‘Why I think Brexit is a man’
PUBLISHED: 09:00 16 July 2018
Grace Campbell discusses how much women have to lose from the UK’s departure from the EU.
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If Brexit had a face, it would be that of a man. It would look a lot like Voldemort. Voldemort insecurely trying to cover his ugly head with a blonde wig he’d borrowed from Boris Johnson, a pair of glasses nicked from Jacob Rees-Mogg, and an ill-fitting suit bought at Jeremy Corbyn’s car boot sale.
There is no doubt in my mind that Brexit, though it may be being led by a woman, is a man.
When I was studying for my politics A-level in 2012, we learnt all about constitutions. The UK, I learnt, doesn’t have a written constitution. What this means is that the stone on which our rights are carved is perhaps not as solid as that of other EU countries.
This worried my A-level class, many of whom (me included) were new-found feminists who didn’t like the idea that there was no security deposit for the progress that feminists have fought for over the past century. We were reassured by our teacher that there was nothing to worry about, because most of our rights are bound up in EU law, which isn’t going anywhere.
Sadly now, six years later, we face the reality that post-Brexit, whoever is in power will have freedom to rip up these laws that have been made to protect women from being discriminated against because of their gender. Shared-parental leave, equal pay, anti-discrimination laws, protection against harassment and human trafficking: all things that are now at risk of being weakened by the EU Withdrawal Bill.
Once we’ve left the EU, there’s nothing to ensure that our government will replace these protective rights. Labour have promised that there will be no ‘race to the bottom’ in this area. However, for those politicians on the right who are fighting for a hard Brexit, a race to the bottom is exactly what they want. Fewer human rights is better for business.
Just as then my politics teacher assumed there was no danger of us leaving the EU, I am sure that most Americans assumed there was little risk of going back on abortion laws. However, as we’re seeing now, Trump’s America is, little by little, getting closer to the dystopian society of The Handmaid’s Tale.
The president is barely disguising his misogyny and rampaging through norms that were previously taken for granted. He has announced he will replace the pro-choice Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is about to retire from the Supreme Court, with the anti-choice (pro-life) Brett Kavanagh, which will tip the institution’s balance in favour of limiting women’s access to abortions. This could mean that in two years, abortion could essentially go back to being illegal in at least 24 states.
My point here is that without the security of the EU, our rights – which we’ve only just won – are at risk of being shredded by a radical Conservative like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who doesn’t believe in a woman’s right to an abortion even if she’s been raped because that would be a ‘second wrong’.
While the Republic of Ireland moves forward, with the repeal of the eighth amendment to its constitution (which effectively banned abortion), is it possible that we may be stepping back in time? Not only on reproductive rights, but on the gender pay gap. The principle of ‘equal pay’ was included in the Treaty of Rome, in 1957. In the UK, we have no equivalent that could guarantee the gender pay gap doesn’t open right up like Tower Bridge.
I had, if truth be told, become quite bored of the whole Brexit conversation, because I hadn’t been able to work out where it’s all going to end up. However, when I went to the People’s Vote march last month, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many young women there. A total of 80% of 18-24-year-old women voted to Remain, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. But the fact that this momentum has remained among young women, is, I think, for two reasons.
Firstly, because we are aware of how volatile all of these rights that our feminist predecessors have fought for can be – there one minute, gone the next.. like Boris Johnson on the day of the vote for a third runway at Heathrow. We know that there are people in power who don’t want us to have these rights, which is why we can’t stop fighting for them.
And secondly, 18-24 year olds are the future mothers. I am a woman who hopes that one day she’ll have children. I would do everything in my power to protect my rights as someone who one day will get pregnant, and want maternity leave, and not want to be discriminated in the work place, simply because of the fact that I have a womb.
• Grace Campbell is a writer, comedian, and co-founder of the Pink Protest, a platform for female activism. To find out more, visit www.pinkprotest.org
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Almost four years after its creation The New European goes from strength to strength across print and online, offering a pro-European perspective on Brexit and reporting on the political response to the coronavirus outbreak, climate change and international politics. But we can only rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press with your support. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.Become a supporter