Things are moving so fast at the moment that by the time I post this, it might well be out of date. British politics is insane. With that being said…
Brexit. A chipper portmanteau for an event with massively far reaching consequences, and deep underlying causes, that it should never have been given such a friendly sounding title. It almost sounds like a biscuit. Trust Brits to name something as important as the UK trying to leave the European Union in a such a pithy way.
There is so much content out there on Brexit, that when you google the word, it comes back with 486,000,000 results. Yet at this point I am so deeply down the rabbit hole with stress and worry as to what is going to happen to my country’s economy and society, that I thought it needed to become 486,000,001 results. But, I wanted to look at it from the perspective of women in the UK. We make up 51% of the population, and yet we have been vastly underrepresented in this seismic event, and stand to be overly affected by the aftermath.
In the run up to the referendum in spring 2016 (remember those sweet heady days?), women were only given 8% of the text/column space dedicated to the subject, and only 16% of the television/radio slots. Once again, 51% of the population were left with a vastly sub-optimal platform to have their voices heard.
And then the referendum happened. Women voted to remain, but by a very small margin (51% remain/49% leave). The most startling difference is seen when looking at women of different ages. Women aged between 18-34 at the time of the vote were split 67% remain/33% leave, whereas women aged 55+ were 39% remain/61% leave (Source Ipsos MORI). But there has been a change; polls now suggested that 56% of women now think we should remain within the EU, whilst 82% of 18-24 year olds, some of whom were too young to vote in 2016, would vote to remain.
And support for a People’s Vote has come from some surprising places:
This government is not allowing our people to have another chance to decide whether we want the deal that is on offer – that is a gross betrayal of democracy by definition.Rachel Johnson, Journalist
So why is Brexit a feminist issue? Every analysis that has been published on the consequences of Brexit by a reputable source indicate that it will lead to an economic downturn, and that there will be less money for public services. Women rely on public services more than men (which is why they have been drastically disproportionately affected by austerity). They are also disproportionately represented in the no-hours contract workforce, retail, and service industries, which studies suggest will be hit the hardest by Brexit. According to Women for a People’s Vote, almost 900,000 women’s jobs could be under threat from Brexit, due to cuts to public services, further austerity, and low job security.
If we get a no-deal Brexit, it’ll be us, our daughters, and our grand-daughters cleaning up the mess.Ayesha Hazarika, Political Commentator
And it’s not just economically that women will be worse off with Brexit, or (please no) a no-deal Brexit. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) reportedin 2018 that it is women’s rights and equality protections could be under threat. Whilst the government has said it will continue to honour the Equality Act, the political commitment to do so has not been included in the proposed withdrawal agreement.
You should be open to a long extension, if the UK wishes to rethink its strategy. 6 million people signed the petition, 1 million marched. They may not feel sufficiently represented by UK Parliament but they must feel represented by you. Because they are Europeans.Donald Tusk, President of the European Council
The EU has helped the cause of women’s rights in Britain time and again. It took the UK to court to give women equal pay; forced the UK to pay part-time workers (predominately women) the same wage (pro-rata) as full time workers; and made the UK introduce legislation to protect the rights of pregnant women in the workforce. Without the enforcement of these protections, things could unravel fast.
Make no mistake: Brexit is a feminist issue. It has been negotiated by and for white men, yet it will be economically worse off women, ethnic minorities, and LGBT+ communities who will be hit the hardest.Rosie Duffield, MP for Canterbury
This is, of course, the biggest issue in this decade (and perhaps more). I just hope we come to a sensible conclusion, that doesn’t result in massive job losses and further societal division, and then I can have a large drink.