Hodge, Jessica. 2011. Gendered Hate: Exploring Gender in Hate Crime Law. Boston: Northeastern University Press.
Reviewer: CheyOnna Sewell, University of Missouri-St. Louis
Jessica Hodge, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri – Kansas City, provides a valuable contribution to research on hate crime legislation with her book, Gendered Hate: Exploring Gender in Hate Crime Law. Not only does this book describe the context of violence against women and the origination of bias crime legislation, it also proffers an explanation of how gender-bias crime legislation is implemented, enforced (or not) and situated in the scheme of bias crime legislation more broadly. Hodge conducted interviews and extensive content analyses of newspaper articles to map the development of hate crime legislation on the federal level and for New Jersey on the state level. The study encompassed by this book bridges the gap between violence against women literature and hate crime research.
The first chapter, entitled “Why Does Gender Matter?” provides a necessary introduction to the issue of violence against women and its relationship to patriarchy. Hodge sets the mood of the book by recounting powerful statistics depicting the prevalence of violence against women as well as by presenting descriptions of well-publicized crimes against women. This introduction allows for a simple segue into a discussion of patriarchy and “misogynistic acts of violence” (cited from Miller, 1994, 231). In essence, violence against women is a way of reinforcing the extant societal structure, which dichotomizes women and men and promotes women’s subordination to men. This chapter also defines what bias crimes (commonly referred to as hate crimes) are and how they evolved initially focusing only on race, ethnicity and religion cases. Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability were not originally included in the federal statutes. Hodge carefully outlines the parallels between violence against women and more “traditional” bias crimes. For example, since rape instills fear in women as a community rather than affecting only one person, it is similar to the way that cross burning, synagogue vandalism and other racially or religion- fueled crimes resonate within targeted communities. Regardless, some critics insist that extant legislation already covers the scope of intimate partner violence, rape and sexual assault and therefore such crimes do not need to be subsumed under bias crime legislation. Other critics claim that most instances of violence against women do not exemplify a bias against women in general. Just one chapter into the book, the stage has been well set for an insightful discussion of gender-bias crime legislation and enforcement.
Chapters two through five expand upon issues mentioned/introduced in the first chapter. Chapter two, “Hate Crime Legislation,” constructs a timeline of bias crime policy development. In the midst of outlining the development and expansion of bias crime regulation, Hodge also recounts how organizations were involved in this process specifically in regard to the gender-bias issue. In addition, Hodge assesses various models regarding the purpose and development of bias crime legislation. For example, a model that Hodge continually addresses throughout the book is the concept of symbolic purpose. Symbolic purpose perspectives suggest that legislation is useful at least partially because of what it symbolizes to society. Chapter two also addresses the differential enforcement of bias crime laws at the federal level.
“Developing the Gender Category” is the third chapter of the book and the first chapter to focus specifically on policy development in New Jersey. Hodge drew from newspaper articles and interviews with prosecutors, investigators and interest group members to assess the climate surrounding the addition of gender-bias to the bias crime legislation. Ultimately, there was no opposition to the inclusion of gender-bias independent of opposing bias crime altogether. The media showed very little evidence of the issue being controversial. This may be attributable to the fact that civil remedies had been established prior to the consideration of the criminal laws that included gender bias. However, the media also did not frame violence against women in accord with the legislation. Instances of violence against women were not consistently portrayed as a gender-bias crime. Thereby, it appears that the addition of gender-bias was not based upon any particular concern or fear about gender-bias crimes. It occurred because of the wider support for bias-crime law in general. Although there was little controversy regarding the inclusion of gender-bias crimes, sexual assaults were not to be charged as bias crimes unless there was an additional bias (i.e. race, religion) involved.
An innovative consideration of the enforcement of bias crime laws in New Jersey unfolds in the fourth chapter, entitled “Enforcing the Gender Category.” It becomes apparent that although bias crime laws are enforced in New Jersey, as evidenced through court records, there were only four gender-bias convictions from 1999-2008. Race bias crimes were enforced the most (3,521), followed by religion-based (2,589) and then sexual orientation (579) bias crimes. Interviews with informants reveal that even those enmeshed in the criminal justice process often do not know what constitutes a gender-bias crime. Moreover, many of them struggle with hypothesizing examples of gender-bias crimes and supported the sexual assault exemption. There were three different reasons offered for the exemption. One reason was that laws are already established to handle sexual assault and contain varying degrees of punishments. Respondents insisted that the extant laws were sufficient for covering sexual assault cases and including them in the bias crime law would be redundant. Bias crime laws were considered to be useful for increasing sanctions for prejudice-based actions that were not severely punished independently (i.e. graffiti). Another reason given by respondents suggested that sexual assaults are unlike bias crimes in that they are targeted towards an individual and not a group (i.e. women as a whole). Those who explicated this reasoning believed that most men who commit these crimes do not and would not attack just any women; they attack specific women. Evoking rape myth misconceptions and other antiquated belief systems, some respondents maintained that sexual assaults are not motivated by hate but instead by lust and sexual drive. Although more respondents acknowledged the power and control involved, they were reluctant to draw a parallel between these types of crimes and crimes rooted in racism. Ultimately, Hodge finds that people expected to be highly knowledgeable about bias crime legislation were less knowledgeable about gender-bias laws. Her account of the lack of conformity about what the law covers and what constitutes a gender-bias crime provides a partial explanation for why the law has not been enforced to the same degree as other “traditional” bias crimes.
The last chapter of the book, “Where Do We Go from Here?” presents a detailed overview of previous chapters and ends by offering policy implications. Five policy implications are detailed. One of these is to educate advocacy groups about how the statutes can be used for gender-bias offenses including sexual assault. Another implication focuses on the training of law enforcement to better identify gender-bias cases. Hodge rightfully encourages further research also, suggesting that her results should be repeated across multiple states to identify true patterns. Furthermore, she suggests that the voices of women, particularly survivors of gender-bias crime, should be included in this discussion. The policy recommendations and encouragement for further research provide a thought provoking conclusion to an intriguing case study of bias crime legislation development in New Jersey.
On a social justice level, this book acknowledges how violence against women catalyzes the terror of violent victimization (specifically sexual victimization) that exists among females. This issue is often disregarded as an issue indicative of individual interactions; however, violence against women is part of a broader justice issue where the sex hierarchy is reinforced through violence and then again through the justice system. This study also acknowledges that women sit at varying positions, according to attributes such as race, in society’s structure in its discussion of violence against women. If enforcement had been a viable issue (if any cases had been pursued during the study period) intersectionality would have prompted more discussion. Although the laws are intended to be applied universally for women, it is incredibly likely that disparity would appear in enforcement and identification as it does for all other crimes. Even without that evidence, the discussion regarding the sexual assault exception reveals an additional qualification. In fact, only if the sexual assault victim encounters “traditional” bias (i.e., racial slurs, religious discrimination) during the course of the assault, that bias crime aspect may be pursued. This further confirms that lesser weight is given to gender bias.
Gendered Hate: Exploring Gender in Hate Crime Law is a significant addition to the gender, violence against women, bias crime and legislative research literature. Classes related to any of these issues—such as Gender and Crime, Violence Against Women, and Hate Crimes courses, would benefit from this legislative analysis. The analysis is relevant to classes based in all states although the case study focused on New Jersey. In addition, this book could be an effective resource for future research involving bias crimes or legislation development more broadly. Significantly, it emphasizes the import of not only paying attention to “traditional” bias crime, but expanding the lens to include gender-bias and other gender considerations. It is essential that future research extend the attention to intersectionality, particularly in contexts more conducive to such an analysis.