Feminism in the Scottish post-referendum movement – #the45plus feminists rising

Village Aunties were awful quiet on this blog for the last part of the Yes campaign. We, and other feminist and social justice fellow travellers, were mostly busy doing other stuff: leafleting; hosting stalls; canvassing; registering voters; going on marches and rallies; writing in other channels; helping with other #indyref groups like Women for Indy, Scottish Asians for Yes, etc.; discussing indy with relatives, co-workers, neighbours and friends; etc. etc.

In the wider movement, no real feminist challenge to the various campaign activities took hold. None of the pro-indy leaders and coordinators thought the issues important to intersectional feminism, beyond “reaching women so they vote Yes”, were important to Yes. “Wait until after the revolution”: the standard cry of patriarchal movements going back forever, was implicit.

This is a shame, and it is something we need to remedy now, as the Yes campaign morphs into a movement to achieve, come hell or high water, the things we wanted independence to give Scotland. It is early days and we, all 1.6 million (and growing) of us, are still reeling and weeping and raging and basically working through our grief as we evolve into something new and powerful. We are becoming excited again about the potential for a new Scotland.

But from Village Aunties’ point-of-view, let’s be clear about a few things first:

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A feminist analysis of the potentials and pitfalls of Scottish independence

Book coverThere’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.

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Feminists letting the side down

[CONTENT NOTE: mention of rape and violence against women and girls]

Some feminists are in denial.

They need to understand that even in this modern age where so many feminist gains have been made, many girls and women are still living in a kind of hell. The system of sexual bondage and oppression they are subject to is global.

While some affluent women in Western societies claim they enter this bondage by choice, and some countries even have laws protecting their rights, many, many girls and women have been coerced or sold into sexual servitude.

To this day, even in Europe and North America, some underage girls and young women are taken either against their will, or with promises that are lies, across internal and national borders. They are then shocked to find they are required to have unwanted sex; to be raped, by men that they did not choose, are not attracted to, and cannot escape.

Even the so-called “choice” practitioners of this system often do not know what they are getting themselves into. The situation is so bad that many women die every year, often when trying to exit; killed by the men who abuse and rape them. The police cannot always help them, and if they are stigmatised by other factors, such as being poor, or drug users, they are so much less likely to be deemed worthy of help.

Often they have children to their abusers, and are then further trapped as they need to try to protect and support their children, compromising their ability to escape. Although, conversely, it is often the welfare of their children that gives them the final bit of courage to do so. There is some help for these women provided by the state, but it is never enough; services are always under pressure and indeed are being cut.

Some of these women, of course, always feel that they made the right choice, but even they may wake up one day and think “this isn’t for me” for any number of reasons. But due to the patriarchal, capitalist set-up of our society, even these privileged, empowered “choice feminists” still come up against various barriers to leaving. And life afterwards is often very hard, financially and emotionally. Sometimes they go back or try a different configuration of the same set-up. Sometimes they just stay and numb themselves with alcohol, drugs, or other addictions.

What I find difficult to believe is that there are actually feminists, real self-proclaimed feminists out there who willingly enter this servitude, proclaiming that because they feel they have their full rights under law, it is safe for them to do so. They even seem happy and proud. And they want more people to have the right to do what they do, despite the inherent risks!

Surely, so many of them will awaken one day realising that they made the wrong choice; that they have let all women down by supporting an institution that historically is not and cannot be beneficial to women, no matter how you try to dress it up with “rights”. In the meantime they are letting all women down by propagating a myth. They are the pathetic mouthpieces (witting or unwitting) of the individual men, and the patriarchal capitalist system, that this form of bondage supports.

Don’t get married.

Abolish marriage.

For more on the topic of sex work and feminism, see http://www.sexworkeropenuniversity.com/ and http://glasgowsexworker.wordpress.com/ plus the recent Storify laying out what happened when some sex worker led organisations tried to add their voices to a discussion on sex work at a feminist conference: http://storify.com/fornicatrix/left-out-in-the-cold-sex-workers-at-notts-women-s. And if you want an intro to how one feminist decided to throw her weight 100% behind sex workers rights, see our very own post on that topic here – it contains many more links to good resources to help you understand and think through the issues for yourself.

Village Aunties at the Independence March and Rally 2013

So we went:

Village Aunties take the train to the 2013 Indy March and Rally

Village Aunties take the train to the 2013 Indy March and Rally

Then we waved our banner about and enjoyed the march and rally greatly (we even got a round of applause as we walked up Cockburn Street, plus many many photies taken of us and congratulations on our sheer existence):

Village Aunties banner at the indy rally on Calton Hill.

Village Aunties banner at the indy rally on Calton Hill.

(Many thanks to Auntie Sveinn Jah for the above photo).

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Village Aunties celebrate Bi Visibility Day

Today is Bi Visibility Day.

Bi Flag

Bi Flag

There has been a growing tendency for trans* and genderqueer activists to dis bisexuality as an identity that, they claim, reifies the binary in gender and sexuality. In simpler words, they think the “bi” in bisexuality reinforces people’s idea that there are only two genders and/or sexes, which is inherently oppressive and/or transphobic. The following linked post gives a decent breakdown of how these ideas came about, and offers a rebuttal, from Radical Bi, and does a much better job than I ever could. Please read it first if you feel like taking issue with this post: http://radicalbi.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/words-binary-and-biphobia-or-why-bi-is-binary-but-ftm-is-not/.

Defining your identity

I have been an out bisexual for my whole adult life (and in my teens too), and spent a good number of years doing bi activism and grassroots, unfunded peer support work. I am also a feminist cis woman who will fight to my dying breath to include and support and stand up for trans* folk, genderqueer folk, sex workers, and those subject to racism, ableism, and all manner of other oppression and abuse, in everything I do.

I am 47 years old, and I have seen generation after generation of activists find new Really Good Reasons to make bisexual identity invalid and/or invisible. Yet I spent years supporting, validating and listening to all kinds of bisexuals (some life-long, some at a stopping point to and from other identities) who found it the right identity to express their sexuality, and who found the bi community a welcoming and supportive place.

I have been shouted down and shamed and ignored and tokenised by prominent and not-so-prominent gay and lesbian activists and organisations (*cough*Stonewall*cough*) enough times to burn me out several times over, and I have lived through the suicides and breakdowns of several fellow bisexuals. I will not be taking any shit from a new generation of queer activists.

I can say that of all the communities and groups I’ve ever been involved with, the bi community and its events have always been the most inclusive and self-reflective by a long long way. At Bi Glasgow and subsequent groups Bi Edinburgh and Bi Scotland, we used to work very closely with trans* community groups and there was a lot of cross-over in meetings and cons and other groups. Of course, no community or group is perfect on these counts and the above-linked post by Bi Radical teases some of this out with a bit more nuance.

I am now a bi-dyke as I have been in a same sex relationship for 7 years and will not step away from being lesbian-identified; I am in solidarity with lesbians and other women who love women; we bear a huge brunt of misogyny and homophobia – when I was young in the 80s, “bi-dyke” was a thing, we even had badges. I am not making any of this up (see the Bi Radical Tumblr for all kinds of radical bi stuff). I am also happy to identify as queer when it serves solidarity. But come at my bi comrades and I will be answering back!

And, ooh, look, Stavvers has done a post too :-)

The Anti-VillageAuntie is Dead. Party-time in Scotland

No pious liberal homilies here on not speaking ill of the dead or remembering that lots of others contributed to the destruction she caused or that Tony Blair was bad too or that we still have to fight what’s going on NOW.

People have the right to remember and express rage about their oppression. If you don’t think so, maybe you are too cushioned by your privilege to really empathise.

Glasgow in particular has been waiting for this chance to party for many years. Many, many beloved and valuable people are dead or damaged because of Margaret Thatcher, as are communities, our economy and our cohesiveness. So many of us are exhausted and depressed from the ongoing struggle, and the fractures and in-fighting within our various struggles. Several generations of the best and brightest have either left, or worn themselves out by staying and fighting: all that creative energy sapped.

Today, we get to party together. George Square, 5pm.

Only rights can stop the wrongs: sex workers organise in Scotland

We’re in the middle of Glasgow’s Sex Worker Open University event (5-10 April 2013). Unfortunately I was only able to attend yesterday’s panel sessions, much as I would have liked to attend other things. So, with yesterday fresh in my mind I’m going to write up a few thoughts right now. Follow the link above to find out more about upcoming events, or follow them on Twitter at hashtag #SWOU13 or the event’s Twitter feed @SexWorkerOU.

International Union of Sex Workers logo

If you are a feminist who is swithering about what the issues are and where you stand, maybe this post will help you. If you want women to be safe, sane, respected and valued, please fight with me for decriminalising sex work in Scotland.

Supporting Sex Workers in Scotland: Kill the Bill

We were fortunate to hear about some solid and grounded research into the effects of criminalisation, and conversely, of de-criminalisation of sex work at the event yesterday. It was pretty clear that the Private Member’s Bill ‘ The Criminalisation of the Purchase of Sex’, soon to be brought before the Scottish Parliament by Labour MSP Rhoda Grant, is ill-conceived at best, and callously indifferent to its likely consequences at worst.

Let me just note here: the evidence against any benefits to this type of legislation, as presented at the event yesterday, is extensive and convincing, and the evidence for the benefits of de-criminalisation likewise. I cannot do it justice here so please use links and references to do your own research.

Rhoda Don't Erode Our Rights banner from SWOU13 protest at STUC office, Glasgow.

SWOU13 protest at STUC office, Glasgow, 6 April 2013

When I first heard about this Bill, it was framed for me as ‘end demand’. I was pretty naive at that point about the current rhetoric and framing of sex work at the nexus of radical feminism and the religious right. I had fluffy thoughts about the concept of ‘end demand’ like “yes, it would be nice to live in a world where sex work wasn’t necessary”. I didn’t think it through. I genuinely believed that this ‘end demand’ thing was about bringing about an ideal society where noone wanted to buy access to sexual services, because everyone would be perfectly happy and fulfilled with the intimacy and sex in their lives. This is not what ‘end demand’ means.

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Calling all pro-indy map geeks (queers and lefties welcome): Mike Parker lecture tour of Scotland

Hey all you map geeks! Especially ones who are a bit queer and/or interested in lefty/indy/national identity!

My pal Mike Parker, an honorary Welsh Village Auntie and big gay pro-Welsh-indy map nerd, author of the book Map Addict: A Tale of Obsession, Fudge and the Ordnance Survey

Source: harpercollins.co.uk via Morag on Pinterest

… and the Rough Guide to Wales, inventor of the Coast to Coast TV series, and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s On the Map series, is doing a Scottish lecture tour for the Royal Scottish Geographical Society called On the Map: Cartography and National Identity.

He wants some colourful people at the lectures to mitigate any potential stuffiness, so let’s go see him- I promise he’ll be great (he’s also had a career as a stand-up comedian).

village aunties marching for an independent Scotland

We’ll be in Edinburgh for the March and Rally for Scottish Independence this Saturday, 22 September 2012. We’ll have a lollipop-shaped banner. Keep an eye out for us, come and say hello, or march with us if you want! Remember we are LGBT-friendly, and you are welcome to join us whatever your gender, as long as you are a lefty feminist (or pro-feminist) who wants an independent Scotland.

Here’s the link for the march website.

Here’s the link for the march’s Facebook page.

village aunties are wee and the Radical Independence Conference are big, and they are bringing some excellent banners for you to carry; look out for them, we will be! Here and here.

See you there! Photos and blog post to follow.

Resist the Ubiquitous Union Jack

See original Village Aunties post from April 9 2012 which kicked off the #unnecessaryunionjacks meme.

See the Village Aunties Pinterest Board (hashtag #unnecessaryunionjacks) for our ever-growing collection of #unnecessaryunionjacks in Scotland, including a mankini, babies’ nappies, and Scottish shortbread.

Banksy artwork in London, asking some questions about where all the Union Jacks come from.

Source: normsonline.wordpress.com via Morag on Pinterest

Join in by Tweeting, Facebook-linking, emailing, commenting here, with pictures of Union Jacks in Scotland.

Read on to see some ideas for resisting the scourge of Union Jacks in Scotland.

What we’ve been doing

Village Aunties have been collecting Union Jacks from around Scotland for nearly six weeks now, mostly on Twitter (using the hashtag #unnecessaryunionjacks) and Facebook, with some folk texting and emailing examples. Thanks everyone who has sent them. With ca. 150 collected already, it is starting to feel like one is never more than five feet from a Union Jack (in Glasgow anyway; thanks to Auntie @CSbungo for this observation and for many of the ideas in this post).

Let’s keep collecting them between now and the Scottish independence referendum: the Pinterest Board will remain live. I can confirm that snapping these pics and collecting them on the Web is pretty good therapy for the range of feelings they evoke. Village Aunties would also like to spark a note of resistance: I’ll come to that further down this post, with ideas from me and from Auntie Mhairi.

Subliminal exhortation to "Love" the Union Jack in Pepperberry catalogue.

Source: bravissimo.com via Morag on Pinterest

Bella Caledonia Jack*** Collection

Note that the independence blog Bella Caledonia has also now started its own collection of Union Jacks, with a witty title, and a competition for the best submission. Let many flowers bloom and all that: I’d be happy if every pro-indy site in Scotland starts their own collection. Then it would be great to use some kind of aggregation system to pull them all together. By the way Bella, I see your man in a Union Jack suit and raise you a man in a Union Jack mankini – linked rather than embedded because it’s neither safe for work, nor safe for your very eyes: brace yourself before clicking.

Union Jacks & Saltires on Pinterest

All relevant #unnecessaryunionjacks are being collected on my Pinterest Village Aunties Board – click the link to see them, and feel free to comment on individual entries. I’ve also had some help from Emma Nicol and Sheila MacNeill, intrepid Aunties both, who have been out and about snapping Union Jacks and pinning them straight to the board. If you are a Pinterest user and would like to contribute directly, let me know.

I’ve also been collecting a very paltry number of Saltires, which seem to have all but disappeared from shelves of tat and shop windows, and had a contribution from a Village Auntie in Newcastle of some St. George’s Cross knickers in John Lewis, which apparently didn’t sell very well (but at least they had the choice of their own national flag, dammit!).

There is a diamante cross right where your back passage would go.

Source: twitter.com via Morag on Pinterest

Criteria for submitting photos

The general criteria for #unnecessaryunionjacks are: they should be found in Scotland, and they should be in the public eye-line (i.e. not the Union Jack inside your shoe indicating it was made in the UK). This includes advertisements (e.g. catalogues that come through your letter-box) and actual products that appear in Scotland. Just appearing on the Internet with no specific Scottish presence or connection doesn’t count.

The Jubilympics and why that’s no excuse

Any Union Jacks specifically appearing as part of either London Olympics or Royal Jubilee promotions should also be tagged #jubilympics. A few people have suggested that the imminence of these two events somehow negates what we are doing here, or skews the sample, or something, but for me it is more than pertinent that this is happening at this exact juncture in Scottish history. See this picture from Berlin in the run-up to the 1936 Olympics compared to a recent picture of Oxford Road in London. Just sayin’, don’t Godwinate me.

Source: ushmm.org via Morag on Pinterest

Source: twitter.com via Morag on Pinterest

A Counter-Propaganda Campaign

Some ideas for a counter-Union Jack campaign:
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