I’m due to go on holiday, off to America to spend some time with my partner. We only manage to get together for a few precious weeks each year and during that time I need a break from the pressures of the independence movement. A few days ago there was an instance of just that kind of pressure and I want to make a wee statement about it before I leave. It’s only to be expected when you have a degree of prominence in the indy movement that you are going to be attacked by British nationalists and apologists for the British state, but this latest attack came from fellow independence supporters. It was hurtful. It was hurtful because it was unfair and many of the criticisms were unnecessarily personal.
The issue which sparked so much ire was the event put on by Yes East Kilbride last Thursday. There were no women on the panel. This is of course very regrettable, however the object of anger from those who were upset about it was the organisers and those of us who participated on the panel. It is important that people organising events should be aware of the need to ensure diversity and that women are represented. And that’s exactly what the organisers of the event in East Kilbride were and exactly what they had tried to do. I was only invited onto the panel a few days before the event because the organisers had repeatedly tried, and failed, to find any pro-indy women involved in the media who were willing to participate and who were available on the date. By the time they invited me they were desperate to get enough numbers on the panel to make the event worthwhile.
This was an event about the media. Everyone on the panel was a pro-independence voice with some connection with the new media and or the traditional media. If the organisers of the event had made absolutely no efforts whatsoever to find women panellists from the Scottish pro-indy media, if they had shown not the slightest degree of awareness of the need to find women panellists, then those criticising them for the lack of gender balance on the panel would have had an important point and would have been making a valid criticism.
But that’s not what happened. There is a serious issue here about the lack of women in prominent positions in the Scottish media, in the digital media, and in the indy movement as a whole, but that’s a much wider and more important issue which isn’t going to be solved by making unpleasant and personal attacks on the people who organised the East Kilbride event or on those of us who participated. The target of the ire was entirely misplaced. And although it shouldn’t need to be pointed out – but sadly it is – it’s equally bad to make personal attacks on the people who raised the issue of gender imbalance in the first place. None of this helps.
This is precisely the kind of crap which made me give up on Twitter, and it has only reinforced my decision to refrain from using it. Twitter is toxic, it’s nasty, and it’s full of people looking for something to be outraged about. They’re far more interested in their own self-righteous anger than they are in ensuring that they are targetting their ire accurately or in highlighting the real issues. This recent spat has done nothing to help us all tackle those real underlying issues. All the Twitter outragederatti have done is to cause upset, anger, and to give our Unionist opponents something else to gloat about.
A final point. Those of us who did participate did so for free. Unlike a panel of commentators on a TV show no one was paid. We neither asked for, nor received, travel expenses for the evening. A panel of people who had given up their time for free in order to help a Yes group re-establish itself were attacked and belittled by a bunch of self-righteous Twitter warriors for no other reason than the fact that they had penises. Well thanks a bunch. Way to go to discourage people from volunteering to participate in indy events in the future. I hope you’re very proud of yourselves.