Brexit is a Feminist Issue

Having attended the launch of the Women's Equality Party and the "Feminists in London" conference, observed the movements of young women searching for new political modes out of patriarchy, for having lived over three decades of complicity and common endeavours with British academics, activists, civil servants and elected politicians, unionists and professionals to advance gender equality, we cannot happily accept the results of the referendum of June 23rd.

We need British feminists and they need the rest of us to create a better Europe, one in which, as Ruth Rubio Marin, professor at the European University Institute, puts it in her keynote speech of May 6th, we "displace dogmatisms around unregulated global financial markets, austere neoliberal states and the self-sufficiency of human beings and rescue, just as the Renaissance did, the individual man, and indeed the individual woman too, from different forms of oppressions and their modern iterations". Those who have little stake in or are losers of the current neoliberal model, amongst them a majority of women, are turning their anger into supporting populist politicians. However, there is a feminist project for Europe out there, which does not have a voice...yet.

The philosopher Iris Young explains in her writings that oppression consists of any system that reduces the potential for people to be fully human, either because they are treated in a dehumanizing manner, or because they are denied the opportunities that might allow them reach their full human potential, in both mind and body. Oppression does not only happen in cases of a cruel tyrant with bad intentions. Indeed, a well-intentioned liberal society can place system-wide constraints on groups and limit their freedom, relying not only on overt rules but also on unquestioned norms, habits and symbols. Oppression has, according to Young, five faces, namely violence, exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness and cultural imperialism.

Way beyond the "evils of immigration" or the "faceless bureaucrats" which have invaded the referendum campaigns, oppression and what a United Europe can do about it is what the debate should have been about. If only more women like Jo Cox had been given a voice in the campaign.

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