Patriarchal Tories have no vision for a United Kingdom of equals

Christina Milarvie Quarrell and John Davis draw from research and writing on families and relationships to question Tory patriarchal politics and to examine what an equal, enabling and supportive relationship looks like

IN 2014 (see link here), we were told that the United Kingdom was "a more equal union than anywhere in the world" (Better Together), "a 300 year long equal partnership" (Ruth Davidson) and that we could look forward to "a future in which Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England continue to flourish side-by-side as equal partners" (Theresa May).

Recently, CommonSpace editor Angela Haggerty posted a message on social media that posed questions about equal relationships: "I've had men ask me out by telling me that I'm too scary for most men - but they can handle me, of course," she wrote on Facebook. "Why would you want to date someone you consider subordinate and who can't challenge you?"

This got us thinking about the Tory Party’s patriarchal relationship with Scotland. Patriarchy involves the dated view that men should be dominant, men are superior to women and that not all human beings are equally capable. 

Patriarchal men send women and children the message that they are inferior, frivolous, indulgent, stupid and/or rebellious creatures.

In terms of family relationships, a patriarchal father controls his family’s aspirations; puts his needs and insecurities before that of his children and makes his children and women’s lives a misery, e.g. when/if they fail to meet his expectations.

A gaslighter points out and picks on aspects of your way of being to create the impression that you are "overly sensitive", "paranoid", "mentally unstable", "silly", "unhinged", and/or "incompetent" (see link here)

Patriarchal men send women and children the message that they are inferior, frivolous, indulgent, stupid and/or rebellious creatures (similarly, London has, for centuries, sent such gaslighting messages to 'rebellious' Scotland).

Unfortunately, English local politics, patriarchal Westminster, and Tory administrations are serial offenders when it comes to patriarchal politics (see here for the deplorable state of gender equity in local councils in England and here for lack of gender balance in the Brexit negotiating team).

In a recent CommonSpace article (see link here) we linked patriarchal 'man up' ways of thinking to the Tory General Election 2017 political strategy. We identified the Tory campaign with out-of-date thinking, with notions of shame, with sexist ideas about men and women and with patriarchal mud-slinging.

Similarly, London has, for centuries, sent such gaslighting messages to 'rebellious' Scotland.

We drew attention to how Theresa May has promoted patriarchal stereotypes that suggest that men and women are not equal (e.g. in relation to who puts out the bins in her marital home).

Her chancellor has also been accused of objectifying a female MP when calling her hysterical, and of dismissing the feelings of people experiencing poverty and low wages (see link here).

We everyday people exist to be loved, understood and supported - not to be victimised. Yet, the reality is that Tory politicians such as Ruth Davidson seem addicted to patriarchal gaslighting. For example, hypocritically referendum shaming while overlooking sectarianism, ignoring homophobia or defending sexist Westminster policies (see here).

Brexit has brought with it a return to the patriarchal notion of empire, the stiff upper lip and the idea that one country is superior to all others. Alice Miller (see here) argues that suppression of our own sufferings, stiff-upper-lip values and survival-of-the-fittest cultures leave us poorly placed to demonstrate empathy for other people.

We see this lack of empathy in the Tory treatment of EU citizens who currently contribute to our wellbeing in hospitals, GP practices and other public services and in the idea that post-Brexit Britain can float off to live in its splendidly superior, passport controlled and national self-determined isolation.

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Since 2014, the relationship between Scotland and the UK has become about pain – not love. About Evel (English Votes for English Laws) – not equity. About TWTPTS (Too Wee Too Poor Too Stupit) - not encouragement. And, about a Brexit negotiation that ignores Scotland’s voice – rather than empathetically includes Scotland’s perspectives (e.g. that Scotland wants to have, at least, a Norway-type relationship with Europe). 

The relationship now comes down to - English nationalism vs Scottish internationalism (see 'Why England Should Be Left To Go It Alone').

May’s male-centric team has unilaterally decided how the Brexit negotiations will go, has ignored the ideas of the other nations that make up the union and has failed to accept Holyrood as a mature parliament of equal stature. 

Nicola Sturgeon has been told not to get above her station by a Tory Westminster administration that would rather parley with homophobes than incorporate the first minister’s proposals.

Counsellors argue that the difference between an abusive partner and a supportive partner lies in their ability to reflect on their controlling behaviour and not to persistently seek to objectify, ignore or downplay their partner’s abilities, opinions or suggestions (see here).

May’s male-centric team has unilaterally decided how the Brexit negotiations will go, has ignored the ideas of the other nations that make up the union and has failed to accept Holyrood as a mature parliament of equal stature. 

In the book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire argues that when others seek to control us, they turn us into inanimate things; they expect us to be emotionally dependent on them; and they seek to prevent us from developing a political/critical perspective on their behaviour, rules, and practices (see link).

The 2014 referendum and the Brexit vote removed the uncritical veil from our eyes – the Tories have no vision for a United Kingdom of equals. They have no plan for enabling a loving and nurturing relationship between the partner countries of the UK.

Equitable approaches involve: dialogue, shared decision making, mutual respect, celebration of each other’s abilities and recognition of the use and misuse of power (see here)

Closeness, is the key. A loving partner relishes their partner’s independence, happily exchanges feelings and foregoes control for intimacy. When Scottish people fear independence – they fear their very selves and ignore the abilities of their fellow Scots. 

As Nelson Mandela said: "Our deepest fear is not that we are weak. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. 

The 2014 referendum and the Brexit vote removed the uncritical veil from our eyes – the Tories have no vision for a United Kingdom of equals.

"It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? 

"Your playing small does not serve the world ... As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Fear leads us to be stowaways - awaiting permission to flourish (see here). Yet, it is in our power to decide whether we will be, or will not to be, stowaways. Liberation comes from the fact that we can reject Tory shame politics. 

As we create an independent Scotland we will need to avoid following into the "English", "patriarchal", "nationalist" trap and achieve a balancing act that confidently highlights our abilities, yet sidesteps the temptation for jingoism; asserts the value of our perspectives without overwhelmingly blaring out their supremacy; celebrates the authenticity of our aspiration to be independent but recognises the compatibility of this aspiration with our wish to be interconnected to other countries; and, fulfils our ability to be our own nation while rejoicing in our capability to produce many different, equally valuable, Scotlands. 

We need to confidently caw canny our nation into being.

A blog post by Christina and John which examines appropriate relationships in more detail can be found here.

Picture courtesy of Ant Smith

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