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Lerwick Up Helly Aa - sexist or traditional?

up helly-aa

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Poll: Female squad members in Lerwick Up Helly Aa (105 member(s) have cast votes)

In principle, should women be allowed to participate in Lerwick Up Helly-Aa as squad members?

  1. Yes (54 votes [51.43%])

    Percentage of vote: 51.43%

  2. Voted No (51 votes [48.57%])

    Percentage of vote: 48.57%

Is logistics (already high numbers of guizers, waiting lists for squads etc) a valid reason not to allow women to participate in Lerwick Up Helly-Aa as squad members?

  1. Yes (50 votes [47.62%])

    Percentage of vote: 47.62%

  2. Voted No (55 votes [52.38%])

    Percentage of vote: 52.38%

The current ‘male only’ squad member demographic of Lerwick Up Helly-Aa is….

  1. Sexist (42 votes [40.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 40.00%

  2. Voted Traditional (63 votes [60.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 60.00%

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#16 EM

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 03:09 PM

How could it be "done completely" unless by a process of evolution?

 

I refer to changing the membership eligibility criteria being "done completely." Lerwick currently maintains a legal discrimination. SMUHA  (I believe Delting to be in this category too, there may be more.) has no gender discrimination. If Lerwick were to change it would need to remove all gender discrimination in one sweep. It has to remain legal, so partial introduction is not an option.

 

 

 

Certainly the constitution/rule book would probably need re-written completely ...

 

Just to clarify, there are rules, but no constitution.

 

 

 

... the only way in for those waiting is by filling dead men's boots.

 

 

That is not entirely the case, but can be taken as a workable simplification of how it generally works.

 

The argument presented by yourself and Wheelsup has one fundamental practical flaw. For there to be a change in the criteria for guizer eligibility, there would need to be a widespread, indeed overwhelming, desire amongst the guizers for this to happen. This is certainly not the case for various reasons. Sticking with just your "getting a berth in a squad" aspect, turkeys do not vote for Christmas. Guizers are not going to change the status quo unless they are given a very, very strong reason for doing so. That is how things happen with UHA. Even if the committee wanted to change the gender requirement, they'd have no chance of doing so, unless the guizers could be convinced the festival would be threatened otherwise.

 

Prior to 2010 I could easily have envisaged small incremental changes happening, such as permitting female musicians. That would not have been particularly controversial. Since the law was reorganised that kind of incremental change has become unfeasible.



#17 Ghostrider

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 04:06 PM

^ Okay, makes sense now. Has the conclusion that the current guizers have no appetite to change the status quo come from an actual (preferably secret) ballot, or is has it just been reached from the apparent weight of opinion of those choosing to express one. Like many places, UHA is heavy on peer pressure (or it was last i was anywhere near it), so its reasonable to conclude that while a secret ballot would reflect a reasonably accurate picture of guizers opinions, there is going to be a significant reluctance for anyone to stick their head above the parapet and back anything they perceive as being unpopular with many, thereby creating a much distorted picture of actual feeling.

Is is fair too that any and all decisions concerning UHA are taken only by the current participants? The PR bills it as a "community event", so shouldn't the wider community's opinions count for something as well. Its easy enough for the views of participants and hostesses to be canvassed, but not those of the guests and spectators. Is it enough that the wider community have to rely on lobbying current participants (and a lot of spectators won't know many, if any of the participants) to drive forward any change, as such a system risks creating a situation whereby the participants create what they want, and the wider community without whom the event wouldn't amount to much, just have to put up with that on the basis its better than nothing, rather than getting an event that is perhaps more to the liking of the majority of those involved with it on any level in any way.

Finally, any possibility of being able to answer the original question in this thread. Who foots the bill for the Jarl Squad's presence in Edinburgh at New Year's, and what is the "purpose" for them attending/participating?aa


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#18 admin

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 04:33 PM

** admin edit - we've split off the 'sexism vs. trad' discussion from the 'Viking is Edinburgh' thread. We might do a bit more tidying up of the various UHA threads over the next peerie while as there's been quite a few on the go **



#19 EM

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 05:05 PM

Has the conclusion that the current guizers have no appetite to change the status quo come from an actual (preferably secret) ballot, or is has it just been reached from the apparent weight of opinion of those choosing to express one.

 

 

​Mainly the latter, but there have been "Is this OK with you?" mass meeting moments. Guizer opinions are typically "totally boring topic," or "no way." Hostess opinions are almost invariably "no way" or "absolutely no way."

 

 

...its reasonable to conclude that while a secret ballot would reflect a reasonably accurate picture of guizers opinions, there is going to be a significant reluctance for anyone to stick their head above the parapet and back anything they perceive as being unpopular with many,

Certainly true, but I don't think you'll find any participant who believes the general feeling is anything but overwhelming status quo.

 

 

Is is fair too that any and all decisions concerning UHA are taken only by the current participants? The PR bills it as a "community event", so shouldn't the wider community's opinions count for something as well.

Getting to the crux of things here.  Lots of people want UHA to be lots of things, but just do not understand what it really is. It is certainly a community event, but that is a very broad term.  It is something people do for its own sake, not for tourism, not for PR, not for gender equality. As many a UHA stalwart has stated, "We'd still do it if nobody watched."  It is fiercely independent and focused on doing what it does best. If the wider community likes this, then fine, but it has no interest in most of the ways the wider community tries to co-opt it. For an event of its scale, this independence is remarkable.

 

 

Finally, any possibility of being able to answer the original question in this thread. Who foots the bill for the Jarl Squad's presence in Edinburgh at New Year's, and what is the "purpose" for them attending/participating?aa

 

The arrangements concerning the various Jarl's squad jaunts vary enormously. It totally depends on how interested the Jarl and squad are in the specific event. What is always the case, however, is that such trips are entirely squad matters. The committee organises UHA, subsequent Jarl's squad activity is up to the squad itself.  I've no idea what the specifics generally are for the Edinburgh trips.

 

Purpose?  They enjoy them.  All the issues about promotion and advertising are an unintended consequence.



#20 Russabell

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 06:18 PM

There is, of course, nothing to stop those who don't like the Lerwick UHA from starting up their own event in a way they see fit, and leaving those of us who do enjoy it in its current format (and we are many) to enjoy it.


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#21 Ghostrider

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 08:21 PM

There is, of course, nothing to stop those who don't like the Lerwick UHA from starting up their own event in a way they see fit, and leaving those of us who do enjoy it in its current format (and we are many) to enjoy it.

 

This is part of the problem, insofar as its no longer just the Lerwick UHA, as long as it was few outside the town gave a damn beyond making as sure as they could they didn't need to be in the toon on the day.

Between local tourism efforts punting it as something unique by which Shetland can be identified, national and further afield media sticking their oar in, and Jarl squad jaunts Shetland and UHA have achieved, and are continuing to achieve ever increasing levels of interchangability in the minds of those on the receiving ends of those promotions, media coverage and visits. Resulting in all of us being tarred with the same brush as that collective audience decides UHA needs tarring with.

As long as UHA stayed between the Staney Hill an da Soond o' Bressa and took up half the Times on the Friday, few on the other sides of those boundaries really much cared what went on with it. Modern communications and transport have long since breached those boundaries allowing UHA's influence to be ever increasingly spread far and wide, and with that increased coverage come additional responsibilites and consequences, not least if they result in all of Shetland being in some way perceived, either rightly or wrongly, in some form of negative manner. Then it becomes all of Shetland's business, as they've become involved with it, whether they like it or not.

What happens in Lerrik on the last Tuesday in January doesn't stay in Lerrik, and what escapes, along with no doubt generating positive and appreciative responces, is also generates an image of Shetland being full of sexist hairy men who play at pretend vikings. Whether UHA and the population of Lerrik are happy to tolerate that perception is very much their business, but its one the wider Shetland public seem to be fast running out of patience for.

The hairy men playing at pretend vikings, folk maybe have no choice by try and learn to live with, as the only way to counter it is to end all UHAs, and thats not realistic given the support for the UHA concept generally. The sexist perception though is addressable, either by the current participants allowing anyone to participate in full in UHA regardess of gender, which for reasons already given, probably isn't happening amytime soon. In which case those running UHA have a moral responsibility to embark on effective PR to counter the event's sexist perception, for that is the cost and consequence of allowing their event to become a Shetland identity, be freely broadcast to the nation and worldwide, and to get to parade down Princes Street, Broadway or wherever else they go in full costume.



#22 Ghostrider

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 08:58 PM

Getting to the crux of things here.

 

Another crux is, while the reason for retaining the status quo is given as no interest by current participants to see any change, its fair to ask if they really do have the right to make that choice. Obviously legal advice has been sought, and it supports the fact that they do have the right to make that choice, and thats fine, in the current circumstances nobody needs to do or is expected to do anything else, but thats only one opinion, its not been fought out over in a court and a determination reached specific to UHA's situation.

A layperson though, reading the relevant legislation could easily be forgiven for concluding that that advice is on pretty shaky ground, and that the basic tenet of the legislation, equal access and opportunity for everyone regardless of gender removes any right from current members to choose whether they continue with the status quo or not. Who would win at the end of the day (apart from the lawyers of course) were it ever fought out in legal argument right own to the wire, I'd no care to bet on either way.advice



#23 EM

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Posted 15 January 2017 - 10:06 PM

There is, of course, nothing to stop those who don't like the Lerwick UHA from starting up their own event in a way they see fit, ....

 

... or indeed those who do like the Lerwick festival.  I have stated previously that I believe it would be a very good idea for yet another UHA.  Not a feeble weemins Lerwick trying to fit into the already chocabloc winter season, but an annual summer event similar to the Hamefarin burnings. This is something which would positively address the desires of the tourism sector, and generally be a good thing. Seems to me to be a far more fruitful endeavour to be involved in than just seething and moaning about something which can not be won. If anyone is keen, I am ready to support with all my technology and whatever advice I can provide.

 

 

 

 

A layperson though, reading the relevant legislation could easily be forgiven for concluding that that advice is on pretty shaky ground, and that the basic tenet of the legislation, equal access and opportunity for everyone regardless of gender removes any right from current members to choose whether they continue with the status quo or not. Who would win at the end of the day (apart from the lawyers of course) were it ever fought out in legal argument right own to the wire, I'd no care to bet on either way.advice

You are turning me into a cracked record! ;-)

 

The legal situation is not shaky or grey, it couldn't be any clearer. Prior to 2010 your comments would have been valid, but all the legalistic wiggle potential has been removed. Indeed that was the main point of the legal reform. Instead of having loads of different acts all dealing with discrimination differently, a single act was made law which is consistent and easy to understand.

 

I've read everything I can on the relevant law, and discussed this material with numerous lawyers and academics.  If the situation was grey there would be "On the one hand it says this, but it could also be argued that..." type comments. Wearing my most sceptical hat I can see no soft area which could be challenged legally, and neither can any of the experts I am aware of. They all say it is watertight.

 

The act is not as daunting a read as might be expected, but even if you only read the guidance notes, a layperson should be in no doubt. Cleverly it uses Golf Clubs to illustrate what is legal and what is not.

 

https://www.gov.uk/g...ivate-clubs.pdf

 

What most people just do not grasp is that there is discrimination, and there is unfair discrimination. The law defines precisely what is deemed acceptable. Lerwick UHA ticks all the boxes.



#24 Rasmie

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 08:44 AM

I think the whole thing is being overthought. Legal or not, unless there is a change then at some point in the future it will attract a lot of negative attention and may well come to a highly publicised challenge. Why not just pass it to the grass roots, the squads, to be allowed to take in males, females and others as their membership sees fit. Surely that would keep the committees's nose clean without having to make any major announcement or get involved
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#25 Ghost Town

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 11:26 AM

It's not all male dominated in Lerwick UHA.  In the Brass Band, women and girls are most welcome and can happily march in the ranks when playing, though it should be noted this is because the LBB quite rightly ensures this.


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#26 Ghostrider

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 02:09 PM

I think the whole thing is being overthought. Legal or not, unless there is a change then at some point in the future it will attract a lot of negative attention and may well come to a highly publicised challenge. Why not just pass it to the grass roots, the squads, to be allowed to take in males, females and others as their membership sees fit. Surely that would keep the committees's nose clean without having to make any major announcement or get involved

 

Would it work though, or would it just make a longer trail of people to bury it and/or to sue over it? Devolving the issue down to squad level would just mean that anybody who believed they had grounds to mount a legal challenge would mount it against the individual squad(s)/squad leader(s) who chose to have a male only membership policy, and it wouldn't necessarily absolve the committee entirely, as there would still be the angle that they permitted such discrimination in an event they oversaw if anyone their was mileage in running with it.

 

Its a step in the right direction though, and for sure its not an issue thats going to go away, so it either needs a plan, or quite rightly as you say, at some future time, maybe soon and maybe not, its going to blow up, possibly spectacularly in folk's faces. 35 years ago any mention of including other genders made by the general public were few and almost all made in jest. Different story now, the number and volume of the critics has been increasing year on year and show no signs of slowing down, and they'd deadly serious.

 

While the its a "private party" angle and we'll run it as we want to run it argument, is all well and good in many respects, it falls down where the event relies on public areas etc to exist. Were it held wholly on private property little could be done to change things, but it is only as long as the event has the goodwill and tolerance of the general public to give over the various roads, venues etc utilised and "let it happen" that it can continue, and unless those overseeing their "private party" in those areas address the concerns of the rest of the population who tolerate it and let them get on with it, they're living with the apparently steadily increasing risk of people starting to feel strongly enough about things that they decide to withdraw their goodwill and tolerance of the event.

 

 

UHA's predecessor was the tar barrel. It had its supporters or it would never had become established in the first place or lasted as long as it did. Presumably any detractors in the early days were few, but times move ahead, things change and attitudes change, and eventually the detractors outnumbered the supporters leading to it being banned. To continue with any sort of similar tradition the tar barrellers had to invent UHA from the bottom up, and could only manage to include tentative tips of the hat to their former activities for it to be acceptable in the age in which they were living.

Credit to them, they must have done a good job, for what they designed has endured relatively unchanged for over a century and has been extensively supported during that period. Times though have again moved on, much has changed and attitudes have dramatically changed in that period, UHA is now of an older vintage than the tar barrel was when it was judged as unacceptable for the times, and folk apparently in ever increaseing numbers are again questioning UHA's acceptability in the times in which we live.

While UHA as it stands may well be believed to be "legal", that has no bearing on its social acceptability. Those running the event can either take the view that the levels of detraction and criticism are exaggerated and that the apparently ever growing opposition to gender based entry has or will shortly peak and subside, or they can address the issue by evolving their event to better suit the times and attitudes.

The tarbarrellers by most accounts were made aware over an extended period that their activities were bcoming less and less tolerable, yet they chose to change their ways little if any, and history records their fate from making that choice. Maybe UHA is big enough and can rely on enough support to continue as is for years if not decades to come, maybe it can't. One thing history is very clear on is that the survivors are those who evolve and adapt as their enviornment changes around them, those who don't ultimately die out. Its always not so much a case of "if", but when that death will occur.
ar b


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#27 Scorrie

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 02:20 PM

 

 

 

......What most people just do not grasp is that there is discrimination, and there is unfair discrimination. The law defines precisely what is deemed acceptable. Lerwick UHA ticks all the boxes.

 

 

Legally correct.

 

But we all know there's a massive chasm between what is law and what is perceived to be right by the majority.

 

And the negative publicity is only going to build up......


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#28 Rasmie

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 03:32 PM

The status of a squad would make it very unlikely to be pinned down as an entity. basically its a score of mates going around a dozen private parties.

 

However, This is the 21st Century and a lot of last century's  norms are  having to alter. I think its dangerous in the long term not to simply open the door. Whereas currently the Hostesses appear not to want change, the hostesses themselves will change in 10 or 20 years.


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#29 DetectorMan

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 04:41 PM

Lerwick Up Helly Aa - sexist or traditional?

M'mmm, perhaps I should doll myself up and come in drag, "viking style". That should make the horns of the squads helmets curl a bit!!

 

Anyone else up for it?


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#30 Suffererof1crankymofo

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 06:22 PM

The status of a squad would make it very unlikely to be pinned down as an entity. basically its a score of mates going around a dozen private parties.

 

However, This is the 21st Century and a lot of last century's  norms are  having to alter. I think its dangerous in the long term not to simply open the door. Whereas currently the Hostesses appear not to want change, the hostesses themselves will change in 10 or 20 years.

 

Is it not the case that there are hosts as well as hostesses at the moment?  Weird how police woman, waitress, actress, etc., have being replaced in language with gender neutral or the male (waiter, actor) being adopted as applying to all, yet the female pronoun appears to have been adopted for UHA.  Nevertheless, the fact that both genders (not aware of anyone identifying as gender fluid or non-CIS male/female are currently hosts/hostesses) are in these roles, it doesn't negate the fact that women are still absent from the squads.

As for the question, something can be traditional and still be sexist.