Testosterone Democracy? aka Patriarchy


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.




Comments (17)

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  1. Peter A Bell says:

    Notions of patriarchy, in the sense of a male-dominated society, are deceptive. Perhaps dangerously so. The reality is that the vast majority of men have no more choice in their lives than women. Males are as much the product of entrenched societal forces as females. And women are as much a part of those societal forces as men. Women are not powerless ciphers. Their power may be qualitatively different from that commonly associated with men, but it is power nonetheless. And, to the extent that “ordinary” men and women have any power at all to shape society, it is contrary to the experience of most men to suggest that they have significantly greater influence than women.

    There is no sexist male conspiracy. There are only the tides and currents of societal evolution on which we are all carried along regardless of our sex. The society we have is the product of the society we have had going back, not merely to the 1970s or the 19th century, but to the very nascence of the human species. It is the outcome of all the choices ever made by every individual who ever lived – male and female.

    The society we will have in the future will likewise be a product of the choices we all make today. It is vital that these be informed choices. If we make choices on the basis of a false understanding of present reality then our ability to make appropriate choices must be impaired. If we falsely associate prevailing power with the male sex rather than with economic and cultural elites then we are likely to develop the wrong kind of countervailing power.

    It is surely more conducive to an effective effort to secure progressive reform that we view the social condition of both men and women, not in terms of an ingrained, “natural” tendency to male domination, but as the product of a socio-economic system that relies on imbalance and inequality as its driving force. A system which must, for its own sake, contrive new forms of difference as well as preserving, perpetuating and exacerbating the differences bestowed on us by nature, twisting them to its own purposes. A system in which men are assigned roles in precisely the same way and to exactly the same extent as women are.

    1. wanvote says:

      I DO hope you take comfort in your fine words when the referendum is lost, as it may well be so long as the human rights of 52% of population are not recognised !!

      1. Rob DK says:

        I don’t know where you live wanvote, but it’s not planet reality. I’m beginning to think you are simply trolling.

  2. James Thompson says:

    I do agree with the points in this and woman most certainly are still not getting a fair deal. We must fight together to make this happen as matriarchy is just as bad as patriarchy. Also the equality picture painted in this article could actually apply to almost any western nation! I can’t see staying with the Westminster boys club is going to make any real change to this situation and it seems independence would open up far more opportunities to change this sad state of affairs. In an independent Scotland we can tackle these issues together and bring forth real change.

  3. Rob DK says:

    I agree with Peter. A welcome contribution.

  4. wanvote says:

    Great article, Anni. The ‘hammer’ being the truth which men don’t like to face. Reality is all around us in the home, workplace and out there everywhere and men still deny/ignore/twist facts while enjoying the power and the privilege of being male !!

    1. Braco says:


      Oh please!

      1. wanvote says:


        No thanks !!!

    2. Braco says:

      Can’t blame a boy for trying!

      1. wanvote says:


        You might try growing up !!!

  5. wanvote says:

    Despite fairly obvious attempts by previous posters to shut down discussion by trivialising/denying the points made in the article the situation remains serious and urgent.

    The facts cited in the article can’t just be ignored. The problems are real and they won’t go away just because some people keep saying ‘it’s no true’ ‘it’s no me’. If you’ve been talking to people about independence then you’ll have come across tons of folk that are still undecided. The latest poll indicates 52%. How hard is it to admit that the whole population, women, children and men have to be considered and included in every aspect of life – starting right now not after independence. The most basic human right is to have a voice and to be listened to so please listen more.

    1. James Thompson says:

      The points in the above article are not trivial and need to be tackled but they do not relate to Independence unless of course you think females would get a fairer deal under the Westminster government. As I said above there is a far greater chance of change under an Independent government than there is under the present male dominated One. We need to work together on changing perceptions about women and both men and women need to be educated to do this. It is counter productive to attack men who want an end to this situation as much as women. Only by fraternity can we achieve this. More and more men are waking up to this intolerable situation with regard to women. Let’s change this situation together in an Independent Scotland.

  6. wanvote says:

    Rob D K

    I expect you type this sort of message a lot. It says more about you than it does about me.

    1. Braco says:


      What can us males ‘and their enjoying [of] the power and the privilege of being male !!’ do to help, if you respond to even Rob DK,s modern man/ ‘Greys Anatomy ish’ watered down, cover version of a real man’s desire for the simple equality of the sexes?

      Should we tell our mothers that the woman we have chosen to marry is wonderful, and not the worst mistake we will ever make?

      Maybe we should tell our mothers that it’s perfectly normal for big boys to cry, although we’d have to also tell the young girls that they should really fancy the soft, caring, sensitive amongst us, rather than the usual macho, loudmouthed, aggressive arseholes that always seem to get all the hot girls. (oops, is my cynicism showing?)

      Never mind wanvote, we are actually and truly, all on your side. Honest. Even big, bad, eloquent Peter A Bell! That’s why we read Bella.

      P.S. Sorry Rob, I just used you for ironic/cynical/satirical purposes.

      From the desire for equality and straightforward decency in what you have written, I feel sure you won’t be too angry with me. If you are though, please accept my sincere apology.

      wanvote, I am now off for another drink.

      1. Braco says:

        Sorry , I was obviously unintentionally not insulting the commendably taciturn Rob DK, but instead, unfortunately, certainly meaning not to impugn poor James Thompson’s reputation during my last drunken post.

        My apology is still valid, should whoever the insulted is now, ever manage to catch it?

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