Of Mice and Men

Men, men, men, men, manly men, men, men — theme tune for sitcom or an all too depressing summary of the SNP depute leadership contest and, indeed, the wider independence movement.

With the nominations now closed, I cannot be the only one disappointed that the choice is between four men. I switched off the contest as yet another aspect of Scottish political life is the dominion of men and I know that I am not the only one. For such a forward thinking party, the optics of an all-male depute leadership contest is embarrassing especially when they do so well elsewhere — the Cabinet is gender-balanced and they succeeded in ensuring more women were elected as MSPs. The party has also been working hard to encourage women and other minority groups to stand as it is without a doubt that we are best represented when we have a diversity of candidates from all different types of backgrounds. This is why it is so disappointing that we have an entirely male field of candidates.
The SNP are not the only ones who have a problem with men dominating — look at their fellow travellers — the Greens. Only one woman out of six MSPs? I hope they look at where they are putting women forward because, if not for Alison Johnstone, their benches would look like the LibDems and no one wants to look like that
And to the wider independence movement, do you want to win the next referendum? Yes? Well, you are going to have an incredibly hard time if you do not listen and then speak to women. You will note that I started with listen, because that was something that was rarely done in the last campaign. Too often women were told to put up and shut up when they said, maybe just maybe, you do not want to invite a man with a history of misogyny to speak to voters. Too often we were told that there was no way to ensure that a panel was not a manel, too often the excuse was we tried. Aye, you may have but clearly not hard enough.
Talking of manels, do not even get me started on the worst offenders, the media and the pisspoor excuses they gave us last time round. They claimed it was the fault of political parties and organisations for not sending or they tried to get a woman on, but it was too short notice. My polite suggestion would be to empty chair the political parties and work on increasing your database of women experts, it really is that simple!
It is not all bad however, as one of the best things to emerge from the last independence was Women for Independence, a organisation for women, led by women. 
 I absolutely adore the fact that they have the crowdsourced #WFImediawatch and that women are willing to sit through all types of political programming to note just how many women are invited on. Guess what they found out? Go on, guess. Time and time again, there were more men than women and often, if not for the chair, there would be an entirely male discussion.

Another reason I love Women for Independence is that they are unafraid to challenge the unreconstructed sexists on both sides of the independence debate, which sadly only a small number of people actually do. Most only appear to care about sexism only when it can be a performance against those they disagree with.
Indeed, one of the most depressing things about the last referendum was that it shone a light on the underbelly of Scottish politics and the one thing that united the rockets on either side? A virulent hatred of women who dared had a different opinion to them. 
It is important that we, both individually and collectively, question and challenge the dominance of men in all aspects of political and civic life in Scotland, from the leadership of political parties to the media. Without doing so, any independence we gain will be hollow.

This piece originally appeared on Bella Caledonia and can be viewed here: http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2016/08/15/of-mice-and-men/.