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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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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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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Joan, The Burd, Morag, and The Village Aunties: Women and the Cybernat Revolution

Cross-posted on A Burdz Eye View after Kate Higgins serendipitously invited me to write a response to Joan McAlpine’s article, on the 15th anniversary of my arrival in Scotland from New Zealand (yeah, today)!

So the Burd disagreed with a bunch of other cybernats (including me) about Joan McAlpine’s article, you know, the notorious article drawing an analogy between escaping an abusive marriage and Scotland escaping the Union.

Early on, the Burd realised that some people she respected were surprised at her strong reaction, and she said that she might be “over sensitive”. I thought: as soon as a woman starts censoring herself with the kind of words used by misogynists to dismiss us, there may be something worth hearing underneath. Weirdly, even though I totally disagreed with the Burd, it was the first time I’d felt a real pang of sisterly solidarity with her. I so wanted the discussion to continue, with the participation of the other women who were chiming in.

Anyway, being a tenacious Burd, she kept in with the discussion and explored her own reaction. I ended up agreeing with one point she came to: that Joan’s piece doesn’t make the leap successfully between a domestic violence analogy, and why an independent Scotland would be good for women.

I’m drawing this picture as a way to show what happens when a bunch of women, and some non-sexist men too, engage in respectful discussion around a heated matter. Doesn’t happen very often on the social Web; nor do you often see women as the main players in a discussion outwith the feminist blog-o-phere. And even there, sometimes sisters tear each other to shreds. It all mirrors meatspace painfully well.

Addressing this lack of women’s voices in the Scottish pro-independence social media sphere was the reason why I set up the Village Aunties. The Burd and Joan seemed like lone voices in the wilderness. And, although I think that Bella Caledonia and Newsnet Scotland are excellent pro-independence sites with mostly excellent sexual politics (and growing numbers of female contributors), I wanted there to be a space specifically carved out for a feminist voice in our brave new world. Oh the hopes I had.

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Wake up and engage the electorate

Referendums, or at least talk about them, seems to be the rage just now, what with the SNP conference and the European debacle bubbling up again in the Tory party. For once I actually find myself in agreement with Tory cabinet ministers around calls for a European referendum as being as waste of time (not to mention money) right now. Like the rest of my fellow Aunties, it’s the talk around the Scottish independence referendum that is of most interest to me.

The results of the May election awoke something within me that had lain dormant for far too long. For the first time in over a decade I was actually excited about politics, the future and a realistic chance of a proper debate over Scottish independence. I still have a bit of a post election tingle, however as the nights draw in, I’m starting to feel bogged down and more than a bit pissed off by the lack of engagement from the other political parties. Why do they continue to ignore us, the electorate who categorically rejected their mandates? Why do they resort to the same old scare stories about the doomsday scenario of the break up of the Union, questioning the “right” of the evil SNP to actually ask the people what they think?

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