A guest post today for International Women’s Day, from Lily Greenan from Scottish Women’s Aid. We are most grateful, also because the Better Nation editorial team has a marked gender imbalance.

Lily GreenanLast week’s Old Firm game raised a few questions for me. The aggression used by some players during the game was more than matched afterwards by their managers/assistant manager. Was I shocked? I wish I could say yes, but sadly, I wasn’t shocked. There was nothing new here. Displays of macho posturing are not unique to football and though I agree that Lennon and McCoist should be more mindful of the influence they have and the messages they give out, I would say the same of many men in positions of power and influence in Scotland.

There has been a fair bit of coverage of the link between the Old Firm game and a reported rise in domestic abuse incidents. This isn’t news to anyone working in the field; nor is it news to the women, children and young people who live with it. Around Scotland, reported incidents increase after local football matches. I don’t know whether there is a bigger problem in relation to Old Firm games or not.

What I do know is that football doesn’t cause domestic abuse, any more than alcohol does. Women who experience domestic abuse talk about being controlled by their partner, isolated from family and friends, made to feel worthless. The violence their partner uses has a purpose – it reinforces the control he has over them. It happens every day, not just match day.

Men who abuse their partners don’t act in a vacuum. Their behaviour may be supported or challenged by what is happening in the community around them, by the effectiveness of the justice system and by the political priorities of the State. In Scotland, an incredible amount of work has been done since devolution to tackle domestic abuse. Cross party support has ensured a consistent message from Holyrood that domestic abuse is a political priority. This has been reflected in improved justice system responses, increased service provision and some world class work to address the needs of children and young people who experience domestic abuse.

What is missing is real engagement with the wider public. In particular, what is missing is the voices of men. What is missing is a much needed conversation about what it means to be a man in Scotland today and why it is so intrinsically linked to violence and aggression. As Gerry Hassan said in his thought-provoking exploration of some of the issues – “why do we seem to be uncomfortable and unwilling to begin a debate about men behaving badly?”.

It’s a question that begs a conversation. It’s a conversation that shouldn’t – and perhaps can’t – be started by women.

Today is the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, a day which celebrates the struggles and achievements of women around the world. Today Alex Salmond will host a Summit bringing together the SFA and the Old Firm teams to “chart a way forward”. I wish them well and offer this suggestion – start the conversation about why men behave badly – not just at football matches, but in the streets and in their homes.

We won’t stop domestic abuse until you do.