There’s a new book out, you may have heard: Scottish Independence: A Feminist Response by Cat Boyd and Jenny Morrison – they have already had a launch in Edinburgh at the famous radical bookshop Word Power, and there is a Glasgow launch next week at Mono on Tuesday 26th, 6.30pm. I hear the Edinburgh launch was really successful with around 50 people squeezing themselves into that lovely wee space.
Disclaimer: Jenny is a pal of mine and I know very well how little time she and Cat had to write it- three weeks from start to publication. And I hope everyone will understand how tricky it was to reduce a potentially huge topic into something readable and useful for bringing undecided feminists over to considering a Yes vote (I know they didn’t want to just preach to the converted).
It is a very slim volume so don’t be afraid to pick it up and dip in. It still manages to cover a lot of ground and is, to my mind, a good primer on over-arching feminist approaches to and analyses of the issues around Scottish idependence.
It does assume some grounding in socialist theory, for instance, it states that oppressive exploitation of women’s labour is inherent to capitalism, without really drawing the dots for why they believe that to be the case. But in general, this book does give a range of pithily presented talking points covering nearly every aspect of Scottish independence and feminism. The overarching premise is that independence is a good thing from a feminist perspective, but that feminists need to work hard within the indy movement, outwith the indy movement, and post-independence, to ensure potential liberatory opportunities aren’t lost.
I don’t agree with every single statement in it, most notably, as Jenny and I once spent a lunchtime arguing about, their contention that Scotland is not an oppressed or colonised nation:
“Economics has dominated the independence debate. This is partly because, unlike many national movements, Scots aren’t rebelling against colonial oppressors: Scots fully shared the Empire’s spoils with England” — p. 52.
They do point out however, that this could be seen as a positive, indeed, as the root of Scottish civic nationalism, avoiding some of the worrying ethnic supremacy aspects of other independence movements.
I would say my other main issue was the fact that they tip-toed round the issue of sex work as an intersectional and socialist feminist issue in Scotland. I think I understand why they did this (I haven’t discussed this with either author)- with only three weeks to write the book, and with sex worker rights being an extremely flammable hot button issue of late, it probably would have required more considered thought on how to approach it than they had time and energy for. But to my mind, the recent attempts on the part of Scottish Labour to introduce the flawed, dangerous “Swedish model” of criminalising sex work clients, plus the issues around Edinburgh saunas and the police, shows exactly how the feminisms allowed a voice in Scotland’s mainstream politics are actually counter-productive to women’s liberation. I was going to find a good post by A Glasgow Sex Worker on this for those who haven’t explored the issue yet, but hell, just go look at her blog- there are loads of good relevant articles. For a good 2-page briefing specifically on MSP Rhoda Grant’s proposal, go here. And, of course, we have our own Village Aunties post on this writer’s journey to understanding why sex worker rights are core to feminism.
Having said that, for them as wants to know, they do fully grasp the trans* rights nettle and handle it well within the short space available. And there is some good discussion of the way racism and imperialism (and war, anti-terrorism rhetoric and related issues) interface with women’s issues, but this is still a pretty white-women-centric view. Again, the topics are not ignored so I don’t mean this as a fierce criticism at all.
In summary: the book is short, and has very short sections within it, each one really readable in its own right. Ideal for the very busy feminist to dip into to acquire arguments to present on the canvassing door-step or across the morning tearoom, as conversation across Scotland intensifies in the final weeks until September 18th. Well done Jenny and Cat, and well done Word Power Books for organising this publication.