IS it no a grand thing that Scotland’s national day is a celebration o a airtist? Nae offence tae ye, St Andrae, but seein as hoo yer the patron saint o Barbados, Russia an protection agin the kink-hoast, ye’ve plenty tae be gettin oan wi. Oor patron saint is Robert Burns. An noo that wir yule trees an skinklin lichts is doon, it’s time fir tae turn oor minds tae a moose, a red rose an a dance o witches.

As a bairn nerd, a stertit performin Burns aroon nine-year-auld. A wis the naitional Burns recitation champion at 15. A lairnt Tam o Shanter at 16 an was aften at Suppers perfomin it fir the neist dizzen year. A wis peyed, aften weill, fir daein Tam aw ower. Whiles, A performed it wi ma mither, wha lairnt me Burns as a bairn. We wis a curiosity – telt ower an ower it wis that unique tae hae a lassie daein Tam, but TWA WIFIES THEGITHER?! Especially, fowk wis at pains tae add, sin we were better than monie men.

They’re wrang, o coorse. We’re better at it nor onie man. Dinnae @ me.

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A’ve duin Burns in village haws, fantoosh hotels, schuils, seen-better-deys hotels (luikin at you, late 1990s Salutation Hotel) an trades haws whaur fowk peyed a thoosan pund a table. A hae duin it in Embrae, Glesga, Carnbo an New York Cíty. An efter near-haund twa decades o Burns suppers A can scientifically annoonce: Burns suppers is a Sexist Mess.

Lest year, Liz Lochhead kickit up a stooshie by statin Burns wis a “Weinsteinian sex pest”. She referenced, as ithers the likes o biographer Robert Crawford or journalist Stuart Kelly hae duin, a boastfu letter Burns wrote aboot a sexual conquest o Jean Armour. It’s no a richt admíssion o rape, or assault – Jean’s feelins is hid ahint the locker-ruim braggart wha claims he “f*cked her until she rejoiced”. It’s certes no the straicht clarity o Samuel Pepys wha wis constantly rapin wímmin (Exhibit A: his diary December 20 1664).

Fir me, the Weinsteinian Burns is maist appairent in his habit o gettin servant lassies pregnant. It’s certes important tae the “Burns Community” that he wis irresistible, an aw the lassies wantit him, but if the #MeToo movement has lairnt us onyhin, it’s that pooer structures are invísible tae them that’s in pooer, an een Nice Guys abuse thae structures wioot seein theirsels as monsters. Ye cannae hae a relationship wi an employee, wha lives an sleeps unner yer command, wha’s future ye haud in the palm o yer haund, wioot riskin abuse.

But does ony o that maitter whan we celebrate Burns? It maitters if a culture his graun aroon that scriever an their work that perpetuates the warst aspects o that person in the lívin, breathin followers the day.

The National:

A’ve bin a 20-year-auld wummin sittin at a Burns supper tap table sair forfochen wi haudin a fake smile oan ma mug through five oors o “romantic advances” or “naughty jokes” or plain patronisation at the haunds o auld men in their element. A’ve sat through a dozen Toasts tae the Lassies that’s naehin mair nor a Google search o “offensive jokes aboot wímmen” strung thegither fir 15 minutes, wi no a single mention o Burns until: “Aye, but Burns loved the lassies an Ae Fond Kiss is an awfie bonnie sang – raise yer glesses tae the lassies!” The Wikipedia airticle oan Burns suppers states the Toast tae the Lassies “is normally amusing and not offensive”. Dream oan.

But it can be itherweys! In 2017 an 2018 A did Alternative Burns Suppers wi bairns at a simmer schuil fir the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. We learnt aboot Burns, we lairnt his sangs frae Professor Fred Freeman ayont the dizzen ye aye hear, we studied the poems in the context o the Scots leid an its suppression, baith in Burns’s dey an oor ain. But no awbody at the Burns Clubs wis pleased wi oor re-imaginin.

Burns Clubs can feel like a reargaird action, a desperate scullin backward agin the flow o the sweet Afton o time an progress. But Burns nichts the likes o the celebration that ma pals, Rosie an Joe, hae ilka year is a great white howp. There’s turns, costumes (Rosie is aye Burns), fake tattoos o Witch Nancy dauncin, poems an sangs, whisky an haggis (vegan an meaty), aw crammed intae their wee tap-flat tenement hoose. They gaithered £800 fir the Scottish Refugee Cooncil last year, an the progress o oor culture isnae set back by the end o the nicht. Naebody his thir sexist prejudices confirmed, nae young performers feel uncomfortable – awbody belangs an awbody his a rerr terr. It is a nicht whaur “a human’s a human fir aw that”.

It is a braw hing tae hae a airtist, an a airtist o a minoritised leid, as oor naitional figure. Let’s no let men wi hair as white as snaw an the gowd cheynes o officíaldom throttle that bonnie fact bi pinnin it in some Bad Auld Deys.

Eh, an ae lest hing: The Star o’ Rabbie Burns can get in the sea.