After a year of political flux and upheaval, the Brexit negotiations officially began on Monday 19 June. The underrepresentation of women at the highest political level is one thing which appears to have remained constant. Columba Achilleos-Sarll, a PhD candidate at the University of Warwick, points out that only one and two women make up the UK and EU negotiating teams respectively. She assesses the impact that this could have on the process, and what it means more broadly.
Brexit negotiations have kicked off but one thing is amiss – there is only one woman sitting at the negotiating table for the UK team and only two at the negotiating table for the EU team. This seemingly banal observation, however, is curious, and prompts a question once posed by feminist scholar Cynthia Enloe: “Where are the women?”
Theresa May and other ministers have repeatedly claimed that no deal is better than a bad deal. Columba Achilleos-Sarll, a PhD candidate at the University of Warwick, argues that the discourse of both the referendum campaign and subsequent Brexit debates have been hypermasculine in nature. She points out that this has a number of undesirable consequences, such as reinforcing gendered stereotypes about successful political leadership and foreign policy.
The referendum campaign and Brexit have ushered in a new hypermasculinity. During the campaign and in the post-referendum debates, brokering a deal with the European Union has been constructed both conceptually and theoretically as a business-to-business transaction – akin to making a deal with the UK’s biggest investor. Theresa May has repeatedly claimed that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, arguing that we need an agreement “that gets us the right deal abroad for ordinary people at home”. Her words are subconsciously designed to project a ‘businessperson as leader’ motif; which reflect a linguistic gendered order that is believed will increase the public’s confidence in the ability of the government to get the best deal for the UK.