Sex, Gender, Politics, Leadership and the EU

Is Leadership, political, religious and journalistic, too male?

What has the EU done for sex/gender equality, opportunity, and protections? How were the Leave and Remain campaigns dominated by “blokeish” male political and media voices and yet female candidates are now more to the fore in post-Brexit party leadership challenges? If women were allegedly more likely to vote Remain, and yet makeup over 50% of the electorate, how come they voted 52% Leave? All the political parties, even UKIP, could have women at the helm by October. Would female voices have run the campaigns any differently? Were male voices more prone to exaggerating facts and fears? Some religions and states still argue that “leadership is male” and “women should be silent” following only the vote of their husbands, brothers or fathers, if they are even allowed to vote at all. 60% of Christians voted Leave and 70% of Muslims voted Remain.

Discussion in Norwich Library, Tuesday 5 July, 6-7pm

Blokeish Masculinity & Male-dominated Politics

“The twin curse of masculinity and male-dominated politics helped create Brexit”

“Women will decide the EU referendum – so why [were] the campaigns so blokeish?”
Evidence points to a potentially significant difference between men and women when it comes to their views of the EU and the referendum:

  • Women were almost twice as likely to answer ‘Don’t Know’ in most EU referendum polls.
  • Women were less likely to say they are certain to vote in the referendum: 43% of men are certain which way they will vote, whether that’s ‘In’ or ‘Out’; that drops to just 29% of women.
  • Women are considerably less persuaded by UKIP, and have been less likely to vote for them. When asked how much they trust a series of different politicians when they talk about Britain’s membership of the EU, 41% of men say they trust Nigel Farage, but only 31% of women agree.
  • Intriguingly, evidence suggests that women may be more Eurosceptic than men, and more difficult to persuade to vote for Leave.
  • There are divergent patterns among different women voters: younger women are more likely than younger men to vote Remain/Left; older women are more likely than older men to vote Leave/Right.

Women’s Silence or Absent Focus?

“women’s voices have been depressingly absent…Women’s voices have not been heard anywhere near enough in the macho standoff that has passed for a campaign” – Polly Neate, CEO of Women’s Aid

“This was a horrible campaign; an argument that until the final days of the referendum campaign was conducted largely between white middle-class men, with ill humour and little understanding of voters’ disenfranchisement” – Sophie Walker, Leader of the Women’s Equality Party

Although the WEP were largely silent during the Referendum campaign, only writing about it after the fact.

“…a referendum campaign in which women’s voices were woefully lacking…” – Sophie Walker

“Considering they make up a slim majority of the British population, women have been notably marginalized in the EU referendum debate. The repercussions of Brexit for them as a demographic have scarcely been highlighted. As a group, women wield 1 million extra votes more than men in the June 23 referendum, yet the male-dominated Leave and Remain camps have done little to explain what either eventuality could mean for the livelihoods of the other sex…polling data compiled by YouGov [suggested] that 53% of women favour leaving the EU. However, only 68% of women said they would definitely vote in the referendum, as opposed to 75% of men. According to British Future, twice as many women as men prefer to say they don’t know which way they will vote.” – RT

“Women are more likely to say they don’t know. This is an ingrained feature of public opinion research. They are also slightly less likely than men to support Leave.” The Independent

Make your mind up!

Are women more or less likely to back the EU?

In the end, it seems a majority of women voted Leave by 52% to 48%, just like men, so was there no gendered difference? Probably there was, with younger higher-education women more likely to vote Remain and older women more likely to vote Leave than similar men.

“Neither side in the EU debate seemed that interested in women. The campaigns largely felt like men talking to one another, and a cursory glance at a debate on the matter in the House of Commons might still back that up: Europe seems to turn men on in a way it doesn’t for women. The campaigns feel rather blokey too…Even at a grassroots level the debate is rather heavy on the boys.”

“Tory minister Priti Patel claimed that “Women for Britain are fighting for the same cause” as Emmeline Pankhurst. This didn’t go down all that well with Helen Pankhurst, Emmeline’s great-granddaughter. She claimed the suffragette leader would have “been the first to champion what the EU has meant for women – including equal pay and anti-discrimination laws”.” – The Guardian

“there can be no reneging on the legislation prompted by membership of the EU that – while creaky in places – has done much to enhance the lives of women workers.” – The Daily Telegraph

On equal pay, on maternity leave, on unfair dismissal, it was the EU that forced the UK to extend those rights to all women and not just some. They also pushed for full protection from sexual harassment in the workplace.

“membership of the European Union has brought benefits for women – and particularly for women escaping violence and abuse…The EU has also done important practical work…to support the eradication of violence against women; this has been championed and prioritised by the European Parliament. This work includes the European Protection Order, the European Victims Directive, and the Lisbon Treaty…the majority of EU member states have developed national strategies and action plans to address VAWG (Violence against Women and Girls)…largely thanks to the EU… It funds EU-wide networks, such as the European Women’s Lobby and Women against Violence Europe(WAVE)…Forget house prices: this is about human lives.” – The Daily Telegraph

Are women’s views and input considered of less value than men, are they by default, less heard? Do they make better decisions?

Why Aren’t More Women in British Politics?

Despite at one stage in 2015 there being 5 female leaders, and a larger tranche of female MPs than ever before, the loudest and leading voices on Brexit were male.

“An unprecedented high of 191 women MPs (29%) were elected to the House of Commons on 7 May, an increase of 48 from the immediate post-2010 election results. At one stage during the summer, five of Britain’s main political parties were led by women – including interim party leaders Harriet Harman (Labour) and Sal Brinton (Liberal Democrats).” – PSA

And yet, Theresa May is leading the pack for Tory leader and Andrea Leadsom coming second, invoking the spirit of Margaret Thatcher and God in her ambition to be Tory leader.

BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour – ‘The Women Are Coming
Quentin Letts and Laurie Penny discuss the rise of women in politics
“Theresa May is the favourite to be the Conservative leader, Angela Eagle has put name forward to take over Labour, and we already have a female First Minister in Scotland with Nicola Sturgeon. In Europe Angela Merkel is still the one in control and let’s not forget that Hillary Clinton could be US President by the end of the year. So, is this time finally the time for women politicians?”

Not to mention Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru) and the possibility of Suzanne Evans (UKIP) post-Nigel Farage.

GAS Sex, Gender, Leadership and EU Politics
Are women’s voices and views ignored in politics and the EU Referendum?