I’m no Citizen Smith: Cat Boyd on why she campaigns
Cat Boyd believes campaigning gives you the power to over-come your fears and enables you to change things for the better
For the last few years, I’ve felt like I’m always in the middle of a campaign. From the battle to Save the Accord centre in 2011, to fighting a dispute over pensions at my work, to campaigning for a radical vision for an independent Scotland, I spend a lot of time fighting the good fight.
But I’m no Citizen Smith. I’m actually pretty normal – I like a lie in at the weekends and to sprawl on the couch laughing at Frankie Boyle.
I think that’s important as a campaigner to live in the world. If you are not connected to your community, how do you keep your empathy?
The only big changes that have ever been legislated for by governments were because a lot of ordinary people thought they were worth fighting for.
My point is, campaigning isn’t and shouldn’t be for a narrow band of people known as activists; a sub-culture separated off from those they are supposed to be fighting for. In a world of inequality and injustice, campaigning should be part of the fabric of all of our lives.
Campaigning matters in three different ways. Firstly, it changes you as a person. Let me give you an example. When I began to work for the Department for Work and Pensions in 2008 as a low-ranking civil servant, I hated it. I felt alienated and angry at how shit it all was. When I started getting active in the trade union movement, I found that my story was the same as Pam’s and Clare’s and Marion’s. I found a way to tell my story, and to use that to make people feel less alone. It was telling my story that then got others active in the union too. It made me understand what I value in myself and in others, to see the best in people and not take my frustrations at the world out on the wrong targets.
Secondly, campaigning gives you a sense of collective strength to stand up to things you previously thought sacry or intimidating. Unfortunately, we live in a world of divide and rule, and unless we believe in our collective strength the bad bosses, the exploitative landlords and the UK Governments of whatever stripe will pick us off one by one.
Thirdly, and most importantly, you can change things: the NHS wasn’t handed down by a benevolent government. It was fought for from below. Decent housing wasn't gifted to us out of good will. It was demanded by people who wouldn't put up with living in slums any longer. The only big changes that have ever been legislated for by governments were because a lot of ordinary people thought they were worth fighting for.
The most recent thing I’ve been involved in is campaigning against pro-rape pick-up artist Roosh V. Roosh V is simply a symbol of rape culture. The online harassment that we feminists experience on the internet can be really isolating, but when we stood together in George Square, around 500 of us, knowing that over 60,000 had signed a petition to back our cause, we were strong and powerful.
The trick with campaigning is how to do it smart: how do we get our campaigning efforts into the media so that more people find out about it? How do we use the levers of politics to make sure the change we’ve made on the streets is reflected in the bills that are passed through parliament?
Cat Boyd is a feminist, campaigner and Holyrood candidate for Rise, Scotland's new left alliance. She will join Daily Record editor Murray Foote, the Head of 38 Degrees in Scotland Stewart Kirkpatrick and Friends of the Earth Scotland's chief executive Richard Dixon on the panel for People, Power or politics at the Gathering on Wednesday 17 February.