We need to be clearer about why we want women's voices to be representedby Jessica Abrahams / May 30, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more: Will there be a 2nd EU referendum?
There have been many complaints, over the last few days, that the EU referendum debate has degenerated into a boys’ “playground spat”. Those particular words were used by Angela Eagle, the shadow business secretary. Analysis by researchers at the University of Loughborough revealed that, of the politicians speaking out about this issue, men have so far accounted for 84 per cent of TV coverage and 91 per cent of press coverage. “Women’s voices have been drowned out,” warned Eagle.
She’s right, of course, especially when there are high-profile female politicians such as Nicola Sturgeon (who should have a prominent role to play in this debate) and Theresa May who have been vocal about the referendum. It’s not, however, specific to this campaign. The fact is that many political debates are still dominated by men—hardly surprising, given that 70 per cent of Westminster politicians are men, and almost all the party leaders. You need only watch one session of Prime Minister’s Questions to learn how quickly political discussion can descend into masculine posturing.
Away from politcians, media debates—especially in traditionally male domains such as politics and economics—aren’t often lauded for their high degree of representation, either. Research published last week by City University London showed that between October 2015 and March 2016, male experts outnumbered female experts on flagship UK news shows by about three to one—confirming similar findings from previous studies that news and comment is dominated by men.
That’s not to say that this particular instance of female-sidelining is not worth shouting about. We should always point out these problems where we see them; and the increased pressure that’s been put on broadcasters about this in recent times seems to be paying off.
But we also need to be clearer about why we want women’s voices to be represented. Much of the concern has been that women’s issues will be pushed out of a debate where only men are speaking. Eagle and Harriet Harman both talked about the…