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We are the 51%

Posted on February 18, 2013 by

I’m not a feminist. I’m barely feminine come to that: a pushing-40 tomboy. My initial reaction to comments about gender balance is a cringe. So what if there are four men and no women on a panel? What do women bring to a debate that a man can’t? If I’m really honest, a man will often persuade me to a cause long before a woman – they can exude an air of authority most women would feel embarrassed to display.


It’s only very recently, partly thanks to Women for Independence, I’ve realised it’s an issue that does matter. On this site – below the line – the question of gender balance has been dismissed as hysterical feminism. On Twitter, a debate last week had the lack of women in politics dismissed with “Well, they exclude themselves, don’t they?”

The irony for me, as a woman, is how those kind of comments mirror the independence debate itself. An “I’m not a feminist but…” article echoes the now common, “I’m not a nationalist but…” refrain. The cringe when women speak up about gender imbalance is similar to the Scottish cringe: a lack of confidence in who you are; in standing up for yourself or others in your position; in insisting you on your right to be heard over those exuding more authority.

The “Well they exclude themselves don’t they? If women want to be involved what’s stopping them?” line carries within it the same lack of insight into power structures and barriers as, “What are those Jocks whinging about now? They’re represented at Westminster, aren’t they?”

The issue, as far as I’m concerned – and other women may disagree, we don’t all think the same – isn’t one about straight gender balance. Simply replacing male politicians and panellists with women who’ve made it within the same system misses the point. The issue is with politics itself, and the style of UK political and media debate.

To enter, at any level, you need to have confidence – arrogance, even – and not to be afraid of a fight. Many people prefer introspection, weighing up ideas, taking time and space to come to a conclusion. There is a danger such types end up shouted down.

Many people also “self-exclude” from politics because they have other, more pressing, demands on their time. Caring for relatives or children, working in a hard, front-line job like nursing or teaching, keeping up relationships and friendships, working hard at life. It may come as a shock to the political type, but there are some things in life which are far bigger than politics for many people.

The delineation isn’t a straight male/female one. There are confident women in politics and business, and men lacking confidence who’d never speak out in debate. However, statistically, there’s a cross-over between gender, role and personality type. More men have jobs where they can surf the net, debate with colleagues, head to the pub later for more chat and have the time and inclination for issues like post-independence currency or treaty negotiation, while statistically more women will be at home with kids or in busy, front-line caring jobs where this isn’t possible.

For too many women, especially in deprived areas, life is a constant struggle that would put men’s political “fights” in the shade. One in four women in the UK suffer abuse, to take an extreme example. For them, speaking out and having the “wrong” opinion may still carry a risk of verbal or even physical violence. Too many are used to picking up the pieces from their men’s grand schemes: the horse that was a dead cert but fell at the first leaving no money for the rest of the week; the wage packet blown down the pub in one evening; the bloke who swore he’d be around forever and left at the first nappy change.

A man saying, “Trust me doll, it’ll work out just fine”, is the kind of statement that must make many a woman’s blood run cold.

Women are the fixers, the pragmatists, the shoulders to cry on, the folk who bandage cut knees and kiss it all better. They’re used to looking for consensus and dampening down tensions, not seeking them out. For them, UK political debating style is a turn-off, and they may find few “safe” routes into the independence debate right now.


Women, along with the sick, poorest and most vulnerable in society, are also the ones frequently at the front line of social policy. They’re the cannon-fodder battered by the latest welfare-reducing wheeze from some millionaire politician full of (misplaced) authority and confidence.

They are the first hit by ill-thought-out policies on health and social care. They are the home economists who have to make the food stretch further when incomes fall or prices rise, who have to make do and mend, find some way to cope when kids grow out of school clothes or the washing machine breaks down. They are, in short, the people most reliant on politicians, yet the ones most often let down by them. Is it any wonder some might be sceptical, a little more resistant to the change over-confident men in suits might be urging on them?

Short of joining a political party, a woman is unlikely to find a group of female friends who are into political discussion. There is something considered a bit wrong about political women. Coming out to male friends about supporting independence was easy. They’d tell you exactly what they thought: Aye, you’re on the right side hen or You whit? You daft? Women, not so much.

Whether it’s because they are still weighing up, not as black-and-white opinionated as men, it’s hard to tell. But often declaring support for independence to a female friend is greeted with silence, perhaps a raised eyebrow, or scornful look. Rarely an outright challenge or affirmation. Sometimes you get the feeling they’ll be off voicing their disapproval to someone else: “You know that Cath? Joined the SNP and become one of those separatist types, she has…”

Both those reactions – male and female – can have the effect of stifling debate in someone not confident in their own voice or arguments. So the fact support for independence among women is currently statistically lower than men doesn’t surprise me. It also, in itself, doesn’t worry me. Many women – many men too – will weigh it up and take a little longer to decide. That’s not a bad thing. There’s plenty of time.

But they likely won’t be persuaded either way by men in suits telling them what to think, or by issues such as currency, treaties and technicalities. Nor by political women simply because they’re the same gender. They will be persuaded if they can be reassured independence isn’t a bad idea, that it won’t have a negative impact on their lives, often painfully fragile already. That it won’t affect relationships with friends and family down south.

They’ll be persuaded by people who understand their lives and situations and how the politics of independence fits into these, who understand their fears and needs and show how these can be addressed. And that’s where the balance issue comes into play – but it’s not so much a simple quota-filling balance of male and female voices that’s required, but one of issues and policy.

What’s required, urgently, are the voices of “real” people, those affected on the front lines of social policy. What positive change could independence mean to women who are carers? To mothers? To nurses? What risks do they run and how can these be mitigated? What risks are there with the status quo?

Ultimately, those with most experience of these as real, live issues, not just as academic “social policy debates”, are the very people with more pressing needs in their life than politics. They’re also the people who need most care and reassurance that they won’t end up as front-line collateral damage in another political experiment.


That should be true in any policy debate: if it was we might not suffer such appalling car-crashes of social butchery as the welfare reforms and bedroom tax. In a debate and decision as critical to all our futures as independence, which is fundamentally about what kind of society we want to live in, this respect and inclusive debate is vital. The best way for people to feel convinced it won’t turn out badly for them is if they are part of the process, their voices and concerns listened to and acted upon. In short, if they feel they and their communities are helping drive the change.

That’s why women’s voices are vital in this debate. It’s not about feminism or gender balance for its own sake; neither should independence be only for its own sake. Both should be about empowerment, greater democracy and better governance. If not, many will be asking what either of them are for.

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95 to “We are the 51%”

  1. FreddieThreepwood says:

    While I might take issue with some of the generalisations, Cath (I know plenty of men who are ‘carers’ and women who do the 9-to-5) I think you hit the most important nail on the head: independence – why?
    This is what the No Campaign have been afraid of for so long, that the country begins to turn its attention to the ‘why’ not the ‘how’. Hence the mind-numbing boredom of the last few months of their agenda setting: EU membership, legal advice, electoral procedure, God – even wee Wullie’s paperwork!
    I look forward to the next phase when hopefully the Yes Campaign will decide on what ground this is fought – what independence will do for each and every man, woman and child in this country.

  2. cadgers says:

    Thank you Cath, you put into words what I’m sure a lot of us feel.

  3. indy says:

    These kinds of arguments won out in the SNP which means our job is harder now. It is not all about principle, it is also about winning. Women’s votes are crucial in the referendum. Everybody need to remember that and refrain from knee jerk reactions when something like gender balance or quotas is mentioned. If you don’t agree with it,fine. There are many individual aspects of the campaign people may not agree with. But if anyone feels the urge to blame women for the fact that they are less predisposed to support independence then please just SHUT UP.

  4. orpheuslyre says:

    Looking at this from the point of view of Unionist tactics – Cath’s argument seems to imply that women are the swing constituency and women are effectively scaremongered (if comparison with men’s attitudes to Independence is the criterion). Keep the constituency as fearful and conservative as it presently seems to be and the Referendum is won. Negative campaigning will win.

    Not entirely sure (and I’m extrapolating somewhat crudely in any case). I wonder about the class breakdown. Are working class women as resistant to Independence. If not, and working class women are (it will be agreed) in positions of greater instability than middle class women, then the argument about scaremongering would seem to hold in reverse (i.e. women with more to lose are not so easily scared. Therefore the assumptions about women and fear do not hold).

    But this is all supposition. I would like to see much closer empirical and individual detail rather than generalisations, assumptions and stereotypes.

  5. mogabee says:

    Yet again Cath an excellent post. I’ve also found that women are vocal on political matters but just detest all the “shouty” stuff and the condescension.
     Women will weigh up the direct benefits to their families and themselves, if they are shown hope and the will for change then they will vote yes.
    Anyway, women fly when men aren’t watching! 😉

  6. Derick says:

    Not a word there to disagree with.  Shared.

  7. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “But if anyone feels the urge to blame women for the fact that they are less predisposed to support independence then please just SHUT UP.”

    In fairness, I’ve never seen anyone do that, despite what must be an overwhelming temptation for chauvinists. Maybe I just don’t hang out with the right (wrong) crowd.

    It’s vitally important that people don’t shut up about quotas, though. They achieve nothing but antagonism and division, and are a terrible idea both practically and morally. Discrimination is discrimination, and there’s no such thing as “positive” discrimination if you’re the poor sucker who’s best qualified for the job but on the wrong side of a quota rule.

    If we start legislating for more female politicians now, what we’ll end up is a situation where the Parliament is stuffed with the women most suited to the current system – ie the ones most like men and most like politicians, rather than real people. In the meantime we’ll have pissed off the vast numbers of people who actually believe in true, merit-based equality.

    Quotas aren’t a harmless mistake, they’re suicide.

  8. cath says:

    “Cath’s argument seems to imply that women are the swing constituency and women are effectively scaremongered”
    I don’t think that’s true at all, and the article isn’t meant to imply that. I think there are a segment of the electorate who are more sceptical and will take more time to weigh up the pros and cons. That doesn’t mean at all they’ll be more likely to be “scaremongered” – probably less so. They just may be less likely to be saying yes yet, and be looking for good reasons.
    I appreciate – and it did bother me while writing it – that I seem to be saying the Yes campaign has all the work to do in convincing people. To an extent it does have the most to do as the other side has the benefit of being “the status quo”. But I certainly don’t believe the idea that the no side doesn’t have to do anything and can just scaremonger their way to victory.

  9. Peter A Bell says:

    I would first of all question whether exchanges on Twitter could be classified as “debate”. But to whatever extent such exchanges might be so characterised, I was party to the one referred to. Although I did not actually use the phrase, “women exclude themselves”, I had no problem accepting it, and some difficulty understanding why these words provoked such a visceral response. I was content with the phrase because I took it to mean no more than that women tend to opt out of involvement in politics. To my mind, this does no more than state the issue.
    Women do tend to opt out. Or, to be more precise, womenn tend to opt out in greater numbers than men. What remains to be explained are the reasons for this. And we won’t make any progress towards finding a satisfactory explanation if we can’t even state the problem without being shouted down by the strident voice of shallow gender feminism determined to see a male conspiracy in every utterance.
    What was significant about that Twitter exchange was that it was not the views of women that were being “dismissed”, or the issue of the lack of women in politics. In fact, it was certain females who were doing all the “dismissing” with banalities of the ,”Typical men!” variety in response to male contributors who sought an earnest discussion of an issue that is crucial to our democracy and so of just as much concern to men as women.
    It is also perfectly fair to say that women “exclude themselves” because this accurately reflects the reality that even when the formal barriers to their participation have been largely swept away, the tendency to opt out remains. Appreciating that this opting out is a matter of choice for many women is essential to any exercise that seeks to address the question of why women continue to be under-represented even when participation is better facilitated than ever before.
    In order to adequately address an issue we must first ask the right questions. It is obviously important to ask why there are not more women involved in politics. But it is at least equally important to ask why so many women (and men!) choose not to become involved. Each of these two questions is likely to have a quite distinct set of answers. With both sets of answers we will have a more complete understanding of the situation and will thereby be better equipped to bring about change.

  10. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

    The only thing I would add is that it is not possible to force people into politics. Women either want to be part of the political landscape, or they dont. There are factors of “Job appeal” that need to be looked at.
    What needs measured is the split of female candidates who vounteered for the positions within each party in order to see what percentage of women who wished to stand were allowed to do so.
    For instance if 5 women wanted to stand for Party A and they let them that would be 100% support by the party
    If 10 women wanted to stand for another party but only 5 were selected, that would be 50% support by the party
    I think that this would provide a better overview of what is happening within the parties themselves and would get rid of the idea of Quotas by guaging the support of a drive by women rather than an empty slot filling system.
    Both the Lib Dems and SNP are currently using “Positive Action” to encourage participation and provide support with schemes like their ‘Womens Academy’ and ‘Future Leaders’ programs.
    Labour on the other hand are using “Positive Discrimination” by imposing quotas upon themselves over the coming elections and insisting on putting any women into those positions regardless of ability, drive or suitability.
    I agree with the “Positive Action” approach in that women who want to be involved need to be encouraged and supported and that we need to look at the culture of politics that puts them off in the first place.
    Buts lets be clear here, this article is covering how we get women on board with yes, rather than how we bring up the next Winnie Ewing or Nicola Sturgeon.
    This is a very real problem we NEED to overcome and ironically in order to do that we need more Womens voices.
    Great article Cath, lots to think over (but the gender stereotyping is a bit dated for me – split caring duties, flexi-time for family committments etc…)

  11. cath says:

    Peter, I politely didn’t use names or actual quotes 🙂
    But the article was a first pass at attempting to explain, from a female perspective (albeit one who patently hasn’t self-excluded from the debate) why some people – male and female – might “opt out”, or never have the chance to “opt in” to political debate. And why, perhaps, this is a greater number of women than men, statistically.
    Writing it was partly because mediums like Twitter aren’t good for debate or expanding on complex ideas.

  12. Connor says:

    I have a policy of closing articles which begin with “I’m not a feminist”, as they tend to go on to completely mis-represent what feminism is (merely an interest in achieving gender equality, nothing inherently radical), but I stuck this one through and enjoyed your points. The comparison of feminism to Scottish nationalism was particularly a poignant one. I’d challenge some of your reasoning, but at this point, I’m just glad for some insight from a woman – the polls are really disappointing in the reluctance of Scotland’s women to let go of the Union, and we should be listening to as many people and doing as many things as possible to fix that.

  13. Braco says:

    Hi Cath, Thanks for the article. I do agree with the general thrust of what you are articulating about the very groups that have the most practical experience of the issues involved in social policy are almost exactly the same folk that are structurally excluded in policy formation and politics in general through lack of time, finance, education, confidence etc. etc.

    However I think that you may be undermining the solution to these problems by leaning so heavily on the analysis that somehow this is a gender issue. Your examples culminating in the  “Trust me doll, it’ll work out just fine”  line seem to me to be simply mirroring the old sexism cliches you start out by decrying. This leads only to dividing groups (women and men in this case) who should be uniting to overturn the injustices of power that you go on to list so eloquently.

    Do you really believe that men are not struggling with the same grinding poverty and confidence crippling realities that women in the same communities are? To me the structural exclusion in politics is not one of sex per se but more that the political class is a self selecting group that creates a political environment that only one type of person can live in.

    A self fulfilling closed loop that encourages the loud, confident, boastful and excludes the thoughtful, quiet and initially unsure. The same loop seems to be forcing all new politicians to have no life experience, no past to embarrass and no financial failures under their belt to help them empathise with the general population. I believe this ‘loop’ operates in many, many complex ways all to the detriment of proper democratic representation in this country.

    Solve this structural problem and I think the gender issue along with all the other terrible iniquities inherent in our political society will be tackled. Now the tough part. How to tackle the structural self selecting political class that has been allowed to grow up over the last 300 years and more?

    My suggestion is first to educate our populace as citizens around a written constitution agreed by the population. Then government should be by ballot. Governmental Jury duty if you will, five year terms half of which the juror is without power, being taught by the previous incumbents by example and experience. This 5 year period should carry a very high life changing pay. We should also double the number of representatives in this chamber from our current MSP’s.

    This will give all the chance of at least 5 years of a very well paid job with pension and spread access to government throughout society. We all know someone who has done jury duty. Professional politicians will be reduced to a second chamber rump and denied party politics. A sort of political civil service/fixer group to help enact the law making suggestions of the jury duty political chamber. We then have a civil service as per normal to do what they do. Just some ideas.

  14. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “as they tend to go on to completely mis-represent what feminism is (merely an interest in achieving gender equality”

    Connor, there, ironically misrepresenting what feminism is. The clue’s in the name.

    (I will move any subsequent posts debating the nature of feminism, including my own, into Quarantine to avoid thread derailment. I respectfully request people post them there in the first place:

  15. Cuphook says:

    Putting the gender politics aside and looking at how to get women on the winning side in this political debate:
    Most women seem to react better to talk of welfare, family etc. When canvassing that’s the first approach to try. Some women prefer statistics so if the first approach doesn’t work try that. It might sound cold hearted but that’s politics at the moment. 
    Looking at gender politics:
    I think that there is a lot of confidence to be found among young women and it often reveals the immaturity of the males (of any age) that they are in discussion with. Men can be, and often are, victims of their gender too. That’s not to belittle the problems that women encounter: I just don’t think that you can solve one without the other.

  16. Peter A Bell says:

    I realise that the Twitter exchange you refer to was only a small aside in your article, but I felt that some clarification was required. Other than that, you make some excellent points which I hope to have time to address more fully.

  17. Connor says:

    Braco has a good point too. Undermining a very real struggle among some women to overcome institutional sexism by using such exaggerated examples is counter-productive. Disparity in salary between women and men; representation of women in politics; the rights of women re: their bodies; sexual harassment – these are a handful of problems concerning women in the world today, few of which have anything to do with ’50s-style relationships. cringed at the “doll” quote you brought up too.

  18. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Braco: help me out here, comrade. I have other stuff to do today than go through comments editing paragraph breaks into them to make them halfway-readable.

  19. Peter A Bell says:

    Rev. Stuart Campbell
    I am surprised, and a little disappointed, to find you resorting to such simplisms as “discrimination is discrimination”. The power to discriminate is a vital human faculty. Discrimination is only problematic when it is crude and unsophisticated, relying on criteria that are at best inadequate and irrelevant and at worst totally misguided and inappropriate.
    Quotas – or positive discrimination – can be a useful and effective tool in addressing the entrenched informal biases that perpetuate various forms of social imbalance. And, yes! I’m talking about social engineering. I do so unashamedly. We do not live in a state of nature. Our society is engineered. It is created, forged, moulded. Our concern should be to mould it to the shape we want. To forge a better society. To create a social environment in which fairness and justice prevail as a normal part of society’s function rather than as something which has to be constantly imposed anew on a template that has no place for such niceties.
    Positive discrimination is a powerful tool. And like any powerful tool it must be used appropriately and judiciously. Not every situation will be amenable to being rectified by the use of quotas. The particular form of quota system used must be tailored to the situation. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Most importantly, the quota system itself must not be allowed to become a source of entrenched structural bias generating social imbalance.
    We have to be clever. Dismissing quotas with glib phrases such as “discrimination is discrimination” seems to fall somewhat short of the cleverness that is required.

  20. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “I am surprised, and a little disappointed, to find you resorting to such simplisms as “discrimination is discrimination”.”

    Well, there you go. Can’t please all the people all the time, etc.

  21. FreddieThreepwood says:

    @ Braco
    Re the self-selecting political class, surely ridding ourselves of this so-called elite is another real, practical advantage we can win for ourselves with independence?
    Even now, something like 20% of MSPs attended fee-paying schools as opposed to 35% in Westminster. More encouragingly, while 59% of the UK cabinet went to public schools and 69% went to Oxbridge, the current SNP cabinet has no-one who went to public school nor anyone educated at Oxbridge. (All Stephen Maxwell).
    We genuinely can sell independence as the opportunity to introduce a new politics. I respectfully submit that women will be just as interested in having a healthily diverse political class as men.

  22. RossBoss says:

    I really don’t enjoy people talking about women like they are a stark minority instead of half the population. There were a lot of generalizations in the article which clump women into a set group. 
    Now granted it is true, just by the way men and women are there are tropes which both genders have. There is a problem for women in that most often men are associated with confidence, charisma, humor. These are less often associated with women and is part of the reason men are in more authoritative roles. Whether this is genetic or social is another issue.
    My point is that a man will rarely ever be associated with his gender, whereas a woman will be. Take for example a lead role in a film. If it is a man he will just be the main character, that the whole audience can relate to. He is a human being.  But if the main character is a woman then she is a ‘strong female character’, she has to be put up on a platform for merely being a woman. I think if we are really going to see true gender equality then we have to stop referencing every female achievement by their gender instead of the achievement itself. 
    Having said that, the Scottish Parliament is fairly even in terms of gender distribution, and Nicola Sturgeon will probably be one of our first Prime Ministers in an independent Scotland, so we seem to be getting somewhere in that area.

  23. Doug Daniel says:

    Great article, Cath.
    There’s one thing I don’t understand about trying to get women involved in politics, though. On the one hand, we’re told that certain spheres of life are the ones that women most care about – as you say, things like currency are a turn off, because female concerns tend to be things like welfare, heath and education. Yet on the other hand, I’ve seen people being chastised for trying to pigeonhole women’s concerns into “women’s issues”, and told that women have the same concerns as men.
    They can’t both be true. Either there are certain areas that are of most concern to women, therefore making it important that these issues are not regarded as being of secondary importance to things like defence; or there aren’t, and men and women both care about the same things. Little paradoxes like this seem to get in the way of doing something about the problem.
    Let’s hope we get to the bottom of it before the referendum comes round, though.

  24. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “I really don’t enjoy people talking about women like they are a stark minority instead of half the population. There were a lot of generalizations in the article which clump women into a set group. “

    The article is entitled “We are the 51%”. It’s hard to see how that presents women as any kind of “minority”. And as early as the fifth paragraph Cath notes “other women may disagree, we don’t all think the same”.

    Come on, readers, be better than this.

  25. cath says:

    “Do you really believe that men are not struggling with the same grinding poverty and confidence crippling realities that women in the same communities are? To me the structural exclusion in politics is not one of sex per se but more that the political class is a self selecting group that creates a political environment that only one type of person can live in.”
    That’s pretty much what the article was trying to say.
    Yes there are extreme example within it – labelled as such. But having worked in the CAB and living in the East End of Glasgow, they’re still reality for too many people. And what we’re talking about is more statistical biases, not a simple men v women which I agree isn’t helpful.
    Point is we have a great chance to engage people and hopefully change the system so it works better for all of us. But achieving that means as many people are possible need to be able to at least engage with the debate.

  26. panda paws says:

    I found this an interesting article, albeit one that raised as many questions as it answered. But without wanting to get too bogged down in gender politics, I note that the typical “woman” described was actually a wife/partner and mother. I wonder if the same observations about motivations and political conservatism (note the small c!) apply to the single and/or childless?
    Equally social class and education level are also important factors, as noted above in comments!
    I personally think women (of which I’m one!) are interested in politics, not the argy-bargy rhetoric of the Commons and the double dealing perhaps, but certainly in the consequences of political choices. One paper last week headlined that independence was 8th in a list of what concerned people in Scotland. What they didn’t mention was how many of the top seven were directly influenced by political policy.

  27. RossBoss says:

    “The article is entitled “We are the 51%”. It’s hard to see how that presents women as any kind of “minority”.”
    I don’t think you got what i was saying there.The way Cath describes women is almost like she is talking about an immigrant minority that is having trouble adjusting to their new country. But women are not some new group of society trying to fit in, they are part of the society. Absolutely there are issues for both genders that still cause divides, but articles like this just puts a line between men and women, and more over generalizes both genders. In other words it causes divisions.
    I appreciate the article, but I don’t think the topic should have been tackled in this way.

  28. Dozer says:

    Shouldn’t gender be irrelevant for a person’s views on Scottish independence, or anything at all for that matter? Speaking of women as if they were separate seems strange to me.

    I work in a world where women are normally in charge and given great authority and respect: hospitals. There’s a smattering of male nurses, and a few male administrators, but most of the responsible positions are held by women. I was part of a large church before I left the UK, led by a very remarkable woman (and where the majority of the leaders and staff were women). Come to think of it, my prime minister and state premier are both women too. Women in leadership is completely normal in my experience. It’s depressing to consider my experience as abnormal, to think I’ve been living in a privileged gender-neutral bubble. All I can say – I hope the bubble expands! It’s better here.

  29. RossBoss says:

    ‘Speaking of women as if they were separate seems strange to me.’
    This is kind of the point I am trying to make although I’m probably no articulating it well enough.
    My point is with women being being half the population, or the ‘51%’ you would think they would be much more integrated into society, but instead women are still seen as a ‘group’, like LGBT.

  30. CameronB says:

    @ FreddieThreepwood
    I am afraid that I have to pop out shortly, so I do not have the time to do justice to this article with my comment. However, your apparent satisfaction that there are no SG cabinet members educated privately, really was a disappointment. IMO it completely undermines the intellectual integrate of your previous contributions to WOS and makes no positive contribution to the debate. As you might have guessed, I am privately educated, though I achieved a scholarship in order to obtain one. This example of inverted snobbery points to a bigotry that I would not have imagined coming from yourself. As, I said, I can not stay to argue this point, but I would be happy to reply to any response you have, when I get back.

  31. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    I think this might be the most depressing comments thread ever. Cath’s excellent article deserved much better.

  32. Stevie says:

    Good piece and has given me a deal of insight into the female mindset — that said, these things ring true so I must be aware of it to a fair degree anyway.
    I will say, that as much as I agree with your article, I also think that women will have to grab the bull by the horns here and take an interest and decide what they prefer.  There is not much apparent interest in the refedrendum debate from women to date — mostly I find the male of the species online, yet those women that are present contribute richly.

    Apathy will be no excuse once the BritNat cuts start to gut everything women have held as their life style securities in the UK model.

    Time the fairer sex got with it — there may be lots of time but surely one could expect  bit more activity from the 51%. 

    Universal suffrage — dearly bought and not to be spent carelessly.

  33. Marcia says:

    Thanks Cath for the article.
    Woman have made great strides since  I started in politics in the 1950’s. Many of the posters on this thread will no doubt not  be born or were not adults when the Equal Pay Act of 1970 that came into force in 1975. You have no idea the gnashing of teeth of Industry and politicians who opposed this legislation. I have heard numerous talk about trying to get women involved in politics and alas don’t have the answer. Childcar, being a carer to parents et etc In the 1950’s woman were patronised if they took up politics. I had numerous arguements at branch of consitency meeting where it was assumed I was there to make tea. They were left in no doubt that I was not there as a servant but to campaign for Independence.
    When I first started canvassing all those decades ago one comment from the woman who answered the  door made me quite angry.  The reply in to my asking how she was going to vote was, ‘wait and i’ll ask my man’. I don’t think you hear that as much as we did.  

  34. megz says:

    I can only speak for myself as a woman and a mother, i dont understand why more women arent pro independence or interested in politics.  My main concern is financial security and my childrens future and under this union it looks bleak.  Westminster, regardless of hue of government, does not reflect my values in the slightest.  I dont want to see bedrooms being taxed, the most vulnerable distressed and forced into ATOS tests, wars all over the place.
    I want hope, i want better for my children and thats not going to come from being the union 

  35. cath says:

    “On the one hand, we’re told that certain spheres of life are the ones that women most care about – as you say, things like currency are a turn off, because female concerns tend to be things like welfare, heath and education. Yet on the other hand, I’ve seen people being chastised for trying to pigeonhole women’s concerns into “women’s issues”, and told that women have the same concerns as men.”
     Doug – by the nature of any article that looks at “differences between men and women” there will be generalisations. I hate that, and hope that came through in the article. For example I hate “womens fiction” and wouldn’t be seen dead reading anything with a pastel pink cover and stiletto heel on it! It bugs me no end that agents and publishers pigeon-hole “women” into one homogenous category of reader. Equally I despise women’s magazines and only ever read New Scientist and Private Eye.
    So I’m sure there are women out there who are fascinated by currency and EU negotiation tactics and would talk about them all day, while a man who’s life revolves around caring for a sick relative or who is at home all day looking after children, or who works in a field where he’s dealing with health and welfare issues will probably care passionately about them. As will many who don’t have direct experience of them.
    Men and women’s political interests aren’t “different”. If a man was hammered by a currency event, a woman would be too; where a woman is hit by a welfare change, so are men in the same position.
    In reality though, more women read womens’ magazines and books than men (I presume, unless men are hiding their copies of Woman’s Weekly in Playboy). And more women spend more of their time caring for children, relatives or working in caring jobs than men. And more men are politicians and managers, and in positions of power. Whether that’s due to power structures, barriers or choices I honestly don’t know. It’s not a conspiracy and I don’t think anyone’s suggesting it is.
    What does concern me is that, even as a fairly political type who doesn’t fit the female stereotype and enjoys a good debate, I often find it dry, technical and too testosterone-fuelled to feel comfortable with. The independence debate needs to be different and engage everyone, on whatever their own terms are. That won’t be a straight male/female divide and treating it that way is as dangerous as denying there are any differences.

  36. Stevie says:

    I haven’t read the comments thread — I agree, Cath has added something exeptional to our debate but I, as many may do, am somewhat confounded and even somewhat affeared of the prospects for independence for Scotland being stymied by what appears to be a deal of political complacency in the Scottish female population.

    I struggle to think of another country where women would show such apparent indifference to a political referendum on independence. 

    I am not blaming them — that is the language of losers, we have still to produce those arguments that appeal to the female population.

    And still, that said, I see women as exactly the same politically speaking as men and find the lack of interest disappointing. 

    This of course could be aimed at both sexes (and it is), yet women, if they wish to exact political change need to demand it.  Or, we enter the final stages of the Tory right-wing neoliberal master plan of privatising everything

  37. Marcia says:

    excuse the typo’s in my post above.
    One ancedote from when canvassing in the General Election of 1979: I knocked at the door and a man appeared to which I asked him politely if he would be voting for Gordon Wilson the SNP candidate? He said ‘No i’m Labour’.  I duly marked ‘against’ of my sheet and no sooner down the path when the wife of the household came dashing out and snatched the SNP poster from my hand and she went back muttering’ I’ll tell him i’m not voting Labour and neither is he’ and she slammed the door shut. The window poster was up within seconds.

  38. ianbrotherhood says:

    Should be of interest to pretty much everyone –

  39. cath says:

    Is there a word limit on posts Stu? I’m trying to respond to Doug but keep being blocked. Probably being too verbose…
    “I dont want to see bedrooms being taxed, the most vulnerable distressed and forced into ATOS tests, wars all over the place.”
    Totally agree. But one question, for example, would be how many people suffering under welfare changes understand the devolution settlement and which government is responsible for what? I suspect there is a huge education job to be done with people who have long since given up on politics in just explaining how things work now and how the two governments interact. People on the Yes side need to be explaining this to friends and relatives at every turn.

  40. Ron says:

    @ Peter A Bell
    “Positive discrimination is a powerful tool. And like any powerful tool it must be used appropriately and judiciously.”
    Completely agree. To me, the issue over quotas and positive discrimination is akin to the arguments over government intervention in (for example) an industry such as energy. Most of us outside the politically right wing would accept that government intervention in such an industry is required to encourage certain behaviours and actions, and change for want of a better word the ‘culture’.
    I know it’s not remotely the same thing, but positive discrimination and quotas work for the same reason as govt intervention – we don’t really want to be unfair on anyone, but intervention is sometimes required for the greater good, long term. If the only way to encourage and foster a more inclusive ‘culture’ in politics is quotas, then we should bite the bullet and make that change.
    If in the years to come we have a fairer society, with more equal representation between men and women, the quotas will be looked back on as important, not unfair on men.
    And don’t anyone take this as a literal comparison with racism, but we only have to look at the arguments used by many on the right in US today about race and education. Poor black kids are hugely less likely to get a decent education and go on to university, and the right attack the quotas used to try and encourage a change in culture, saying it discriminates against cleverer white kids. Possibly. Possibly. But without action, what will change?
    With Scottish politics, what will change with quotas? Hopefully a change in culture, an encouragement to think that any of us can do it, men or women, because politics will be seen to be no longer the preserve of middle aged white men. Surely a good thing.

  41. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Is there a word limit on posts Stu? I’m trying to respond to Doug but keep being blocked. Probably being too verbose…”

    No limit that I’m aware of. There was a whole ton of Microsoft Internet Explorer codespew in there that Akismet might have been objecting to. Have approved the comment manually now from the spam filter.

  42. Stevie says:

    So, I’ve read the thread — I see positives from the male contributors in that they see women as being no different from men in the sense of rights etc. and on that I agree but I see a distinct lack of understanding (or perhaps the expression of that) from some on the value of this article.

    I will be quite honest and thank Cath for having availed me of some insight into the female perception of the political situation in Scotland.

    Clearly, we have to go to them, a reticent is not a participant.  There is no use saying we’re all equal and that’s it.  It isn’t it apparently.  There is a major gap between where women are and where men are in the debate wrt polling.

    We are evidently not the same as far as our interests and concerns — we have to address that and get focus groups to find out what we need to do.

    Today’s article by Lesley Riddoch in the Scotsman actually provides some answers.  I think womrn are going to have to provide the solution because men aren’t judging by things so far.

    If the whole thing is down to more apathy from the fairer sex then fine — they won’t vote; if it’s down to feeling excluded from the political process then we’d better include them and be quick about it.

  43. I’m saddened and (a little) shocked that so many men here are missing the point of this article and instead trying to pick apart the gender issues that inspired it. There are endless statistics giving evidence of gender disparities and ongoing sexism and just because we might not have personal experience of them does not mean they do not exist.

    However this is not the place to start that particular debate, we are here to discuss independence and Cath’s article is a very welcome insight into why a large part of the population is lagging in its support. If we are to win this campaign is is vitally important that this issue is addressed. I look forward to further, more sensible discussions of this topic.

  44. FreddieThreepwood says:

    @ Cameron B
    I’m afraid you’ve missed my point entirely but since the Rev is already getting stroppy about the standard/relevance of this thread I won’t spell it out here. (But less of the ‘bigot’ old chap, eh?)

  45. ayemachrihanish says:

    Cath, enjoyed your contribution. As can be seen lots of people don’t understand that we are all EQUALLY capable. It is not (or shouldn’t be) about gender competition. Definitely we need to bring together Peter’s two why questions and then get quickly to answers and an understanding that facilitate, even more quickly, access and integration to all civic roles for woman (and men) based on equality of capability. That should be the aim. Separately, If anyone is looking for a civic role that men choose not to participate in – then have a look at primary school education. There’s a discrepancy. Is it really true that men can’t teach P1 to 5’s or is it just they can’t be assed with the other stuff and choice not too?

  46. Marcia says:

    Women may fear change and this could be the crux of the matter. However change is being forced on them from Westminster and this should be publisised more that it is at present. A change that you won’t like  will happen if you vote NO. Mothers with teenage children should be targetted to remind them of no tuition fees and if you vote NO then the present No tuition fees pledge will  be scrapped if Labour got back into power.

  47. DMW42 says:

    They’ll be persuaded by people who understand their lives and situations and how the politics of independence fits into these, who understand their fears and needs and show how these can be addressed…should be about empowerment, greater democracy and better governance.
    Cath, I’ve taken the liberty of extracting and combining two sentances from your (very good) article. This, to me, sums up exactly what the debate on our future should be about, no matter what gender, age or political persuasion.

  48. Jeannie says:

    Thanks Cath.  I enjoyed your article and, as usual, you’ve got me thinking (which, as Mr Jeannie has occasionally pointed out, is not necessarily a good thing).
    We’re wondering why women appear, at the moment at least, to be either less in favour of independence or more actively opposed to it than are men and thus discussing how to engage women more in the debate.  Such polling results puzzle me too.  But there again, I’m asking myself the question, “When you say women are less in favour, WHICH women do you mean?” How do the figures break down when you take into consideration age, social status,professional employment/manual employment, slef-employment, non-employment/retired, age of children, location of residence, married/single, even ethnicity, etc.  I think if we could break down the figures better, we might get some insight as to the nature of the conundrum.  And with which women are the pollsters speaking?  Do they make sure their sample is balanced enough to take these factors into account or do they just speak to women at random?
    For example, to quote the point Marcia was making with respect to how some women vote, I was amazed to find out, when I got married in the 80s, that my new mother-in-law, an intelligent, highly-competent working class woman, well able to think for herself, always voted according to how her husband voted, irrespective of her own views.  Why did she do this?  Tradition,  that’s all.  Had she lived, she would have been in her eighties.  Now, she would have had the same concerns as many of today’s much younger women, e.g. children, welfare, education, health……but policies in these areas would not be the deciding factor for her, whereas it might well be for her daughters and granddaughters.  Clearly, a different approach might be required in her case.
    And, as we’re an ageing population, what proportion of female voters will be in a given category, e.g. retired?  And, as men generally die earlier, is the higher proportion of older female voters skewing the results of voting intention amongst women?  Is the older woman more cautious than the younger woman?  Is there enough of them to matter in terms of the results?
    I don’t know the answers to any of these questions……maybe scottish skier does……but the point I’m trying to make is that women are not an homogeneous group and further analysis is required before a strategy to engage them more in the political process can be devised.

  49. Nikostratos says:

    For too many women, especially in deprived areas, life is a constant struggle that would put men’s political “fights” in the shade. One in four women in the UK suffer abuse, to take an extreme example. For them, speaking out and having the “wrong” opinion may still carry a risk of verbal or even physical violence. Too many are used to picking up the pieces from their men’s grand schemes: the horse that was a dead cert but fell at the first leaving no money for the rest of the week; the wage packet blown down the pub in one evening; the bloke who swore he’d be around forever and left at the first nappy change.
    you for real?? extreme or fanciful who gets a wage packet with cash in any more
    do you actually know any working class men or women perhaps thats why you use
    vague statistics and not personal experience of those who you condescendingly
    talk down to. 

  50. ianbrotherhood says:

    Just a quickie (before Niko gets both barrels from all and sundry). Check this out – a sign of the times or what?

  51. Braco says:

    Dear Rev Stu,
    please accept my apologies and thanks. I will certainly try to do as you ask in future.

  52. Stevie says:

    One is left somewhat worried after thinking about it.  The logical progression from women not being as involved in society’s political parties suggests that this is a conditioning for many from youth through to adulthood. 

    If the conditioning is deep enough then there may be little we can do to engage the relatively apathetic female population members into the debate.  If they have been turned off since childhood then what is to be done?

    That said, if they are voting NO, are they engaged for the NOs ?
    Questions — not much use, we need answers and we need them yesterday.

    As I said, we’d better get our butts in gear and get them those policies they want and put them loudly on the table.

    If we don’t offer motivation in the shadow of Tory excesses then we can’t really say we did all we could.  Here is where I disagree with Cath’s upbeat conclusion that women will naturally take more time and wander onto the politics in their own time.

    Make it happen – it won’t happen by itself.

  53. Stevie says:

    I’m troubled now — sleepless night ahead

  54. Braco says:

    Now that would make one storming poster! Unbelievable. Sadsadsadweething

  55. Jeannie says:

    Niko- what a beautiful and timely illustration of why women are turned off the debate.  Thank you.

  56. ianbrotherhood says:

    It was someone here on WoS (maybe Vronsky??) who made a comment about someone putting their granny in cashconverters – this is very close, well, putting ‘part’ of a loved one, or oneself…bizarre.

  57. Braco says:

    don’t fret so (weesmily). Is there any evidence that women are significantly less likely to vote than men? We are only at the beginning of a long, long build up to what is after all a political event. We politico types are already revving, but most see it way, way, away on the horizon and are quite frankly bored with a lot of the coverage in their papers and MSM of something they don’t see as relevant YET.
    Imagine this kind of detailed dry political coverage being given to a general election 2 years before a decision was to be allowed to be taken on it. Bored? I would say so. As the event comes closer and we start to get into the usual timescale between political discussion and the actual political vote which the general electorate are well used to, stand back and just watch the debate take light!

    I really think this event will capture the entire populations imagination but only when it’s exciting possibilities and consequences are imminent. This is such a rare event and of a very different one off political flavour that the gender issues being discussed here I really believe will be peripheral to it.

    My fears are that the very real issues in this article will remain unaddressed post YES simply due to the structural issues of self selection inherent in our current political party system.

  58. mogabee says:

     Womens’Reasons to be Non-political –
      Lack of confidence.  Not wanting to be embarrassed in front of others.  Not enough knowledge of what being “political” actually is. Too little time to spend on issues due to family commitments. Feeling that no-one listens. Complaining and getting nowhere. No time. “Wouldn’t know where to start”. Embarrassment!!
     I asked 4 female friends and these were the main issues. I’ve had a serious talk with my 12yr old daughter!

  59. orpheuslyre says:

    By coincidence, Yougov have an article today arguing that (in a UK wide sense) women and men vote very much the same way. There is a small difference in respect of health but otherwise there’s little to choose.

    If that is true, and if we can legitimately carry over from UK attitudes,  then, since the independence question invariably marks an identifiable M/F divide, surely it makes getting to the real reasons why all the more pressing (and kudos to Cath for having a honest shot at trying to work through it).

  60. Peter says:

    Firstly why are you scared to use the word SEX!!!  Words have gender, people don’t.
    Secondly the only reason women may currently make up 51% of the population is due to the higher rate of preventable deaths among men. Nothing to be proud of, or a triumph for womankind.
    Thirdly quotas are wrong. Equality of opportunity does not and never can mean equality of outcome. Only on planet Hateman.
    Fourthly. I hate feminists. Any group who claim that all men are rapists and child abusers until proven guilty  have no right to exist.

  61. Braco says:

    Why so angry?

  62. CameronB says:

    @ FreddieThreepwood
    As far as missing your point entirely, I can not see any other way of interpreting your comments, other than a disgraceful example of realpolitik. As such, I stand as I called it. If you are not happy with this, then perhaps you would be kind enough to explain how I have misunderstood you.

  63. velofello says:

    Nice article Cath and many supportive comments.

  64. Albamac says:

    Thanks, Cath, for a well-written and thought-provoking article.
    On the subject of exclusion, I can tell you that I’ve been excluded, in one way or another, many times.
    When I was seven years old, my parents fell on hard times and my family was socially excluded.  Friends and relatives were, suddenly, very thin on the ground.  When the perks ran out, they followed.
    When I left school, at fifteen, I quickly discovered that if your future wasn’t Orange you didn’t have one.  A Scottish phenomenon best demonstrated by my wife’s experience of it.  In the week before Christmas of 1962 she was sacked for singing ‘Adeste Fidelis’ at work.  The company, a very large concern and a major employer, was Jewish-owned but the hirers and firers were Orangemen.  My wife is Protestant.  She just liked the Latin version of ‘Come All Ye Faithful’.  Of course, where the Orangemen are concerned, membership the ‘All Ye Faithful’ group has major exclusions and my wife wouldn’t have had a job there in the first place if she hadn’t fulfilled the strictest condition.
    Much later in life I studied with the Open University.  I was a straight A’s student for two years before I was, finally, persuaded to attend a study group.  The Professor and I had come to know each other through course assignments and, when the study session began, he invited my to kick things off.  There were four women in the group.  Three of them young teachers and the fourth a well known, published author.  As soon as the Professor had introduced me, one of the young ‘educators’ welcomed me with, “Ooh, aren’t we lucky to have two tutors?” and, as the session progressed, all three joined forces in smart-arsed mockery and insult.  Eventually, the Professor stood up and intervened.  The author remained silently aloof throughout.
    Earlier in the course, one of my tutors had written to me advising that I should apply for a place at Glasgow University.  She said that I was putting more into the Open University than I was getting out.  After the group session, I agreed with that assessment.  I never went back and I didn’t apply for a place anywhere else.  I didn’t need formal education.  What I needed was a place to exchange and investigate ideas. My tutors had done an excellent job of fulfilling that need, but fellow students, thinking that I had risen above my station, killed my enthusiasm stone dead.
    All of the above should help to explain why the thing that I detest most about life, so far, in Scotland is the clique but, unfortunately, large and small, they exist at every level of Scottish society.
    We can talk, endlessly, about in-groups and out-groups as if their existence has nothing to do with ‘us’ but every group starts with a membership of one and we’ll do anything rather than accept personal responsibility for those social ills that ‘we’ can so easily attribute to ‘them’.
    Where and how do women fit into a ‘man’s’ world?  I wonder how many times I’ve heard and read that since I was pushing a pram around Govan in the sixties.  Why are we, still, directing the question at those in power when the accusing finger points at those who confer power upon them?  That would be us, wouldn’t it?

  65. the rough bounds says:

    Well, as someone who began canvassing round doors for independence in the sixties I can only say that I have never been able to understand women, and that’s a fact.
    Went to one door (in 1965) and canvassed the woman who answered about voting SNP and i got, ”Ah’ll need tae wait till ma man comes in tae see whit we’re daein”’
    Mention Emily Pankhurst and you get a shrug. Further discussion is futile.
    Meet an old work colleague in Tesco’s  (January 2013) who spots your Yes Scotland badge and asks if you have a spare one. I reach into my pocket: ”Of course” i say; ”here you are.”
    His wife then chirps in with ”No. He’s not getting it. It’ll just cause arguments. I’m going to vote No, and so is our daughter.”
    Further discussion if futile.
    One thing I DO know about women; they absolutely HATE to be analysed.

  66. Jen says:

    Cath, thank you for the article, I found it interesting and informative.  Among my own friends, none are politically active however many are aware of issues in the environment.  Most of my pals will be voting yes and one might say they are from high education and working class backgrounds with current professional level jobs.    Most with 1 or 2 kids, 
    My mum arrived in Scotland in the 70’s, she couldn’t read so relied on my father for all information and dissection of the “news”.  However, given where she came from she was never likely to vote for the British state.  In addition, my whole family voted SNP for one single issue: Independence as the only route to a better and socially just Scotland, no other policy or issue ever mattered.  Not even to get the tories out in the 90’s. 
    I think women today are more media savvy with high levels of information readily available and many traditions such as voting as the family does or as the husband  says are dying out.   Women are more empowered than ever before as access to other women and their views is available. I believe this is increasing sharing of information and knowledge. 

    I never read “women’s fiction”, I prefer Private Eye, The Economist however I do like cooking magazines!  One guilty pleasure.   And again, many of my friends are similiar, sometimes in polling I get the impression that some woman just say no without thinking because it’s easier, just in case they have to explain it.   Time is precious if you have kids, caring duties and hair and nail appointments! 
    Please write more articles, you have a good style with writing and I would love to hear more of your thoughts and opinions on women’s issues and independence.   Again, thanks. 

  67. Albamac says:

    Two things that concern me most are nothing to do with politics.
    Why did she give you an open door and why did she tell you that ‘her man’ was absent?

  68. Mac 48 says:

    I agree with almost everything you said Cath and it is vital for women to have the confidence to vote for independance, You hit the nail on the head towards the end of your article,
    ‘What positive change could independence mean to women who are carers? To mothers? To nurses? What risks do they run and how can these be mitigated? What risks are there with the status quo?’
    An independant Scotland that has a truly pluralistic political system/ society would remove a lot of the concerns you voiced. The reality is that this aim will not happen quickly but if it is made clear by the yes campaigners that this is the ultimate aim, and there are numerous social and economic policies that have been put in place by the SNP that support this view, then this may sway a lot of woman voters. The alternative is the staus quo.
    Remaining as part of the UK with Westminster holding the purse strings holds many more risks as Westminister policies are certainly not aimed at empowering the general populace or supporting most individuals or groups within society.
    Like many people I am completely fedup, disillusioned and generally p****** off by the current politics of fear climate. Thus I am loathe to encourage anyone to resort to pointing out the negative but the next time you get the ‘scornful look’ point out the economic and social burdens that the status quo, masterminded by Westminster, is piling on to families. As you pointed out this burden ultimately falls, primarily at the feet of the home economist and realistically this is women. You could then of course point out that a newly independant Scotland could ease those burdens by accelerating the aims to be more supportive, inclusive and democratic.
    Sometimes the only thing the disillusioned have left is hope and the independance vote gives everyone in Scotland hope.

  69. CameronB says:

    Thank you Cath, for having a go at this one. Sorry for going from 0 to 60 in under 3 earlier, yesterday. If there is one thing I can not tolerate.
    The lack of f/m equality has been with us since the beginning of human society, as has the conditioning of life experience Stevie alluded to. Back in the day, the roles played by each sex, in meeting the basic needs to survive, were largely shaped by biological factors (winkywinky). Things worked out pretty well and babies were born and food surpluses were produced, and more babies, and more babies, and so began the process of urbanisation. Next thing you know, some daft git on a horse is telling you that you owe him rent. So we had Manorial feudalism for a while. Help, help, I’m being oppressed. Come see the violence inherent in the system.
    Manorial society was the predominant form of social organisation for around 5000 thousand years, if you include the Chinese who thought of it first. And you couldn’t, shouldn’t, won’t be able to forget the Chinese. Manorial society was not a particularly liberal form of social structure or management, but it did establish proto-corporate bodies, in the form of feudal estates. These were not the good kind of proto-corpotate bodies, they were the bad sort. They were monopolistic by design and generally run by some git on a horse. He, notice he, controlled all the factors of production as well as the daily movements of the peoples lucky enough to live on his land. For this privilege, said peasants were required to pay some form of rent to their feudal landlord.
    Despite some git formerly on a horse getting his head chopped off, a new parliment, a new git and new parliament, a couple of centuries of mercantilism, the industrial revolution, the birth of capitalism, economic and political reforms, a 20th century dominated by two world wars, and perpetual war so far this century, we haven’t really moved on very far in terms of popular access to capital and land tenure. Yet the vast majority of us are still driven by the need to pay rent of some kind. Is it any wonder there isn’t social equality let alone sexual equality? And I haven’t even gotten in to the psychological aspects of the urbanisation process, which frankly I am not going to bore anyone with at this time of night.
    If there is empirical evidence that suggests minimal f/m difference in previous voting participation, I don’t think there is a serious reason to panic. I am sure women are as equally concerned as men are about their future, so why would they pass up on the opportunity to gain easier access to capital and security of tenure? And this will undoubtedly be possible to bring about, if we vote Yes. Once you have these basic needs sorted out, you can think about what else you might want to do apart from generating income to pay rent. There is still a way to go yet and folk generally focus on large things in front of them, like gits on horses. So is there any hope that we will come up with the answers bltl, to a problem that might not exist?
    I offer to make a £25 pound donation to the kitty, made in the name of the person(s) that guess correctly, the one deliberate mistake I made and the two omissions.

  70. Vronsky says:

    Excellent piece, Cath.  On a more optimistic note, my American wife always intended to vote No, although she was charmed by the thought that she had a vote.  I have never debated with her but she has gradually wound round to becoming a Yes.  What has changed her mind is hearing friends who she was sure would vote No announcing the opposite.  In other words, Yes is becoming normalised while No is starting to sound silly – even among women.
    On minorities, best answer is to stop having elections and select your parliament at random.  By the natural laws of statistics all interests and genders will be proportionately represented. There will be fewer than 1% millionaires instead of 100%, fewer than 1% public schoolboys instead of 100%,  fewer than 1% Oxbridge types instead of, what, 70%? and 0% career politicians.  There will be some unprincipled bastards and a few idiots, but only at their rate of appearance in the broad population – which is very much less than the present system allows.

  71. Amanayeman says:

    @ Albamac @rough bounds.
    I have no idea what type of canvassing you may have done but I can assure you that the experience rough bounds had was not out of the ordinary.
    As to your questioning why he got an open door and why she would say her man wasn’t  in  you cannot have done much or indeed any canvassing in the west of Scotland in the sixties or seventies. It was normal then to open ones door when someone knocked on it and normal to make comment about whether the man of the house was in or not. “He’s no in” and “come back when ma hubbies in” were common. I also got ” ‘Am SNP but he’s labour”
    On an up to date note (Dec. 2012 ) during a conversation with a group of women when I said my YES badge was for the referendum One woman said ” well I think it’s rubbish” and walked away another said that Alex Salmond wants to get rid of the queen and refused to have any further discussion the third one said that she didn’t know enough about it and anyway she wasn’t political while the fourth said she was all for YES and appologised for her rude friends.
    Make of that what you will. Me? I haven’t the skill, the time nor the inclination to try and figure it all out. I will continue to feel a good question would be ” Do you think Scotland should be independent or are you a loony?”

  72. Beamer says:

    Really great article Cath, shared.
    Also interested in the response by Vronsky on the random representation of the population in our parliaments – excellent point and quite radical but could work on perhaps a Regional List basis like a Jury Service call-up as an introduction with party candidates still used as local representatives too.  I think a parliament with less party affiliations and more issue-based alliances would engage the electorate much more than the Westminster system and even the PR system in Holyrood. Certainly got me thinking!

  73. meljomur says:

    I really like this article, but again I can’t relate. (Well perhaps I can a bit more now that I live in Scotland, at this momentous time).
    I have always been VERY political. I first ran for Student Council when I was 13. I went on to become the President of my senior class (age 17). I was active in politics all through college. I attend political rallies and marches for causes I believe in.  I now take my young son with me, so that he too will develop some of passion I have for politics.
    But I have to say, it IS different in this country. I’m American, and women in the US tend to be fairly active in politics. They also tend to vote more progressively than American men.  
    So when I hear and read (and experience) political apathy amongst women in Scotland, it does perplex me.  It also, frustrates me to an extent. Now I know I am extreme in my passion for politics (I have even been recently included in a new Twitter/political nerd meetup of folks in Edinburgh). But when I talk to female friends and family about current Scottish politics (especially pertaining to the Indy debate), I am stunned at how little they know.  I mean here are actual Scottish and British women, who I would expect to be VERY interested in this referendum, and they know so little about it. Except the vote is sometime in 2014.  
    Anyway, as a woman I need to try to understand that not every woman has the same background I have. I need to try to engage with other women on their terms.  But I have to confess, as much as I enjoyed Cath’s article here, I can not fully identify.  However I do now have a better understanding. 

  74. Braco says:

    You are bang on the money! I have always felt that if we trust a jury to make life changing decisions to individuals lives and the legal system why not use the same principle for government? I had the same thought way back at the beginning of this thread but you have expressed it so much better than I did.

    On Cath’s article and the comments, I too have been mulling it over all last night and seem to be coming to a more optimistic conclusion than most as well.

    My view is that women just happen to make up a larger percent of the current electorate that don’t have the time or inclination to be fully engaged in the debate (not unreasonable considering there is still almost 2 years to go!). Like most of the electorate they have everyday worries and priorities and this referendum is way, away on the horizon and not relevant YET.

    As such, and just like the rest of the soft NO vote apparent in the polls at the moment, they are simply NO by default and won’t change until the arguments are engaged with. When the excitement of the possibilities and consequences of the vote become imminent, I feel sure that all will get more than engaged in the debate. 
    Women will be convinced by just the same sound arguments that the rest of the soft NO vote will be. It is just that certain groups in society (of which women seem to make up a disproportionate part) will only come to engage in the argument late, probably during the 16 week final campaigning period.

    They will still be swung by the facts, arguments and enthusiasms of the YES campaign and equally repelled by the lack of hope and imagination inherent in the NO campaigns pitch. Just that bit later than most, that’s all.  Am I being sensible or hopelessly optimistic? (maybe both! smilleywink)

  75. cath says:

    ” I’m American, and women in the US tend to be fairly active in politics.”
    That’s something that really interests me Meljomur – I was thinking about it during the US elections. The US is also a very polarised, hostile political environment. So if the conclusion is that turns women off here, why would it not be the same in the US?
    Is it perhaps that politics in the US works at a more local level, so women feel included because they are working within their own communities, at a more grassroots level? Where here we don’t really have “local” politics so much – not that people feel they can engage with? Or is there something different about political education there? Any ideas?

  76. Albamac says:

    amanayeman writes:
    I have no idea what type of canvassing you may have done but I can assure you that the experience rough bounds had was not out of the ordinary.
    As to your questioning why he got an open door and why she would say her man wasn’t  in  you cannot have done much or indeed any canvassing in the west of Scotland in the sixties or seventies. It was normal then to open ones door when someone knocked on it and normal to make comment about whether the man of the house was in or not
    I wasn’t talking about canvassing, amanayeman.  I was making a general observation about being cautious when strangers call.  Like I said, it had nothing to do with politics.
    I mentioned the sixties in a remark about ‘pushing a pram’. It was an oblique reference to the ‘new man’ nonsense that some dope dreamed up, decades later, in an attempt to separate the ‘good’ guys, those who were ‘in touch with their feminine side’, from the bad.  I took my first pram-driving lessons soon after my younger sister was born in 1953.  A joyful experience that was repeated when my wife and I welcomed the arrival of our first child, just twelve years later.
    It looks like I’ve gone way off the topic, but my point is that none of us signs up to anything when we’re born. In later life, some of us find it necessary to form or join associations.  In my view, our reasons for doing so are seldom altruistic and it strikes me strange that so many social animals are attracted to ‘societies’ whose aims are overtly anti-social.
    Now, before this comment turns into the first draft for an article, let’s look at the elephant.
    How does it come about that women are discriminated against by a species, including some female members of that species, that couldn’t exist without them?  Is it a global suicide pact?
    Apart from its absurdity, the most striking feature of discrimination against women, is the absence of boundaries. That may not be uniquely universal since, if we’re ever stuck, we’ll always have the poor, to spit on!  Just take a look at how well Westminster is managing that message and how much support its getting from all those ‘decent’, ‘hard-working’ volk!
    Prejudice, Indifference, Stupidity and Hatred – whit c’n ye dae?

  77. Vronsky says:

    Women tend to know when the chips are down, and recognise more readily than men that something uncomfortable has to be done.  Remember the Battle of the Braes.
    Oh had he come wi’ fifty men
    He could not pass that day,
    For all the women from the Braes
    Went out to bar the way.

  78. meljomur says:

    Is it perhaps that politics in the US works at a more local level, so women feel included because they are working within their own communities, at a more grassroots level? Where here we don’t really have “local” politics so much – not that people feel they can engage with? Or is there something different about political education there? Any ideas?
    Hi Cath,
    Perhaps local politics is a bigger deal in the US. My mother has always been pretty active in politics, so I suspect she had a big influence on me growing up.
    Politics is VERY divided in the US. But right or left, more people than I think the media cares to acknowledge do have strong opinions about it.  Of course it doesn’t always translate to active participation, but like I said perhaps my experience is a bit more extreme.
    But it’s NOT considered at all weird for a woman to be politically active in the US. In fact in all my experience of American politics, I have always found myself working far more with women than with men.
    I am wondering if there may be an age factor in Scotland. I think (well hope) that the younger generation are much more interested and involved (both men and women) than people over 40.
    This is what gives me much optimism about a YES vote, is the younger generation. I have hope they want more for their future than what is on offer in Westminster!

  79. cath says:

    I totally fail to understand why anyone wouldn’t want more for their future than what is on offer in Westminster 🙂

  80. AnneDon says:

    Hi Cath. Another very interesting article. Like you, I’ve never considered myself a feminist. To me, feminism in a capitalist state simply means I’ve being exploited by women bosses as well as men (!). And I’m certainly not taking to the barricades so that women can fight in the front line of the Armed Forces!  I move back and forth between thinking class politics or feminism are more important.  

    And, while I don’t agree that women are more ‘hostile’ to independence than men. (Whatever the polls say), I agree that we need to reach out to people who are not normally engaged in politics.

    Like many women, the political engagements of my single years ended when my son was born. In fact, Yes Scotland is the first activity I’ve been involved in for more than a decade, as family commitments have taken more precedence.

    We need to get involved;  we also need to change the terms of activity. I spent years in musty meeting rooms while male egos tussled, and you were lucky if one concrete decision was taken, but I’d lost a Sunday afternoon! And I don’t plan to do that any more!  I hope we can use the technology that’s available to make political activity more immediate.

    As co-ordinator of my group, I’m trying to encourage members of our group to take a lead in the areas they have expertise, either geographically, or in a particular field, eg electoral registration, organising fund-raisers, whatever we are doing.  Being able to e-mail round between meetings means we can be a bit quicker with matters which arise.

    I think it is a way of working that takes us away from ‘Points of Order’ and ‘The Committee’, and lets us get out and engage people.  And it’s also a way of working where those involved can get active and feel they are contributing to the cause, whether they are women or other disaffected members of the community. If people can only commit to one evening every couple of weeks, they don’t want to spend it debating procedural matters!

    Sorry this comment has gone on so long! However, I think a few people on the thread don’t realise that this is a chance to launch a new politics. We’ll only do that if we make it possible for different types of people to get involved.       

  81. AnneDon says:

    By the way, Rev Stu. Normally I agree with you, but I would take issue with you on the point of quotas.

    John Smith introduced female-only lists in order to make the Labour Party in Parliament more representative. That single act, although it had to be dropped after men complained they were being discriminated against, did more to equalise the numbers in Parliament than anything else. 

    The only way to end gender discrimination is to be proactive.

    IMHO, of course. 🙂     

  82. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “That single act, although it had to be dropped after men complained they were being discriminated against, did more to equalise the numbers in Parliament than anything else.”

    That’s great, if you assume that equal numbers is automatically a good thing and that no good MPs were replaced with inferior ones purely on the grounds of their genitalia. I don’t care if every single MP is a woman, as long as they’re all the best person for the job.

  83. BillyBigbaws says:

    I find the disconnection from everyday political debate among women (which I’ve experienced myself, albeit as a man) a bit strange, given the pivotal role they have played in all the major strikes and industrial disputes of our recent history. From the Singer Sewing Factory strike, to the Glasgow rent strikes of the First World War period (led only in part by John McLean), to the Miner’s Strikes of the Seventies and Eighties, and even the Poll Tax revolt – women were at the forefront of all these things, as well as in vital supporting roles.

    I just watched Harlan County USA, an excellent documentary (available free online) about the bloody and brutal actions taken by the Duke Power Company against Kentucky coal miners and their families in the early 70s. The women in this film were far more organized and vocal than their men – who were often wholly exhausted by the horrendous working conditions imposed on them – and were in fact the first to call for retaliatory violence against the company’s hired gun-thugs.

    It left me unreceptive to the idea that women are somehow inherently afraid of change, or of upheaval, or of expressing an opinion. All they need is to realise now, as they did then, that the outcome of this seemingly abstract political power-game will affect them and their families directly. Very directly.

    Of course, if you mention the Glasgow rent strikes or the Singer Sewing factory – nevermind the Kentucky coalfields – to most women nowadays (and men too) you’ll get a blank look. This is another way in which our collective history has been suppressed, with the contribution of women perhaps being the most consistently overlooked part of the various labour struggles.

    I also heard a woman talking recently about the aftermath of the 1984 Miner’s Strike, she mentioned how during the strike some feminist writers appropriated them as icons, and they were hailed as exemplars for the final liberation of working class women. She said something like: “After it ended we went back to our kitchens and they forgot all about us. Nothing changed for us.”

    If independence is to appeal to women, then it will have to offer them something, something real, a “change they can believe in ” if you will.

    I know what independence offers me, and what it offers Scotland, but if I was a woman with kids in Niddrie (especially one who watched TV news) then the rewards would probably appear a lot less substantial at present, and the risks would look more substantial too.

    A bit of a rambling, pointless post there, sorry, but the point is – everybody should watch Harlan County USA.

  84. ianbrotherhood says:

    Don’t forget the role of women in the Glasgow Rent Strikes of 1915.
    History about to repeat with this Better-Together Bedroom-Tax? Maybe women are loathe to get involved in polls and debate, and prefer to DO whatever they have to as and when there’s no recourse – if so, we’ll soon find out about it big-time.

  85. Peter A Bell says:

    If that happened then it was not the fault of quotas per se, but of implementation of a quota system that was not fit for purpose.

  86. Albamac says:

    Rev. Stuart wrote:
    “on the grounds of their genitalia”
    I didn’t think I’d got any grounds with mine, until my attention was drawn to a smallholding  some time later. 🙂

  87. cath says:

    Good post Ann. I think a lot of people – myself included – have become political for the first time as a result of the referendum. And I’m sure more will over time.

    Billy: “It left me unreceptive to the idea that women are somehow inherently afraid of change, or of upheaval, or of expressing an opinion.”

    I don’t think women are at all. As you point out, when it comes down to it, it is often women who really drive the change. From the rent strikes to, say Rosa Parks, who single-handedly had an effect on race laws. She sat on the “wrong” seat on the bus because she was tired and felt it was injust she couldn’t.

    I suspect that’s the key with a lot of women. Most are very busy, and are incredibly strong in ways men don’t quite understand. Many may not have the time or inclination to bother with politics in the way men do: all the talk over pints, debate, resolutions etc. But when they really want something done, they’ll go out and do it.

    I’m now thinking of that scene in Life of Brian where all the men are sitting round making and seconding resolutions to “do something” and the woman just screams and goes and does it.

  88. The Man in the Jar says:

    It has taken till now to read your post and accompanying comments. It’s a pity some were a bit negative. Just to say that it was food for thought. Also I have come to the conclusion that women will forever confuse my small male brain.
    I hope you post again.

  89. ianbrotherhood says:

    @Cath –
    Here’s a weird one.
    Our boy, who’s S2, was getting in a bit of a state cause he had to do a talk to his class, a slide-show about his selected topic. He’d selected it from a shortlist. We didn’t know anything about it until the night-before (as usual) – he asked if he could try it out in front of us, would we time it, fill in the feedback form etc.
    Turns out he’d picked Rosa Parks, had already done a lot of research in school, prepared his images. It was all pretty dry, he was having bother finding something to make it seem current, relevant. After another couple of hours tinkering about with the script and the order of the images, he did it again, but still wasn’t happy.
    Then we realised that the next day was Feb 4th – it would’ve been Rosa Parks’ 100th birthday.
    What’re the chances of that?!

  90. Albamac says:

    “Then we realised that the next day was Feb 4th – it would’ve been Rosa Parks’ 100th birthday.”
    Serendipity, Ian.  Magic!

  91. ianbrotherhood says:

    @Albamac –
    Absolutely. It is a kind of magic (cue Queen, Highlander etc). Stuff like that makes you feel there’s so much going on beneath the surface of what we’re concerned with, and even then, we’re bound by language, always restricted, susceptible to misunderstanding. It’s a minefield.
    But then, something like that happens – it’s like ‘God’ wiggling his toes at the bottom of the curtain, but when you turn to focus, it’s all changed again, there’s a different backdrop. Weirder still, I had to study the whole Rosa Parks episode just two, three years ago, and got right into it, but had never ever discussed it with my boy. Now, it’s something we have ‘in common’ at a time when father/son discussions are getting that wee bit more difficult. It leads into discussion about politics/race/identity/history etc, and that’s before even beginning to address what we’re exploring on these threads.
    I know it’s had detractors, but for me, right now, the whole Curriculum for Excellence project is working out just fine…selfish, I know, but true all the same. No way I could’ve discussed stuff like that with my Dad at that age.
    And a wee bit serendipity/synchronicity/kismet does no harm either…I Ching, anyone?

  92. CameronB says:

    As Brits. we haven’t really had a lot of experience interacting with the democratic process, least of all women. Not in relation to the depth of cultural learning acquired without representation. Men have only enjoyed universal suffrage since 1918 and women since 1928. The Representation of the People Act of 1948 removed multiple voting rights, and extended suffrage to local elections (apart for NI). Perhaps any difference in polling reflects this. Along with lots of other things of course.

  93. BillyBigbaws says:

    Cath said: “I suspect that’s the key with a lot of women. Most are very busy, and are incredibly strong in ways men don’t quite understand. Many may not have the time or inclination to bother with politics in the way men do: all the talk over pints, debate, resolutions etc. But when they really want something done, they’ll go out and do it.”

    Aye, that’s well said. On one of my favourite forums where independence is debated we have just concluded (I hope) a twenty page discussion of whether or not Scotland was legally “extinguished” in 1707, and what effect this might have on the maritime boundaries, with the whole lot of us – men of course – trying to act like we are expert constitutional and international lawyers. It’s hard to imagine any woman (or, indeed, any human being) getting enthusiastic about this stuff. Referendums aren’t court cases, they can’t be won that way.

    The women of Harlan County were fighting for the safety of their men, who were (after all) the fathers of their children, and for the futures of those children. I feel we are fighting for the same thing here – all we want is a country that is fairly governed, that looks after it’s people to the best of it’s abilities, and that our children won’t have to leave in droves, as they do at present. The UK is not that country, and it shows no desire to change.

    It seems we might be failing (so far) to get this message across to women, despite all the help we’ve been getting from the Tories.

    @ CameronB, good point! It shouldn’t be forgotten that the UK has only been recognisable as an attempt at a democracy for less than 100 years. The enfranchisement of working class men, and then women, also met with stiff resistance at the time from… the UK government. Most of the freedoms we enjoy were not kindly granted to us by the UK government or the Crown, but wrested from them through long and bitter struggle. We are very lucky now that all we have to do is tick a box.

  94. wanvote says:

    A great post, Cath, just found the link on Yes.  I agree that women’s voices need to be heard in the indy debate.   I recently started looking after my 14mth old grand-daughter for 2days and 3xhalf days a week.  Main reason is nursery costs (£320 pmth for 3xmornings)   I’m really delighted to do so, although it is a bit daunting not to say challenging at my age – its not how I remembered it being 40 years ago (is my memory going).  Anyway, I’m sure there are plenty other grandparents doing the same.  Point is though, it would be encouraging if free (or at least  more affordable) nursery care was considered important enough to be on a future constitution.  I agree with your point that women are still deciding (and men too) and are waiting for the “shouting ” to die down before committing themselves.  Good to see so many positive replies to your post.    AnnMcA

  95. jake says:

    Vronsky, you said “best answer is to stop having elections and select your parliament at random.” Wasn’t that how it used to be done, by accident of birth, when hereditary peers ruled the country? Of course it all went wrong when elected representatives started appointing their best mates to the House of Lords taking the random element out of it.

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