Feminism and the Scottish Radical Left

This was written by Glasgow feminist Amy Westwell, and was originally posted here.

Feminism and the Scottish Radical Left

Scottish national identity will crystallise and develop in the run up to the referendum. The left are well aware of this, and will likely revive some old Scottish left ghosts, playing on some political anti-establishment nationalism, and on the existing political identity which holds to the mantra that Scotland is more left wing than England.

Indeed, there are already talks of a broad left party, from various sectors, and several movements might spring up in the next two years, which may be creative and original. Yet I’m wary of the left, and especially of left movements in Scotland, because of what I believe to be its structural misogyny.

I am wary of the potential for a left movement to carry on a trend which not only ignores feminism, but actively represses women in the movement. I don’t want to stand by and watch the next generation of strong, committed women pour all their energy and strength into a left movement which systematically ignores them, which is run by misogynists, and which, in conjuring up spirits of the past relies on the historical basis of a patriarchal movement.

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A Feminist Call to Arms

This is by Glasgow-based feminist activist Amy Westwell, and was originally published here.

In the coming months feminists across Scotland will be working on this to ensure that Scotland’s future is a feminist one. If you want to get involved please do get in touch with Amy.

A Feminist Call to Arms

Scottish national identity will be shaped, created and clarified in the run up to the referendum. The next two years will be a fundamentally important time for Scottish political and cultural consciousness: the time for radical change is not after the referendum, but here and now. At times, even those who don’t admit to a “tartan messiah” mentality seem to believe that the path is already marked out, and that we must merely win the referendum, then set about changing Scotland. Even if this were to be true for left-wing politics, I cannot conceive that it is true for feminism.

Scotland’s culture is extremely patriarchal. This is true in many countries, and in many different cultures. But what makes this a burning issue is that Scottish culture will have a tendency to be glorified in the next two years. Whether this is Scottish left culture (Red Clydeside, strong Trade Unions), or Scottish social democratic culture (public services and free education), or particularly Scottish patriarchal culture (Football supporters, Masculinity), nationalism is hardly ever genuinely framed in terms of women.

I am committed to Scotland, especially to women in Scotland. I cannot and will not, however, connect with the nationalist myth, that Scotland’s political culture is superior to England’s, because I think that to focus on this obscures the extreme levels of gender, race, LGBT and class oppression in Scottish society. What is special about the independence referendum is not that self-determination will allow us to live the dream, but that the debate around national determination can become a vehicle for the self-determination of oppressed groups. This requires genuine political engagement on the part of the Scottish population.

I think that feminists should question the significance of self-determination for Scotland if the political consciousness created in the next two years has no feminist elements, if there is not some kind of Scottish consciousness of feminism which is expressed politically or culturally, and seems to be creative or developing. We need to be moving towards a referendum with a clear and steady view of Scotland’s problems: Scotland’s existing poverty and inequality, and Scotland’s misogyny.

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