We are living in unprecedented and challenging times, as Scotland and the whole world attempts to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. Lockdown and physical distancing separates us from the routines, cares and pleasures of ‘normal’ life. We are concerned for our loved ones, anxious about the dangers for vulnerable groups, and contending with an underlying existential dread about what this means for the future – for ourselves, our communities, for a just and sustainable global order.
Women in Scotland are on the frontline in so many ways – as key workers and carers, with their jobs, finances and everyday survival all under threat. The dangers for women and children living with controlling, violent and abusive men are magnified in the confines of home isolation. Reporting of the recent Salmond trial, regardless of outcome, will have triggered traumatic memories and fears for many survivors. In its wake, alongside legitimate differences of opinion and measured analysis, there have been insults, personal attacks and threats – often expressed in vile and misogynistic language.
This behaviour is the opposite of Women for Independence’s conviction that Scotland must learn to do politics differently to build a better nation. So we want to respond by recalling the hopes and dreams which animated the founding of our movement, and by renewing our commitment to act in this light.
First we revisit an article previously published on the WfI website, articulating this vision of a very different Scotland, one that “embraces the politics of dignity, justice, and care, in which all participate, animated by the spirit of equality and liberation”:
“Let us imagine a Scotland that begins from the hope of its citizens. It is a small but spacious country, and in our imagining, we see a society nurturing the common good of every girl, boy, woman and man. It offers that secure space for living in which each and all of us are supported to grow and flourish, developing our unique potential in safe environments that cultivate interdependence but also enable freedom to explore what makes us gloriously diverse and complex human beings. This spacious Scotland exercises a politics of dignity, justice, and care, in which all are invited to participate…. Such a Scotland cannot tolerate gender-based violation, exploitation, or abuse.”
These words were written in May 2014 by “The Feminist Collective.” These women wrote about a vision of Scotland (and, implicitly, a movement for independence) that was a safe place for women and girls because we challenged male violence and privilege in all their forms. (And we remind the independence movement that women’s votes will be critical in the next referendum.)
But how do we actually ‘do politics differently’ to ensure that independence for Scotland ensures meaningful independence for women? We are learning to listen first (to women and to each other). We challenge the tired old ‘Big Man’ macho style which has dominated public life in Scotland for too long and continues noisily on male-dominated political and social platforms.
We want to transform “freedom” from a battle-cry or slogan shouted across a movie screen to the lived reality of all women and men in Scotland. Women for Independence have raised our voices to support women in all walks of life and across all political parties, because we want Scotland to be a safe place for women. We hold dear the women who protect us and support us when we most need it—when we are sick, when we are homeless, when we are raped, when we need period products but can’t afford them, when we cannot feed our children, when our partners abuse and control us, when we lose our jobs because we spoke up or had a baby or had to take time off to care for our father or mother. When we go to court.
“Violence against women is at its heart a liberty crime, an instrument that constricts women’s spaces for action in every aspect of our private and public lives. This fencing of women’s agency, as outlined above, is supported and protected by an enabling economic, social, and political system that privileges (some) men’s voices in public discourse, men’s seats at the tables of power and policy, and men’s interests in public and private institutions…. The social and political power to sanction men’s violence and to remove the boundaries around women’s spaces for action remains firmly in men’s hands.”
This is no less true now than it was in 2014. We call on the Independence movement—across all parties and none—to rise up and reject the misogyny that has erupted in the wake of the Salmond trial. We especially abhor the use of social media to silence and punish women (women are 27 times more likely to be harassed online, according to the UN)*.
And we invite you to remind yourself why in 2020, amidst a global pandemic, we still fight for independence—for Scotland and for women—by re-reading (1) the Open Letter, reprinted below, and (2) the Feminist Yes, found here: http://www.nationalcollective.com/2014/09/04/the-feminist-yes-women-whove-made-up-our-minds/