The Hypocrisy of “Gender Critical” Feminists in the SNP

[Image Description: trans flag bearing words “trans rights are human rights”]

On the front page of today’s edition of The National there is a banner proclaiming the return to politics of former First Minister Alex Salmond, who was more recently in the news for being on trial accused of a number of sexual offences. While the court found Mr Salmond not guilty on most counts, and not proven on one, throughout the course of the investigation, he admitted to behaviour directed towards women which, while not criminal, is decidedly creepy.

The article itself describes a post-pandemic recovery plan which seems fairly generic and inoffensive, though I only skimmed the article. The headline is of far more interest than the content. That a newspaper saw fit to celebrate the supposed return to politics of a man who engaged in creepy behaviour towards women (again, you can be creepy without being criminal) is troubling. His ideas for a post-pandemic recovery are far from unique; so logically one can assume that the National chose to feature his name so prominently as they knew it would sell papers.

Salmond is a bully, who spent his political career intimidating those around him, particularly young women. He should not be welcome in Scottish politics, or in the SNP, especially among those who claim to stand up for women’s rights. Yet, funnily enough, those in the ‘gender critical’ wing of the party seem to be lauding his return to politics. Articles celebrating the election of candidates from the transphobic so-called “SNP Good Guys” slate also praise Salmond.

Men who think they can behave in a creepy manner towards women, and a society which decides this is acceptable so long as a court finds them not guilty, are symptomatic of a society where women are unsafe. And yet, the ‘gender critical’ feminists would have you believe that the greatest threat to women is trans people. It is almost as though these people do not actually care about women’s rights, but rather are choosing to demonise trans people out of hatred or for political reasons.

Let me be very clear. Trans rights are human rights, trans women are women, trans men are men, nonbinary people are nonbinary. None of these statements should be up for debate. Denying trans people the right to exist as their gender and to use the spaces they feel most comfortable in is discrimination, plain and simple. Throwing trans people under the bus in the name of “women’s rights” is horrible and disingenuous: giving trans people rights does not take rights away from women.

Their rhetoric in its own right is disgusting and transphobic. But it is also hugely hypocritical, particularly for those in the SNP. If the alleged defenders of women’s rights are willing to ally themselves to men like Salmond, then can they really call themselves defenders of women’s rights? No, they can’t. The Women’s Pledge wing of the SNP does not protect women, or the working class. It provides a platform for transphobes and fundamentalists who care about nothing beyond independence as an end in itself.

I support independence as a means to creating a fairer, more equal society. It is not an end in itself – in fact, I’m a proponent of open borders long-term – but rather a way to create a society in which things like the Tory war on disabled people can’t happen. A society where things are better for everyone regardless of their gender, gender identity, disability, race, religion or any other protected characteristic. And if our goal is not to create a better society, then what are we doing?

Bias, Propaganda & Media

[Image description: a pile of newspapers]

I avoid tabloids, I find them boring and most often inaccurate about political issues. When I choose to read the news, which I often do in spite of how much it upsets me, I choose to read news that focuses on more serious matters. To be clear, if you read tabloids, I have no issue with that, everyone is different and I have just personally chosen not to.

I prefer my sources to be as unbiased as possible, something that almost never happens due to human nature. That goes for bias in favour of my side just as much as against it. The echo chamber is less stressful, but I prefer a more rounded view.

Right now, I imagine if you are one of the people who followed me on twitter during the 2014 independence referendum, you might be putting on your angry comment hat, ready to inform me of BBC bias and why The National is the only good news source out there. Save your breath, because eighteen-year-old me might have joined you. I know all your arguments off by heart.

I don’t believe there is such a thing as a properly neutral news source. News is written by humans, and all humans have bias, no matter how unconscious, and no matter how much they try and fight it. That’s the nature of humanity, and fair enough. So, I believe it is important to seek out news from various sources to counter this, both ones you agree with and ones you do not.

I mean within reason, of course. I don’t advocate going online to seek out far-right propaganda sites or other extremist material. I mean the moderate ‘other side’, not the extremes. I don’t limit my reading exclusively to articles written by verified pro-independence, pro-EU individuals.

Most of the material out there is propaganda, for one side or the other. Such is the way of life, the internet and democracy. Which is why I don’t like to limit my reading to only that which confirms my own beliefs. If ‘my side’ does something wrong, I want to be aware. I don’t want to be the kind of person who believes those I agree with are infallible.

This is especially the case following recent events. Everyone in Scotland has seen the mountain of conspiracy theories put out there by everyone. I will not comment on the situation that started this. It is not my place; this endless discussion is harming abuse survivors and I do not feel comfortable participating in it myself.

Especially about issues such as this, however, I urge people, do not just accept what your friends say. Think critically about everything, it is the only way democracy can remain healthy.

Gendered Marketing is Damaging Children

Gendered marketing is restrictive and damaging to both children and adults. For children, those who do not conform to the likes and dislikes assigned to their gender are often bullied and ostracised by their peers. The stereotypes marketing assigns to genders linger throughout and affect the lives of people from birth to death. Gendered marketing limits both men and women, and excludes non-binary people entirely.

Limiting what toys children can play with because of their gender is harmful. Play is an important part of learning for young children, it teaches them how to interact with others, share and learn about the world. Some toys such as construction toys help children develop spatial skills, and role-playing toys help develop social skills. Since the former is mainly marketed to boys and the latter to girls, it is unsurprising that girls tend to have better social skills while boys have improved spatial awareness.

The marketing of toys in this manner also reinforces negative gender stereotypes. Action toys such as cars and toy guns are marketed at “boisterous boys” and dolls and fashion toys at “girly girls”. These stereotypes can be seen most plainly in dress-up costumes. Boys are encouraged to dress as doctors, scientists, firemen, etc. Girls, on the other hand are given the choice of fairy, princess, supermodel and similar. Children can often pick up ideas about what future career they can do on the basis of this.

Appearance centred toys are marketed towards very young girls, putting far too large an emphasis on their outward appearance, while boys are taught that caring toys are not for them and they shouldn’t feel emotion. These stereotypes can lead to mental health problems later in life, such as eating disorders in women who are unhappy with their appearance, and built up negative emotions in men who feel they cannot show them.

Transgender people are also hugely and adversely impacted by this, being forced into playing with something associated with the assigned-at-birth gender they do not identify with and often feel very dysphoric about. This is especially true of non-binary people who are never mentioned on any of the toy labels.

Often people will ask why it matters if something is labelled as ‘girls’ or ‘boys’ – can’t people just buy it anyway? This attitude ignores the huge societal pressure on children to conform and like toys made for their gender – as soon as a child can read, they will think certain things are not for them. Many parents will also not buy an item for their child labelled as being for a different gender.

Other parents simply don’t notice that science kits are all in the boys’ section, and don’t see the problem. The marketing at one gender also clearly suggests that boys and girls are “supposed” to like certain things, and if they like the other, they are somehow abnormal. The marketing of these toys creates social rules that are very hard to break and can often lead to bullying if someone does.

Clothing is another area which is very divided, for both children and adults. Young girls are given tight-fitting flowery, sparkly and always pink outfits, which are often difficult to play in. Boys, on the other hand, are given loose fitting clothes in red or blue. Slogans on girls’ clothing are often along the lines of “little princess”, “pretty in pink” or “future supermodel” while boys’ slogans are “troublemaker” or “future scientist”.

For adults, women’s clothing is often thin and poor quality, needing replaced very quickly. There is also a distinct lack of pockets – often shops will put on fake pockets to give the illusion of a pocket but lacking the usefulness of a real one because it will disrupt the figure. Men’s clothes are designed far more practically. This all feeds in to the attitude that men work and women look pretty. Non-binary people again have no section in the clothes shops and are again excluded.

There are no benefits to gendered marketing – as well as hurting individuals, it also disadvantages businesses by restricting their market. The argument against gendered marketing should not be reserved for the left, both capitalists and socialists should be condemning the practice.

Much of the gender inequality found among adults has its roots in childhood and what is marketed at children. By forcing children into boxes against their will, society is setting the stage for inequality to continue into adulthood and their entire lives. If we truly want a more equal society, tackling gender stereotypes and gendered marketing is a good place to start.

This article was originally published on the Young Scots for Independence blog, at Stephanie Melnick: Gendered Marketing is Damaging Children — Young Scots for Independence

Principles, Priorities and Politics

In November, I left the Scottish National Party (SNP) over a multitude of small differences in opinion, the sum of which made me want to leave the party. On Monday of this week, I announced I was re-joining the party. Here, I wish to try and explain why I left, and more importantly, why I chose to return.

To understand the reasons behind both decisions, consider the following two views on general political party membership: members of a political party should agree with the majority of policies, and the general ideology of the party; or members should agree with ALL policies. I believe the former of these two options, but those in my primary social group in November subscribed to the latter approach. And thus, felt that my answer of “I don’t agree with that particular policy” was unacceptable regardless of what was being discussed.

This ultimately influenced my decision to leave far more than it should have. The small differences of opinion I had with the party were easily reconciled in my own mind if I’d had no outside influence from anyone.

Another factor which influenced my decision was my role on the SNP Students National Executive Committee (NEC). While I loved my role, I was and still am struggling academically, and it was a much larger time commitment than I could handle at the time. I was spending far more time than I had on SNP Students events and activities, and it was affecting my academic work. I realised this and felt I needed to sort out my priorities, and I tend to do things like quitting wholly or not at all.

So in summary, the main reasons I left were time commitments and small differences in opinion on minor policies. And the reasons I’ve returned?

I never stopped being in favour of Scottish independence, but I feel after article 50 has been triggered that it is increasingly important that we become independent and make our own path rather than following the inward-looking, right-wing path the UK seems set on following. The SNP still are the best chance we have of gaining independence. For now, though, as part of the UK, it is important we have a voice for Scotland in Westminster as Brexit negotiations begin, and with a general election around the corner, now is the time to get involved again.

The six months I was gone have given me time to reevaluate where the priorities lie in my opinions, as there are a few contradictions in there. In doing so, I’ve realised that those small differences I spoke of are far down my list of priorities, whereas on the major issues that are very important to me*, I do agree with SNP policy.

Being a member of a party, and still disagreeing on one or two things does not conflict with my own principles, even if it would to the principles of my friends. And it is time I stopped allowing myself to be influenced by peer pressure on political issues (or indeed, anything else).

These six months have given me a welcome break in which I have had time to sit down and fully consider what I truly believe, and where my priorities and principles lie. And so, I am now excited to be returning to political activism with greater enthusiasm and understanding of my beliefs than I did before.

Bring on the general election campaign!

 

*Excluding things that receive so little attention, no major party has many policies on them, or any policies that would actually do anything.