Contesting Brexit masculinities: pro-European activists and feminist EU citizenship

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Although Brexit campaigns mobilised discourses of hegemonic masculinity that marginalise women, women seemed to be at the forefront of pro-EU campaigns post-referendum. I explore to what extent pro-EU activists make claims to EU citizenship that contest the masculinities of Brexit. Combining Isin’s approach to citizenship as ‘performed subject positions’ with intersectional feminist theory, I argue that masculinity became a site of EU citizenship contestation, which nevertheless reproduced racialised and class-based exclusions. Drawing on interviews with grassroots pro-EU activists, I argue that activists reject militaristic discourses of British identity by asserting multiple embodied identities, demand rights relating to the intimate sphere, and participate in informal, local and non-hierarchical ways. Yet, they reveal a white cultural European identity, a European exceptionalism in demands for rights, and a failure to break with the whiteness of traditional social movements. These findings demonstrate the need for feminist and intersectional analysis within EU public opinion research.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Common Market Studies
Early online date22 Jun 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Jun 2021


  • Brexit
  • EU citizenship
  • feminist theory
  • masculinity
  • social movements


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