Brex-on, Brex-off - What the European Union Referendum means for women and people of colour
The leading voices on the EU referendum all come from the same elitist, sexist, Bullingdon club. Illustration: Author's own
There are plenty of right (or wrong) and left wing arguments for Brexit. While I recognise all of these points, I still think it is fundamental to realise that most Brexit arguments are xenophobic and do not count the opinions, rights and lives of women and people of colour into account. Like most of Britain’s politics, it is ethnocentric, classist and misogynist. Let me explain to you in a non mansplaining way, why I think this.
Brexit is Sexist? Yes. Brexit wishes to diminish the efforts of the EU trade standards, human rights acts and equal pay acts that women and people of colour benefit from. Yes, the United Kingdom would have probably got to some kind of equal opportunities agreement without EU membership, but EU membership helps a damn lot in making sure these acts are enforced and secure. The EU is an inspector that looks out for any ways in which the countries are not living up to their agreement, and therefore protect the smaller entities (citizens) from being exploited by the larger ones. In a patriarchal, white-male dominated society, the bigger structures that are ruled by mostly cisgendered, heteronormative white men from well-educated and upper class backgrounds seem to have most of the power and therefore most of the say. They also think that their superiority allows them to speak over women and PoC, in the metaphorical structure of things and in real life. Sound familiar?
This leads to my next point which is that, this absolutely crucial debate is being dominated and perpetuated by white males (Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, David Cameron, Michael Gove, I could go on but it’s making me feel queasy). The fact is that women and PoC are NOT being invited to this debate, and this is reflected in voting numbers and feeling confident enough on their decision. This marginalisation of women and PoC alienates large percentages of the population which, in turn, do not vote as they are not engaged in debate which is fundamental for deciding a stance. The Brexit argument has like most British politics, turned into a billiard game, fuelled by egos and anger towards people of colour “intruding” on white soil. The boys in power feel threatened. I say, let them be threatened, but don’t let them make you feel threatened. The EU is not stealing taxpayer’s money, nor is it turning Britain into a free-for-all for the world’s misplaced citizens.
The small percentage of tax payer’s money that is spent on the EU every year is used to protect our trade, economy, land and welfare. It ensures national security (after it was founded to keep peace amongst our war ridden continent) and workers’ rights that protect everyone, especially women. It protects maternity leave, sets standards of work safety and prevents work-place harassment, as well as ensuring fair contracts and standards of equal pay are upheld. Those politicians that support Brexit want women to be scraped of their human rights, fair pay and ultimately, want more power for themselves. The EU ensures that their power is modified; this is not a scary notion of taking power from the individual states (whom I can assure you would not give you more power as a citizen if they were in charge), rather it is about ensuring that standards are upheld and citizens are not exploited by their egotistical leaders.
Brexit is based on the belief held by our white male leaders that Britain is a holier-than-thou country and the EU is privileged to have us as a resident. If you can’t see something fundamentally colonialist and xenophobic about thinking that the United Kingdom is too good for anyone who hasn’t got their roots here, then you are most probably part of the problem.
We benefit from the EU. The EU benefits from us.