This is a good time to reflect on some of our ‘cherished myths’ and draw attention to Scotland’s national tendency to construct misleading narratives about the kind of society we have. Kate Clanchy has argued that it is not true that ‘we’re all socialist in Scotland and we’re all terribly equal’. Mike Small’s democratic testosterone courses through the limbs of Scotland’s own body politic. The term ‘patriarchy’ may be useful here.
The constellation of professional middle class networks operating within the Scottish political, legal, press and corporate establishments are essentially patriarchal networks which continue to be largely asymmetrical in terms of the gender of the key players.
Viewed through the gender lens, male-dominated cartels are visible within the Scottish broadcast media, sport – especially football (spotted many women in the Rangers story recently – either as protagonists or analyst?) and golf (have women been admitted as members of the R&A yet?), organised religion (more of that later) and local government (only one in four Scottish councilors are women). Calling Scotland patriarchal could be a way of telling a different story about ourselves. Let’s look.
Formerly used to describe patrilineal clans or tribes, the term patriarchy was revised in the 1970s to describe social structures which maintain the dominance of the male gender. Patriarchal power was conferred through a matrix of substructures including gender, able-bodied masculinity, birth, inheritance, race/ethnicity, religion, heterosexuality, political, legal and economic power, military might, geography and so on. Patriarchy requires the cooperation of those privileged by association – including women. Patriarchal values were founded on 19th-century ideals of women’s place in the home and their role in society.
In Scotland a strong association grew up between national identity and a particular form of masculinity and continues in Scottish public and private life and culture. Although such notions were often at odds with the reality of most people’s lives, they persist in contemporary Scottish public discourse and private attitudes.
Since the 1970s, legislation and social policy have endeavoured to correct inequalities based on gender, race and ethnicity, sexuality, disability and faith. Meanwhile, Scottish corporate and municipal power structures continue to be male-dominated.
Equality for women in Scotland favours better-off, educated, full-time employed women. There remains a 14% pay differential between men’s and women’s full-time hourly pay and 35% between women’s part-time and men’s full-time hourly rates. Women’s employment remains largely concentrated in low-paid, part-time work. Occupational segregation persists. Women currently comprise two-thirds of the total workforce in Scottish local government and to be under-represented in the fields of science, technology, engineering and senior management in Scotland.
Patriarchy is also present in Scottish family and community life. Toxic masculinity remains an enduring Scottish stereotype bestowed with perverse celebrity. Violence in Scotland is essentially a ‘man thing’; men are its most frequent victims and perpetrators.
Violence against women is mainly a ‘man thing’ too. Levels of domestic abuse remain high with almost 60,000 incidents reported to Scottish police last year. The majority of victims were women. Most women murdered in Scotland are killed by a current or former partner. Estimates suggest that over 100,000 children in Scotland live with domestic abuse.
Worryingly high numbers of Scottish teenagers think that using violence in an intimate relationship is sometimes acceptable; 17% of the young women had experienced violence or abuse by a boyfriend. Scotland has a very low conviction rate for rape cases with only around 3% of reported cases resulting in a conviction. More than half of Scottish adults who had experienced serious sexual assault since the age of 16 were assaulted by their partner with over 91% saying the offender(s) was male and 7% saying the offender(s) was female. Studies indicate that 90-95% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by men, often someone known to and trusted by the child.
Our national churches struggle with challenges to patriarchal norms. The Church of Scotland’s collective knickers were in a right twist over the ordination of gay clergy, the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland continues to be in a fankle about what to do about priests who are child sexual abusers (it was really very simple: this is a crime and should have been reported to the police); sexual shenanigans within its allegedly celibate priesthood (again, if it’s sexual harassment, assault or rape, these are crimes, report them. If it’s between consenting adults then Your Holinesses really do need to re-examine your rule of celibacy); past cruelties perpetrated by priests and nuns in children’s homes (the truth is thankfully coming out there in recent prosecutions). Oh, they don’t like same-sex marriage either.
According to the polls there is a substantial gender gap in support of independence with more men in favour than women. Groups on both sides of the independence debate campaigning to engage women are using gendered arguments which reflect the reality of Scottish society. Labour MSP Patricia Ferguson found that women need to know that there would be college places for their children and high quality care for older people and they deserve to know if there will be jobs for them and their families.
Jeanne Freeman of the Women for Independence Group wants to play her part ‘in persuading other women, that not only is an independent Scotland possible, but that it’s our best opportunity to realise our hopes and dreams for our families and communities’.
According to the Scottish Women’s Budget Group ‘women are frequently disadvantaged by policies that do not recognise their different realities and experiences, including unequal pay, roles at work and home, and gender-based violence’. Women are also more likely to be concerned than men about the effects of economic downturn on themselves and their families. Are men not concerned about these things too? If these concerns are marginalised as ‘women’s issues’ in the independence debate, post-referendum Scotland, whatever the outcome, is likely to be the same old patriarchal business as usual.
The personal is political and vice versa. For everyone.