Women, gender equality and constitutional change: lessons from Catalonia and Scotland

Gender Politics at Edinburgh


Meryl Kenny (UNSW) and Tània Verge (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)

This blog draws on discussions held at the Women and Constitutional Futures Seminar: Gender Equality Matters in a New Scotland held on 14/15 February 2013 at the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the STUC Women’s Conversations event held on 18 February 2013. 

A version of this blog is also available in Catalan HERE.


On 11 September 2012, almost 2 million people – a quarter of Catalonia’s population – rallied in the streets of Barcelona in support of independence. Early elections were immediately called to give the new Catalan parliament a clear mandate to negotiate with the central Spanish state over the right to self-determination and the governing Catalan parties set a time limit for calling a referendum in 2014, the same year that Scots will be asked if they want independence. In this blog, we explore the parallels between the…

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Why all women should object to 50 Shades of Grey- & not because it’s abusive

I completely support the right of my sisters-in-arms to object to 50 Shades of Grey and to entreaty people to give the purchase price to a domestic violence shelter instead.

But not because the book portrays domestic violence. It doesn’lt. It is a badly written romance that plays on old well-worn tropes, about a sadistic powerful man who seduces and ingenue.

It’s basically Jane Eyre with chains. Only not as sexy.

Objecting to it on the grounds that it depicts abuse is wrong. It depicts a seduction that might not appeal to vanilla or prudish readers, but it’s not abusive. It’s an insult to practically every woman I know to say it is.

a) it’s insulting to women who have experienced *real* violent, terrifying and dangerous abuse

b) it’s an insult to the bdsm community, which prides itself on exploring trust within consenting relationsips, and which abhors abuse

c) it’s an insult to women generally – it problematises their sexuality rather than celebrating diversity, creativity, trust and openness.

So, yes, don’t buy the book, It’s shite. Buy some proper well written feminist bdsm porn instead and enjoy yourself. Object to it because we deserve better written soft porn than this clichéd boring drivel


And quit getting your panties in a twist about a dungeon with safe words. Fight against real abuse instead. 3000 women were killed in Australia last year by violent partners or ex-partners. 2 were killed by terrorists. Guess how much money went into fighting terrorism, and how much went into tackling domestic abuse.

That’s the real scandal we should be highlighting on the 14th February. Not badly written soft porn. Fight the proper fights, girls, and let those who want to lust after Jamie Dornan do it without censure.

The Shami Chakrabarti Greeting Someone at a Political Studies Conference Rule

Personally I go for the snog-then-apologise, or the asking them how their spouse is (this one is great when said spouse is a) deceased or b) standing beside them). Forgetting their name when it is on a nametage on their lapel is also a good one. 😀

Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

One of the few things funnier than Shami Chakrabarti’s speech (scroll down here) at the Political Studies Association annual dinner was the sight of a succession of men kissing her, politely but clumsily, on each cheek, as they received awards for excellent scholarship. Women received awards too, but they generally had the greeting down to a fine art. It raised, by far, the most important issue of the annual conference for me: how should I greet female colleagues? Men are easy. You shake their hands. In some cases, you get a bone cruncher, but that’s just physical rather than social discomfort. The same goes, almost always, for women I meet as colleagues. However, on a small number of occasions, we hug. I thought I had solved this problem by simply hugging the same people each time. As long as I know what we’re doing, I’d happily greet someone in…

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Vote SNP, get SNP

In an understandably rather panicked response to the large numbers defecting from Labour to the SNP, both in membership and, according to the latest poll from Lord Ashcroft, in voting intentions, Jim Murphy implored voters to remember that a vote for the SNP is a vote taken away from Labour, and this removes the chance that :Labour will be forming the next government.

Vote SNP, Get Tory ….

This is bollocks, to out it politely. :Desperate bollocks at that.

1. Every time the rest of the UK has voted for a Conservative government, Scotland has voted for Labour, and still got Tory

2. A vote for the SNP is a vote for the SNP. Whether they end up forming a Coalition government with Labour, or end up being a vociferous oppostion, their track record indicates that they would do both jobs a) more effectively than Labour has managed in either Holyrood or Westminster and b) promoting social justice and social democratic values and policies more effectively than Labour has managed in either Holyrood or Westminster.

If Labour is going to make themselves electable in Scotland again, they have some harsh lessons to learn.

a) The Scottish electorate are, rightly, angry about Labour’s Westminster-led opposition to independence in the referendum. Labour had the chance to be a part of Scottish history – to perhaps even lead the first independent Scottish parliament. To steer Scotland into an independent future as a small, wealthy, social democratic nation at the heart of Europe. They blew it in favour of hanging onto their Westminster priorities and their neo-liberal policies.

b) The anti-SNP stance is getting old, and very unpopular, fast. Accusing people who genuinely were voting for what they believed to be a better future for their country ‘Nazis’ is a huge mistake. Support for independence came from a wide range of groups: social democrats, feminists, environmentalists, disabled people, young people….they (and many who voted against independence but wanted further powers to be devolved to Scotland) were shocked at appalled at Labour’s scaremongering, bullying tactics prior to the referendum, and their failure to push for the full range of devolved powers in the Smith Commission afterwards.

c) There is a real appetite for a genuine left wing, social democratic party that supports a universal welfare state, fights for equality and fairness, and has an alternative vision to neo-liberal austerity led social divisions. That isn’t run by elites out of touch with ordinary people, but by consensus, partnership and responsible shared governance. Labour could, SHOULD, be that party, but it isn’t. This is why people are defecting in droves to support the SNP, the Greens and Plaid Cymru. The nation has changed, and politics needs to change. If you want supporters back, Labour, get policies and ideals people can support.

Vote SNP, Vote Green, Vote Plaid Cymru and get women leaders, parties that are committed to social justice, parties who can work in coalitions to achieve fair and progressive policies…..not parties run by elites with their own self interest at heart fighting over the centre-right.

People want justice, people want change.

Labour needs to change – or lose.