Democracy should start this minute

balance-1302200_1280Where are the women?

I have been devoting a great deal of time to the EU referendum debate and have noted that the tone is harsh, full of ad hominem attacks and straw men.

I have been trying to advocate constructive dialogue rather than point-scoring debate.

I am also aware that the raw anger in many cases could be part of a deliberate political tactic so that voters vote against the side that made them the most furious. We do things in anger which we would never dream of in calmer times.

I have also been in some extremely uncomfortable places as a result of trying to find out more about the issues surrounding the referendum, including attending a small meeting of folk rooting for the other side, which I managed to extricate myself from before I could be roped in to write pro-Brexit letters to newspapers. I have now settled on a few trusted sources on both sides of the argument but my first scatter gun searches on sites such as YouTube led me to some extremely dark places that would make me want to erase my search history.

And now I realise that those trusted sources are all male, or male-dominated.

There are always more men than women involved in public life and politics generally but I sense that this debate is more male-dominated than most.

Why is that?

I think that the way the debate has gone is not at all inviting for women (and probably many men come to that) so that we are left with the loudest voices.

There has to be room in a democracy for diverse voices and the way that this debate has gone makes it safe only for dominant males. And since democracy is one of the rallying cries, especially on the BREXIT side then how about a bit of democracy in the campaign? Is this the way business is done in any other important context? I doubt it.

This appeared on my Twitter Feed today and it is very apt:

equity feels like oppression when you’ve had all the power. It is not. You’re simply, finally having to share

And when I challenged one website for featuring mainly males the response I got was:

1/5 of our writers/editors [are women]: More general point, which of us would you replace, and with whom?

implying that the debate is a zero-sum game with room only for a limited number of participants.

Research tells us that diversity leads to better results and more creativity.

A more positive approach may invite more women (and men) to take part in the discussion.

I keep saying that democracy is not just about ballot cards and this is just one example where the two sides need to make it more inviting to take part in the debate without fear of being mercilessly attacked.

If not, whichever side wins on June 24th will leave everyone with an extremely sour taste in their mouths and a desire never to re-visit the topic again, when what we need is more interest in the EU rather than less.

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