to formally monitor, he’s right. But then again, I’m still not a police officer. Even so, logistics aside, if the Wolf-Whistle Law can give one more woman the confidence to report, or challenge, toxic, belittling remarks that have managed to sneak their way into the everyday, then it’s done a good thing. It’s a step in the good and decent direction and an overt display of support that is often found lacking from Britain’s establishments. If other forces follow suit, Nottingham can hold its head high as the proud catalyst in a progressive domino effect, and if they don’t, it can take solace in its status as that sole, progressive domino.
The Wolf-Whistle Law makes me chuffed to have been born in Notts. It’s a bold, signifying action, and one that I’m genuinely proud to say began in my hometown. I know it’ll make a difference.
Words by Niall Flynn