Today’s activist is Heather McKay.
Tell us about yourself! Who are you and what do you do?
I am Professor Heather A. McKay (née Ayre), MSc, BD, PhD, FHEA.
In education, I am a product of an all-female grammar school in Glasgow where we were taught that we could easily achieve what males achieve. Then I studied at Glasgow University and earned two Science degrees (BSc and MSc) as a young woman and, as a mature woman, two degrees in Biblical Studies (BD and PhD inDivinity). In between I was a horse rider for leisure and a hospital laboratory worker and researcher, a mother and a National Childbirth Trust Breast-feeding Counsellor and Teacher of Antenatal Preparation classes, both of the lattermost for several years in Glasgow, and then, Sheffield. In the late sixties, I worked as a schoolteacher in Ely (Cambridgeshire) and, later, in Glasgow, sandwiching four years as a lecturer in Biological Sciences at Napier University, Edinburgh. After gaining my Bachelor of Divinity, I worked as a student minister for a year then became a schoolteacher again, this time in Religious Studies and Religious Education. After a few more years in schools and John Leggott Sixth Form College in Scunthorpe, I became Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at Edge Hill University, Lancashire and worked there till my retirement having been granted a personal chair meanwhile. I particularly enjoyed, there, teaching the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education for new lecturers at Edge Hill.
My second husband is David Clines, of much Biblical Studies fame, and my younger son, Dr Robert McKay, is Senior Lecturer in English Literature (also at Sheffield University), specializing in Animal Studies. My older son, Kevin McKay, works in the music industry in London.
How do you think the Shiloh Project’s work on religion and rape culture can add to and enrich discussion and action on the topic of gender activism today? Is there more we can do? What else should we post?
I think that the Shiloh Project makes a vital contribution. I believe that any young women nowadays delude themselves that the feminist battles have been won. I believe that most of women’s gains in bodily freedom and mobility and time at their own disposal have been gained by scientific advances, namely, the provision of simple and easy sanitary protection and choices of contraception. Both give women greater control and offer options that women may make for themselves. But the idea that men have ceded 50% of their power of the public spheres of action to women is risible. But then, it must be a daunting prospect to reduce one’s power in life to a half; only the very best of men seem to be capable of embracing that idea wholeheartedly. Hence the clear, unambiguous focus provided by the Shiloh Project cuts through the doublespeak that sugarcoats many unpleasant ‘pills’ of women’s life in the public sphere. The Shiloh Project must use its cutting edge to show women where their key vulnerabilities lie both here in the UK and globally.
In the year ahead, how will you contribute to advancing the aims and goals of The Shiloh Project?
It is hard to be specific but, as you can see from my thoughts outlined above, these issues are always at the forefront of my mind. Memories well up of antenatal classes where the fathers were sometimes unwilling to massage their wives’ backs and/or bellies in the particular different ways that would alleviate their aches and pains, then, the transforming joy on their faces as their actions produced those relaxed sighs as pain receded and their partners’ faces melted into a gentle smile and look of love. I wish that change to happen also to the pains of the workplace and of other public spheres where partnership enriches rather than undercuts the common project.