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ECPR Futures Lab 2020

Gendered Citizens of Brexit: How the EU Referendum Shaped Women’s Pathways for Political Engagement

European Union
Political Participation
Political Engagement
Simona Guerra
University of Leicester
Simona Guerra
University of Leicester
Roberta Guerrina
University of Bristol
Theofanis Exadaktylos
University of Surrey

This paper explores the role of gender in determining pathways for engagement during and after the EU Referendum campaigns of 2016. The UK’s in-out referendum on membership of the EU was pitched as opportunity for widespread political engagement and participation. The visibility of the official and unofficial campaigns in the lead-up to the vote certainly highlight the reach of the debate across British society. Yet, the conduct of the campaigns did not result in a more informed public debate about European or national issues. The tone of the official referendum material, in particular, focused on producing emotive responses, moving the polity further away from evidence based discussions about the future of the UK as a European and international actor. The unexpected result of the Referendum led to a boom in analysis of public opinion, voters’ choice, citizens engagement. Much of this analysis has focused on “the left behind”, highlighting the impact of socio-economic inequalities on political participation and engagement.

One of the areas that has largely been ignored is the role of gender, as a structure of power, in shaping women’s engagement with issues relating to European politics both during and after the EU Referendum campaign. This paper will focus specifically on unpacking the work gender is doing in shaping women’s position as citizens both in the public and private sphere. Looking at gender frames during the EU referendum campaigns, and drawing on a survey of 2000 respondents carried out 10 days after the vote, the paper will highlight what role gender played in shaping women’s ability to engage in public and private discussions about the future of the UK and the EU more widely.
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