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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 20/12/2011 | 1 Comment

The journalist Jackie Kemp has an interesting piece in The Scottish Review today arguing that 'the agenda behind the anti-sectarian bill' is 'the feminisation of Scotland'.  I am an admirer of Jackie's work but I think in this instance she is mistaken. 

First, I want to say that I am not opposed to the idea that areas of life have been 'feminised' in a way that can be unhelpful. This was one of my arguments about the English school-initiative SEAL which aimed to make discussion of feelings central to the school curriculum. One of the learning outcomes was even 'I  know how to make, break and sustain friendships without hurting anyone's feelings'.  Now that is feminisation and, in this instance, it is not only unhelpful but also disingenuous.  There are other areas of children's lives where it is as if an anxious, neurotic mother is now in charge and wants to ensure that no child has a bad day or a bad experience.  Many children's lives are impoverished as a result.

Now I would agree broadly with Jackie, and this is indeed supported by academics such as Deborah Tannen, that males and females have different communication styles. Boys and men tend to be direct in their style, often barking orders to others. Indeed if they can do this and get their own way then they get status within the group. Women and girls by contrast tend to be more indirect and inclusive and much more generally interested in being part of the group rather than their status within it. I also accept that women are more concerned about hurting other people's feelings and more sensitive to how they are treated themselves.

However, I just don't see how these male/female styles have anything to do with the current attempts to deal with Scotland's sectarian problems. Much of what passes between both sides in this divide would be seen in many cultures as abusive and akin to ethnic/racial hatred.  Jackie writes that she doubts that men who are abused for their religion or football identity then go home to 'their beds to weep inconsolably at this egregious assault on their sense of identity'. Perhaps not but we know from the police that if their team loses many go home and beat their partners.

Sadly in the whole sorry tale of sectarianism in Scotland there may well be issues of self-worth. This is the argument that Wilkinson and Pickett set out so well in their book The Spirit Level. They contend, with good reason, that as human beings we have a need to feel included and respected – both men and women.  In societies with profound inequality the disrespect often leads people to kick out at folk even lower than them in the hierarchy. This is why societies with pronounced economic inequality often are more racist and sexist and why there are often problems with gang violence.

Since 1979 Britain has steadily become a more unequal society. According to Danny Dorling Britain is now back at the level of economic inequality which existed in 1865 when  Dickens wrote Hard Times.  Is this rising inequality why sectarianism seems to have increased in recent years in Scotland?

I am not saying that I agree with what the Scottish Government is trying to do with its legislation as I don't think they can legislate in this way to outlaw singing and other expressions of deeply held identity.  But I don't think that this act has got anything to do with feminisation. The SNP Government rightly sees sectarianism as 'Scotland's shame'. For political reasons they are incredibly conscious of Scotland's image in the world; they know this is no small blemish on our national identity but a large, ugly scar. Rather than really trying to analyse what's going on and deal with some of the motivating factors they are simply trying to suppress the problem. 

Like Jackie, and many others, I can't see how this legislation will ever work.  By creating martyrs to the sectarian cause it may even make matters worse.

Comment By Comment
jackie.kemp@btinternet.com
Joined: 21/12/2011

Comment Posted: 21/12/2011 13:04
This is an interesting response. Just to pick you up on something, you make the point that some men go home from football matches if their team loses and beat their wives. That is already illegal. A small minority of me also attack other men after the game which is something that the police already do their best to deal with. I think the majority of men who go to football games and shout and swear don't do either of these things. It is unattrractive behaviour and they clearly don't try to make the football family-friendly but no excuse or reason for such a law reducing civil liberty. It is worrying to see such a badly drafted and confused law, the ramifications of which are not clear, on the statute books. The thinking behind it is muddled and so many well-meaning Scots cite their hatred of sectarianism as a reason to support the law. It makes you wonder if respect for civil liberty would carry over from Britain to an independent Scotland.
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