Grasping the Thistle – Women, Rights and the proof of progress

imageWho knew that writing about gender could strike quite so many nerves? I did! It is largely what motivated me to write my piece, Of Mice and Men – leadership, women and independence. I rightly believed that one of the main components in moving forward towards a second referendum is that the independence movement should confront the misogyny within it. The reaction confirmed that confronting misogyny in Scotland is something many are loathed to do.

Some were put out that I did not mention the fact that we have Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the SNP, Kezia Dugdale leading Scottish Labour and Ruth Davidson leading the Tories. Apparently, merely having women in leadership positions is why we should shut up and stop asking for ‘special treatment’.

I find myself thinking how many women in leadership positions would be enough? I cannot help but concur with Ruth Bader Ginsberg, “People ask me sometimes, when — when do you think it will it be enough? When will there be enough women on the [Supreme] court? And my answer is when there are nine.” Alas, such a dream is a long way off and, sadly, women as leaders does not mean everything is a-okay for women. After all, Theresa May was Home Secretary and it was on her watch as Home Secretary that women were abused at Yarl’s Wood.

“When it comes to abortion the best person to make the decision is the woman concerned, her body, her choice.”

Many also ask why we should focus on misogyny and women’s rights here in Scotland when women are suffering far worse conditions elsewhere across the globe? Mona Eltahawy in conversation for Slate said, “Every community has misogyny that it must fight. And when we become complacent about feminism and women’s rights anywhere, it effects and hurts women everywhere.”

So what issues do we in Scotland have to grapple with? Why just this week we heard that a woman was jailed for fourteen days because she refused to swear under oath that her husband abused her. Questions must be asked as to whether this was a proportionate response. After all, domestic abuse is a crime that is underreported and, on average, it takes a survivor seven attempts to leave their abuser.

As Claire Baker MSP said, we need to do everything we can to help those suffering domestic abuse come forward. Sheriff Elizabeth McFarlane’s decision was defended by an anonymous solicitor, who has not even once acknowledged that domestic abuse is serious problem.

Mona Eltahawy in conversation for Slate said, “Every community has misogyny that it must fight. And when we become complacent about feminism and women’s rights anywhere, it effects and hurts women everywhere.”

Whilst attitudes are changing as both sentencing and the anonymous solicitors defence of the Sheriff were met with condemnation from men and women alike, violence against women and girls is still a huge problem that we as society need to confront. The most recent domestic abuse statistics from Rape Crisis Scotland has seen a rise from 53,439 incidents in 2013-15, to 59,882 incidents in 2014-15 – an increase of 2.5%.

This is when we see a fall in overall crime rates – however, it is entirely probable that this increase is due to more survivors coming forward who might otherwise have remained quiet.

 It is important that we support men who have suffered from domestic abuse and help them in coming forward, as according to the Scottish government there has been a rise from 12% in 2005-06 to 20% in 2014-15. The harmful patriarchal notions around masculinity harm men and the feminist struggle to dismantle the patriarchy will only uplift us all.

Another litmus test for Scottish politics is abortion law – Scotland has the chance to be a progressive beacon on abortion rights for the rest of the United Kingdom. For example, many do not know that an abortion currently requires the signature of two doctors before a termination can proceed. Should a woman require a later termination, NHS Scotland cannot provide the necessary services needed in most cases so women in Scotland must travel to England, like her Irish sisters, at cost to herself.

“Scotland has the chance to be a progressive beacon on abortion rights for the rest of the United Kingdom.”

When it comes to abortion the best person to make the decision is the woman concerned, her body, her choice. This is why we must stand vigilant and be aware of the anti-choice movements attempts to import American-style tactics to Scotland – we have already seen an attempt at a 40 Days For Life vigil outside a hospital. 40 Days of Life are the same organisation that directs women to crisis pregnancy centres and is against the use of all contraceptives.

We have the chance to grasp the thistle and prove ourselves to be a truly progressive nation, I believe that this is something we can and must achieve.

Comments (20)

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  1. Bryan Weir says:

    “I rightly believed that one of the main components in moving forward towards a second referendum is that the independence movement should confront the misogyny within it.”

    Rightly in whose opinion and based on what evidence?

    So your motivation for the last article was that it would strike many nerves? What you have now done here is to rewrite the article because (in my opinion) you failed to make the points that you were attempting to make in the other article.

    Introducing the example of the woman who got the jail does not help. The point you tried to make in your original article used the fact that no women stood for the SNP deputy leadership because of misogyny as an example. You presented no evidence of this and you still haven’t done so. That was what irked so many people.

    It was nothing to do with abortion, rape statistics or domestic abuse. If you want to make some point about them feel free to do so. You will almost certainly find people being more supportive but please do not try to put them in the same frame as the SNP deputy leadership election.

    1. c rober says:

      I get the drift that its another bait piece , and of course with that will follow some straw wimmin , no doubt told to do so by a man somwhere. How about the editorial team checking some IP addys?

      But one does have to question the Jail time for a woman for not giving evidence , but not the use per se of it as manhatebait , but again men do get time for perjury as well.

      I thought that Scotland was one of those countries that could not Force a partner to give evidence against their sig other? Outside of the court one does not know the whole story , only what the twitterati wants you to bandwagon for them as a gender topic.

      But then again we do have a parliament keen on removing everyone’s protection , and increasing the bank balance of lawyers , to which there are many in the SNP. Coroboration , right to a jury , double jep , cyclist rights – and dare I say , thus start the furore the writer may be seeking – “Claires Law”.

  2. Bryan Weir says:

    “What is the SNP doing for women’s equality?

    No young girl should grow up with the prospect of facing a glass ceiling that limits their ambitions. We all owe it to future generations to end gender inequality once and for all. The SNP will stand up for gender equality at every turn – working for an end to austerity, for equal pay, more and better jobs and to end the barriers that still block the aspirations of too many women in Scotland and across the UK.

    We will legislate to ensure 50:50 gender balance in public sector boardrooms in Scotland by 2020 and will require all public authorities to publish their pay gap every two years and an equal pay statement every four years. We will also encourage organisations to sign up to the Business Pledge, including the commitment to workforce diversity, and to join the Partnership for Change campaign to set a voluntary commitment for gender balance in their boardrooms of 50:50 by 2020. We will help experienced women to return to their previous careers after a break by piloting ‘Returnships’ – a successful initiative from the USA which allows women to update their skills and knowledge, and employers to retain skilled staff.

    To ensure we continue to make progress we will establish an Advisory Council on Women and Girls to advise on action to tackle workplace and occupational segregation and other issues relating to gender equality.

    Nicola Sturgeon is Scotland’s first female First Minister and her Cabinet is one of only a handful in the world that is gender balanced – we are equally determined to improve gender balance in the Scottish Parliament and in this year’s election we have more female candidates than ever before.

    In the long fight for gender equality one thing has been consistently clear: only when political power is in the hands of those with the will to change society can progress be made. That’s why it is so disappointing that the Labour party voted to leave powers over equalities and employment law in the hands of the Tory government at Westminster.”

  3. John B Dick says:

    Is that right about the cost of travel to England?

    Not in the HIMS area I guess.

  4. Broadbield says:

    Bryan has it spot on. “the independence movement should confront the misogyny within it” There may be some men who want independence and who are misogynists, just as there may be some women who want indy and who don’t like men, but neither has anything to do with the “Independence Movement”. Nor does it have anything to do with the kind of issues you raise in the rest of the article. You have conflated the two and it distracts from some of the problems that need to be discussed.

    For example, the legal system treats women appallingly, as plaintiffs, as witnesses and as accused, and frequently sends women to prison when there are other more appropriate options. But this, imho, needs to be part of a larger examination of the justice system, not only including the dominance of men in all parts of the system and the prejudice against women, but also the whole concept of an adversarial system. So, although there have been some advances, e.g. in the treatment and cross-examination of rape victims, the system which aims to destroy witnesses credibility remains untouched.

    So what I’m saying is, as you seem to suggest, there are issues which we need to tackle together for there are “notions around masculinity [that] harm men” as well as women.

    1. c rober says:

      Agree , but the last chart I seen was the reluctance to Jail female criminals was on the increase , and men as a percentage were more likely to get jail time. So where is equality?

      Offenders and Prison Population
      Males accounted for 83 per cent of all people convicted in 2014-15 but represented a higher proportion of all custodial sentences (91 per cent).

      By contrast females accounted for 17 per cent of people convicted compared to a lower proportion for custodial sentences (9 per cent of custodial sentences).

      source – http://www.gov.scot/Topics/People/Equality/Equalities/DataGrid/Gender/GenCrimeJust

      1. Broadbield says:

        I think you missed a rather important bit: The female prison population has risen much faster than the male rate over the past decade – 66% compared to 25%.

  5. Alba Woman says:

    Women in Scotland have had a very traumatic history. They were written out of Scottish history for two hundred years following the Reformation. The only history recorded of women was of prostitutes. The impact of this exclusion has meant devastating social, economic and cultural silences for women in Scotland.

    Germany was just ahead of Scotland in the burning of witches. The last Scottish witch was executed as late as 1727 with the death penalty for witchcraft being abolished in 1735. The work of repeal was entirely the work of Englishmen.

    Women in Scotland have worked tirelessly to deal with the implications of their history. Progress is being made but it is a very difficult legacy to overcome.

    Women have suffered loss in all areas of their social experience. We have suffered major loss in our health. Out of 35 industrialised countries women in Scotland have the fourth worst premature death rate. Only Hungry, Romania and the former USSR are worse. We have the highest death rate from lung cancer in the world.

    We need to the extent of our problems. Good research is vital for policy development. The battle continues.

    1. c rober says:

      The vatican can also be added.

      But you forget though that the working male of West Central Scotland is also in those charts for lowest life expectancy at times topping the same leagues , not that it matters in a comment about equality.

      1. Broadbield says:

        This is a bit like the 4 Yorkshiremen sketch (written and performed by a cast who were anything but working class as they lampooned the hard life). Surely we must fight inequality, prejudice wherever it is found and recognise that no group has exclusive rights?

        1. c rober says:

          and erase the bbc tapes of upper middle classes that think they are funny , and yorkshiremen , nudge nudge wink wink say no more , ex parrot optional. And now for something completely different…

          I reckon they were just as hard on their own , well oor hoose was laughing at them not with them.

    2. Crubag says:

      Witch hunting was an equal opportunity sport – though women were more often the victims.

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-20315106

      The Orkney affair shows that the human instincts to “other” others and persecute them – even if that requires an imaginary or a guilt by birth/association reasoning – are still alive.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orkney_child_abuse_scandal

  6. Sharon and Kathleen says:

    We are the same person.

  7. Crubag says:

    “So what issues do we in Scotland have to grapple with? Why just this week we heard that a woman was jailed for fourteen days because she refused to swear under oath that her husband abused her.”

    The judge in this case was a woman…Sheriff Elizabeth McFarlane.

    If the case is being adduced as evidence of misogyny, does this mean that women too can be misogynistic?

    In which case, simply replacing men with women doesn’t change things – so what would?

  8. Fay Kennedy. says:

    Yes women too can be women haters and this is devastating when you’re on the receiving end of it. When there is any and of oppression it needs to be called no matter where it comes from. There has to be constant vigilance when it comes to who gets to tell their story and women undoubtedly have not fared well in general. But the class question is the most relevant to improving and elevating the position of women and men.

    1. Crubag says:

      I’d agree with that, and it relates to the theme of the article. Class isn’t just what you are born into, it’s what you are made into and make of yourself. Joining the legal profession is to be exposed to a strong, coherent culture – whatever your gender – that values the calculated use of language, detachment from emotion, attachment to process, and in court cases competition over cooperation.

      Chromosomes don’t have much chance there.

  9. Alan Bissett says:

    If independence is to be meaningful it should be to advance the cause of all oppressed social groups in Scotland: women, the working-class, LGBTQI communities, ethnic minorities, immigrants, people of colour. If it’s just another way of boosting the incomes and voices of white, middle-class men then what’s the point? Good work, Eilidh.

    1. Frank says:

      Talk about playing to the gallery.

  10. Kathleen says:

    Just came across this and saw that – hilariously – ‘the lads’ have created an account called ‘Sharon & Kathleen are the same person’ after a woman called Sharon & I called them out on some of their shite when Eilidh published her original piece.

    Seriously, anyone who thinks the independence movement doesn’t have a problem with misogyny should read the comments from ‘the lads’ on this and previous articles by Eilidh. They’ll soon be disabused of that notion.

    As I said the last time, ‘the lads’ are going to lose us the second independence referendum. Just as women were less likely to vote Yes than men last time, their antics will ensure the same happens next time.

  11. patrick says:

    Some were put out that I did not mention the fact that we have Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the SNP, Kezia Dugdale leading Scottish Labour and Ruth Davidson leading the Tories. Apparently, merely having women in leadership positions is why we should shut up and stop asking for ‘special treatment’.

    Be aware that even with 50% in unicameral women had granted equality there are much to do the example happen every day and nobody move a finger.

    On September 23, in Havana (non-fiction neither poetry)

    Injuries to the soul
    A seat of human defenders was raided

    And a lieutenant colonel gave the order

    That four women and one man undressed

    Take your clothes off!

    Was the phrase heard,

    My lips pressed tightly,

    My brain refused to process the order,

    I watched his hands on tonfa and revolver

    While repeating his words,

    -Dawn, you have to do it!

    I still remember his words

    I felt my chest tighten,

    A jump in the stomach

    My face was burning,

    My lips trembled

    I already knew humiliated and abused

    But she was the law,

    Power all on your side

    They had given him an order,

    And fulfilled it

    The damage done did not matter to them

    Shame, anger, impotence

    Made my movements heavier

    “Nothing you can do, I told myself then,

    That is not to endure this outrage sobrado ”

    While I was feeling life I was breaking

    Three other women undressed

    And between them, my daughter was

    Knowing it, I felt a lump in my throat

    Rage ran all over my body

    My jaws with rage I was squeezing

    I felt lioness prey and caged

    Which his puppy defending could no longer,

    The hate within me burned my soul

    Pride became the master of my body

    The anguish the soul kept me

    When the pain left me without tears

    Damage suffered, accumulated fury

    They left us injuries to the soul

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