Exploring sectarianism and violence against women

As part of International Women’s Day 2014, Scottish Women’s Aid are holding a seminar featuring Audrey Gillan’s radio play ‘A Firm Hand’. The play follows Chris, who has been referred to a domestic abuse perpetrator programme and who has been banned from attending Old Firm football games.

While it’s our aim at GWL to extend awareness of sectarianism beyond ‘women as victims’ it remains important to remember that we are often the targets of sectarian abuse and violence within the plethora of perpetrator excuses.

Within that Mixing The Colours is exploring the similarities between sectarian bigotry and sexism, homophobia and racism – and how sometimes they converge as one.  The perfect storm.

This week my colleague Jean O’Reilly facilitated a very powerful workshop with young women from Muirhouse Community Development Group.  When planning the workshop we discussed their emerging independent social lives in a community where football is a focal point and a girl’s purpose was to hang around on the sidelines waiting to be noticed.  Some of the attention received was not positive – to say the least, and it included sectarian abuse.

The girls entered our woman-only space and explored women’s historical and contemporary inequality.  They explored their expectations of relationships and definitions of abuse.  They spoke about the media portrayal of women, women’s purpose, expectations and dreams.

The workshop opened up the concept of challenge to them.  One young woman wrote ‘rajin’ [Raging] when asked to leave one word behind.  Other words were more sad, like ‘pressured’ and ‘threatened’ and ‘unlucky’. ‘Terrified’, ‘terrorised’, ‘unwanted.’

Experiencing sectarianism as part of women’s experience of gendered violence and sexism is complex.  But the challenge remains the same. We have to listen their words and be ‘Brave’, ‘Strong’, ‘Empowered’, ‘Smart’, ‘Thoughtful’ and ‘Proud.’

More information on the SWA seminar can be found here.

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