iScot Magazine is a Scottish-independence-supporting online and print magazine, for which I’ve written extensively over the past two years, including a monthly whisky column. Its August edition sports a cover based on the 17th Century Rubens painting The Three Graces, with the heads of Ruth Davidson, Theresa May and DUP leader Arlene Foster superimposed.
The original’s famous portrayal of nakedness has been modified with Photoshopped ‘modesty’ bands. This is a change from the much-trailed-on-social-media version of the cover, which featured crudely drawn-in ‘bikini’ patches.
That first version, which was evidently aimed at creating controversy and attention - and succeeded in doing so - was condemned by a number of people associated with the independence movement, including Women For Indy board member and owner of Glasgow’s Yes Bar, Suzanne McLaughlin, as ‘misogynist and puerile’.
I can only concur. The ‘modesty’ version which has ended up being published is in some ways worse, in that it references the controversy and demeans a piece of great art, reducing it to mere prurience.
I put my point of view to Ken McDonald, owner and editor of iScot, before publication and it became evident that we disagreed. As he put it, many women ‘did not find the cover sexist.’ My argument would be that not only is the cover sexist, in that it demeans, is prejudiced against and attacks women for being women, but it is misogynist in that it shows a deep contempt for women. As one appalled (female) observer said: ‘The power of that cover comes only from the fact that naked female bodies are displayed. It would never be contemplated with male nakedness and male politicians. It attacks the people concerned simply for being female.”
Ken has committed his savings, indeed his life to the magazine and has been a delightful and supportive person to work with over the past years. My own tentative move towards support for independence was narrated in the magazine, and while there were always issues with some of the less professional and occasionally peculiar contributions, the publication’s sheer existence against considerable odds has been extraordinary, and a real tribute to Ken’s commitment and energy.
Over the past week, and indeed fuelled by the trailing of the August cover, a slow fund-raising and subscription campaign has accelerated and - heavily endorsed by the blog Wings Over Scotland - taken off, and it now seems the future of the magazine for the next year is secure.
I, however, will not be writing for iScot in the future. It is ironic that my piece in the August edition reviews Rachel McCormack’s new book Chasing the Dram - a thoroughly feminist look at Scotland’s relationship with whisky.
It would be easy to point to the extreme corners of the independence movement and identify lurking elements of sexism, homophobia and, as Neil Mackay, editor of the Sunday Herald said on (and about) Twitter this week, ‘dumb toxic bile’. You can find the same sentiments among unionists.
But neither nationalism nor unionism is more important than respect for human beings. Than simple decency.