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The absurdity of Scotland’s ‘feminist’ foreign policy

Humza Yousaf isn't working for women. Credit: Getty

November 10, 2023 - 2:00pm

The Scottish government has unveiled its new foreign policy — and it’s proudly “feminist”. In an announcement made with some fanfare, it declares that the new approach “will leverage all aspects of Scotland’s international policy to advance gender equality and the rights of women, girls and marginalised groups in pursuit of a fairer world”.

What could possibly be wrong with that? Well, the first clue is that no one with a serious interest in advancing women’s rights talks about “gender” equality. In countries like Afghanistan, women and girls suffer serious violations of their rights because of their sex; they are denied education and forced to marry older men because they are biologically female. In developing countries, women need access to safe contraception and abortion, which have nothing to do with gender. If a government doesn’t recognise the vital role of biology in discrimination against women and girls, its “feminist” foreign policy will fall at the first hurdle.

But we shouldn’t be surprised. This announcement comes from a government whose domestic policy includes a reckless insistence that men can become women just by saying so. Holyrood believes convicted sex offenders should be housed in a women’s prison, if they claim to be transgender. Is that something it will be pushing other countries to adopt as part of its “feminist” approach to international relations?

Most extraordinary of all, SNP politicians have spent the past year abusing actual feminists — the awkward sort who recognise sex-based oppression — as bigots and racists. Shortly before she resigned as First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon claimed opponents of the SNP’s gender reform legislation were using women’s rights as a “cloak” for bigotry. “But just as they’re transphobic you’ll also find they are deeply misogynist, often homophobic, possibly some of them racist as well,” she said.

Sturgeon is now a backbench MSP, but her colleagues in government appear to share her views. One of the ministers who published the “feminist” foreign policy is Christina McKelvie, whose current brief is Culture, Europe and International Development. Earlier this year, when she was Equalities minister, McKelvie publicised details of a protest against a Let Women Speak event organised by Kelly-Jay Keen in Glasgow. Yes, you have read that right: the minister now boasting about a supposedly feminist approach to international relations retweeted a call from Furries Against Fascism, whose adherents dress up in animal costumes, to protest against a rally in support of things like single-sex spaces.

Hilariously, yesterday’s announcement claims that a feminist approach to foreign policy “means prioritising collaboration and cooperation over adversarial processes”. Don’t be fooled. The Scottish government is as captured as ever, banging on about recognising the harms experienced by individuals “when multiple categories of social identities are considered, such as race and ethnicity, socio-economic background, religion, disability, and all genders”. All genders? What does that even mean in a country like Yemen, where women and children are suffering horribly in a protracted war?

One of the first objectives of a genuinely feminist foreign policy would be a reduction in violence against women. It’s hard to see how that could be achieved, however, by politicians who insult campaigners for women’s rights and tell us that some men are really women.


Joan Smith is a novelist and columnist. She has been Chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Board since 2013. Her book Homegrown: How Domestic Violence Turns Men Into Terrorists was published in 2019.

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Tom Lewis
TL
Tom Lewis
5 months ago

Oh the joys of living in Scotland ! Every day feels like Spring has sprung, or at least it seems like every day is April the first.

Jonathan Nash
JN
Jonathan Nash
5 months ago

Since foreign affairs is not a devolved matter the Scottish “government” has no business having a foreign policy at all. It is about as relevant as the foreign policy of the West Wittering District Council.

Dougie Undersub
DU
Dougie Undersub
5 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Point of order, Mr Chairman. West Wittering is part of Chichester District Council.

R M
2
R M
5 months ago

The SNP have travelled so far down the rabbit hole they’ve shot straight through Wonderland, bypassed Narnia, and missed the turn-off for Oz completely. They are believed currently to be approaching the outskirts of the Land of Wibble.

It would be lovely to ignore them but we can’t, because their delirium has serious repercussions.

Jim Veenbaas
JV
Jim Veenbaas
5 months ago

These are very unserious people. They’re larpers – playing at being politicians.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

No, they’re very serious. They’re enemies using indigenous useful idiots to weaken and demoralize a captive populace. Does Humza Yousaf really care about transgenders or is he using them to further his own ideological and religious ends?

Peter D
PD
Peter D
5 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

The people of Scotland have to stand up for themselves at the next election and vote these Jokers out!

Paul Devlin
PD
Paul Devlin
5 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Exactly. He’s using the Islamic practice of taqiya (dissimulation or cant) to project a lie that a practising Muslim can be a feminist

Graham Bennett
GB
Graham Bennett
5 months ago

Seriously, the SNP are a total laughing stock and embarrassment. The Tories won’t be the only party to face a drubbing at the next election.

Davy Humerme
DH
Davy Humerme
5 months ago

Great article Joan. The O level modern studies numpties (in all parties), who run Scotland are beyond parody. They should appoint Isla the rapist as Women’s Equality and Health minister job sharing with one of the many Islamic sister grifters they want to promote to MSP. That would truly symbolise that feminist foreign policy.

Andrea X
AA
Andrea X
5 months ago

Well, there can’t have been much fanfare as this is the first I have heard of it.
I bet this is a legacy of the Surgeon strategy that has been launched even though she is not there anymore.

Jerry Carroll
JC
Jerry Carroll
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Why isn’t she in prison by now, and where is the big RV that was once in the driveway?

Steve Farrell
BR
Steve Farrell
5 months ago

I expect being a man in Yemen isn’t much fun either.

Jonathan Andrews
JA
Jonathan Andrews
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Farrell

Quite. I wonder who are suffering most in that war, the women left with out partners and fathers or the men left without lives?

Dougie Undersub
DU
Dougie Undersub
5 months ago

Labour’s Foreign policy with an ethical dimension came unstuck on contact with the real world in 1997. The Scottish Government’s feminist foreign policy won’t even get that far.

Jonathan Andrews
JA
Jonathan Andrews
5 months ago

Perhaps the honest honest foreign policy for the UK Government is to pursue British interests s best it can while avoiding inflicting any crimes against foreign nations

Jonathan Andrews
JA
Jonathan Andrews
5 months ago

“One of the first objectives of a genuinely feminist foreign policy would be a reduction in violence against women. It’s hard to see how that could be achieved, however, by politicians who insult campaigners for women’s rights and tell us that some men are really women.”
Well, fair enough but I don’t see anything that the Scottish Government to do to achieve a reduction is violence against women in other parts of the world anyway. What’s it going to do, send along a gunship?

Jerry Carroll
JC
Jerry Carroll
5 months ago

Does Scotland even have a navy? That’s news to me.

Hilary Lowson
HL
Hilary Lowson
5 months ago

Oh thank you, Joan. Increasingly Scotland feels like a scary place to live. The desperate scrabble for ‘independence’ at any cost has resulted in many gaining positions as MSPs or councillors without experience, education and frankly intellect that would be demonstrated in an understanding of logic and reason. Frankly, the more they drivvle on about gender, while contradicting themselves endlessly, it reads like a mea culpa from those who were once (and maybe still are) homophobes and misogynists. Their failure to see the majority of women who oppose their Gender Recognition Act were those who in their youth stood by gays throughout the 80s and the 90s, opposed absurd nazi-wannabes through organisations like RAR and the Anti Nazi League. And yet apparently, such women are now suddenly nazi, homophobe racists? Were that the case, surely politicians, social scientists and psychologists would be having a field day, examining this astounding volte face? Some days I despair, but when I look around at the many women waking up to this lunacy, my confidence swells. It remains a mystery though how so many of these politicians are…well just plain stupid and would do almost anything to shine with faux virtue. Instead they will happily pose along side signs demanding women be beheaded…

John Galt Was Correct
JG
John Galt Was Correct
5 months ago

The title could have been shorter. Something like ‘The absurdity of Scotland’ would have been just fine.

Waffles
W
Waffles
5 months ago

“will leverage all aspects of Scotland’s international policy to advance gender equality and the rights of women, girls and MARGINALISED GROUPS”

A key point that the author didn’t pick up. ISIS and Hammas are marginalised groups. Some groups are marginalised for good reason!

Also, some other “marginalised groups” are the ones oppressing women, eg Muslims in the Middle East and Africa.

Jennifer Lawrence
JL
Jennifer Lawrence
5 months ago

I don’t quite understand what Scotland’s foreign policy has to do with gender rights in Yemen, but I agree with the gist and urgency of Joan Smith’s article.
I also think that Holyrood’s violently flaccid and discriminatory policies against women are a product of the existential crisis that Scotland has found itself wrapped up in for the last few decades. Thanks to a flat and neoliberal ideology of rudderless cosmopolitanism espoused mostly to negate an apparent ethnocentrism of the South, but really, to ensure Scotland’s cultural participation in the economic and political fold of neoliberalism, the Scots have slowly abandoned their once rather well-defined, but narrow definition of what it meant to be ethnically and linguistically “Scottish”. Faced with the problem of a mode of political rhetoric that ran counter to its neoliberal agenda, Scottish parties such as the SNP found that the only way in which they could now legitimate their political demands for an independent Scotland was by building, as Arta Moeini put it in a different context on UnHerd, an “ersatz nationalism” based on a shared sense of a felt, “ontological insecurity” – oppression being the only value, or more precisely, sentiment, tangibly constituting the ideological ground for a collective, “national” set of political interests. Insofar as they seek any form of Scottish nationhood, it is therefore incumbent upon the SNP that they ally themselves with anyone that claims oppression, and villify those who challenge the absurdities and implicit violence of these claims, because without it, the party has no ideology or political ground to stand on.
If ontological insecurity is the only means by which the SNP means to will political participation in civil society, then it’s hard to imagine what both the political and cultural future of Scotland might look like. All I can see ahead of me is a neoliberal wasteland of furries who think freedom is the political right to dress like a cartoon character to work.

Last edited 5 months ago by Jennifer Lawrence
David Morley
DM
David Morley
5 months ago

Thought for a moment there I might finally agree with this author on something. After all there are lots of countries out there with serious issues to be addressed. But no – just another opportunity to bang on about trans in the U.K.

Really, out there, outside the first world and it’s woke obsessions, there are way bigger issues to worry about!

T J
TJ
T J
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Not sure you have fully understand what the author was saying. This isn’t about trans people at all, it is about the importance of sex, particularly in the lives of women that don’t live in safer Western countries.

Women in those countries experience violence (whether domestic or even cultural FGM, for example) because of their sex, not because of an imagined gender identity.

For the Scottish Government, that seems unable to recognise the significance of sex in citizen’s lives, to witter about gender in those women’s lives is insulting and dangerous. As is your dismissal of Joan pointing this out. Try listening to women.

David Morley
DM
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  T J

You need to read the article again I’m afraid.

After the initial two introductory paras the point of every single para right up to the last is about the trans issue.

Drummed home, if you haven’t got it by then, by the last sentence:

It’s hard to see how that could be achieved, however, by politicians who insult campaigners for women’s rights and tell us that some men are really women.

If you’re still unable to see this, have a look through this writers other articles.

David Morley
DM
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  T J

Try listening to women.

Depressing that I have to keep pointing this out. Women do not all have the same opinion. They are not clones or a breed of parrots who all think and say the same thing. They are fully fledged human beings with the same breadth of opinion as men. To think otherwise is pure misogyny – or arrogance by those who think that they speak for all women.

If you genuinely “listen to women” you will hear a wide range of opinions on every subject, many of them in conflict with each other. Just as you will with men.

Even on Unherd the range of opinions from women is quite broad. Respect that!