Currently, the EU referendum debate looks more like a dick swinging contest than the measured, grown-up discussion it's supposed to be. David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson are in the midst of a civil war. Conservative Iain Duncan Smith, the real firecracker in the debate, has called Cameron "desperate" and accused the government's "In" campaign of being a load of "spin and smear" tactics. On the other side, in the political bromance of the year, Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, and George Galloway have put aside their political differences to talk on platforms together.
It seemed that, until the queen was outed as an "outer" by theSun (an accusation that's since been denied), no high profile women had expressed any opinion on the subject whatsoever. Former T4 presenter June Sarpong has been campaigning for women to speak up through the pressure group Women In, and Conservative MP Priti Patel has also been vocal, but as Trades Union Congress General Secretary Frances O'Grady pointed out, "This referendum debate has thus far been dominated by men in suits. We've not heard from ordinary workers—and we've barely heard from any women at all."
We decided to take to the streets on Tuesday—International Women's Day—to ask women if they thought the EU debate really is just an assortment of angry men shouting at each other.
Isabel, 25, Market Researcher
VICE: Do you think the debate is just a load of angry men shouting?
Isabel: That's not something that I've noticed, but thinking through the key players in the debate, I can't think of a high profile woman in either camp.
Should there be more women voicing their opinions in the EU debate?
I think in general there should be more women in political debate, but I don't think the EU debate is something where it's particularly necessary to have a woman's opinion—you just need an informed opinion, regardless of gender.
Laila, 41, PHD Student
Do you think the media coverage of the EU referendum has been especially male-dominated?
Laila: It's ironic, because before I came to the UK from Egypt, there was always this media propaganda that women in the Middle East don't participate in politics and decision-making, but when I came here, I noticed the same thing. The strong representation of women who I imagined within the political system here doesn't exist. I came here to find out that women are also not as well paid as men and that the top management positions are still male-dominated.
If there were more female politicians in the EU debate, would you feel more involved in the discussion?
Yes, I think so, because women are more involved in the details of everyday life, like bringing up kids, studying, and also working a job. In that sense, women can add perspective at least to the decision. It doesn't help to only have men in white collars and suits making decisions for the average person on the street.
Lucy, 23, model
Do you think there's been an equal amount of male and female voices in the political debate so far?
Lucy: I've picked up on the fact the only politicians voicing their opinions are men. Women should speak up more on the issue and get more involved.
Would you like there to be more female voices included in the EU debate?
Yeah, because I think women don't bullshit as much. Right now in politics, things aren't said the way they should be. The kind of rhetoric politicians are using is not attracting the right crowd. It's all got a bit childish, and there's a lack of respect for one another. If women were more vocal, the approach and the rhetoric used would improve.
Antonia, 24, project manager
Do you think the majority of the public are informed about the EU referendum?
Antonia: No. My sister is backing Boris because of the political figure that he is—she likes his personality. I think a lot of other people will be picking a side by the same merit, and I'm not sure that's the way to go. The media today is going to point you in one direction, and if you don't know where to look, you will get fed information that isn't necessarily true.
Is the EU debate just a lot of angry men shouting?
From what I've seen on the news, it is.
Would you be more likely to feel involved in the debate if more women were included in the discussion?
No, I'm not biased in that way, but it would be nice to have more balanced arguments in general, not just on the topic of the EU.
Alice, 28, Receptionist
Do you think the debate so far has just been an assortment of shouty, angry men?
Alice: Thinking of the main players, I think politics in general feels like a lot of shouty, angry men.
Would the debate be more appealing to you if it included more female voices?
No. I would be more interested in hearing people I had more in common with in terms of age range or economic background—not necessarily sex. In terms of who's got the biggest opinions and shouting the loudest, it seems like I can only hear white, middle-class men.
Maria, 48, CEO
Have you been keeping up with the EU referendum debate?
Maria: Yes, because in my line of work, I'm very concerned about workers' rights and their impact on people in the UK.
Do you think the debate so far is just an assortment of angry men shouting?
Being on public transport, you constantly see men's faces next to a headline on the EU. But I tend not to look at the papers. All my information comes from the NGO sector, such as War on Want and 38 degrees. Still, it makes no difference whether you are in the Commons or part of an NGO—the debate is still male-dominated.
Do you think there should be more women speaking up in the EU debate?
I'm very lucky because I work in a very female-dominated environment, so I'm surrounded by opinionated women. The EU debate is concerned with workers' rights and how people are treated—issues that directly affect women. For example, at the moment, the EU governs policies on maternity leave. So it's crucial that women as well as men are involved in the debate.
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