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Generating ‘Good’ Ideas, Writing Good Papers and Reviewing Journal Articles: A free workshop for doctoral students and early career researchers who have not yet published in refereed academic journals

As part of the 2015 Gender and Education Association conference, the Gender & Education editorial team will be running a free workshop for doctoral students and early career researchers who have not yet published in refereed academic journals. It is only open to conference participants, who will need to book a place.

To access more information about the writing workshop, please click on this link:

Writing workshop

 

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Gender and economic equality in Scotland: mission (im)possible?

Gender and economic equality in Scotland: mission (im)possible?

Unequal access to life opportunities continues to constitute a chronic impediment to education, participation in civic society and work, and health and well-being in Scotland, especially so of girls and women.

It is a striking paradox that, while the people of Scotland optimistically view their small country on the periphery of Europe as an avowedly equal and democratic polity, evidence suggests that ‘as part of the UK, Scotland is one of the most unequal countries in the developed world’ (Cooper 2014).  Irrespective of the outcome of the recent Independence Referendum, issues of inequality, poverty and disadvantage remain at the fore of a devolved Scotland.

Scotland’s wealthiest households are nearly 3000 times better- off than the poorest.  More than one on five Scottish children lives in poverty. Scots living in rich neighbourhoods can expect to live 10 to 15 years longer than Scots living in the most deprived neighbourhoods (Oxfam, in Cooper, 2014, p4).

Over 220,000 children in Scotland live in poverty and the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that by 2020 this number will increase by a further 100,000 (Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland 2014).  By all accounts, urgent action is needed: to understand and address inequalities, poverty and the effects of these for socio-economic marginalization, exclusion and civic non-participation in Scotland.

The transfer of First Ministerial power in Scotland’s Government in 2014 signified a renewed commitment to tackling social inequality related to economic wealth and poverty.  But is there a similar urgency, for instance, to address the issue of gender-based inequality and its complex effects for the poverty and well-being of girls and women?

Research studies conducted by the Scottish Independent Schools Project (SISP) (2006-to date) show that gender remains a salient issue for Scotland at the level of educational and social policy and governance (see e.g. Forbes, Öhrn & Weiner 2011), in schools and communities (Forbes & Weiner 2012, 2013) in learning and teaching and in the reproduction of particular practices and student embodiments (Forbes & Lingard 2013, in press).

The SISP analyses reveal markedly differentiated gender-power regimes operating in each of the independent schools investigated.  For example, a girls’ school was explicitly committed to (liberal) feminist knowledge and a research-informed approach to learning and teaching; a boys’ school sought, as a response to global market forces, to renegotiate its previous traditional, male military and sporting, gender regime so as to incorporate a wider range of cosmopolitan and urbane masculinities; and a co-educational school promoted conventional masculinities and femininities through practices predominantly of benefit to males.  Each school regime had critical effects for the research, including, for example, on ease – or otherwise – of access, research relationships, and feedback to schools (Forbes & Weiner 2013, 2014a).

The SISP research uncovered ways in which gender and other structural categories were interlinked to inequalities such as social class and economic wealth.  Also influential were schools’ historic, social and cultural identifications and the socio-economic fraction from which each school drew its current and future students (Forbes & Weiner 2014b).  So the demographic of pupils in each school varied – according to whether parents desired a ‘traditional’, ‘academic girl-centred or some other kind of education for their offspring, and/or the preferred employment destination in the professions, business and commerce, or elsewhere (Commission on Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission 2014).

Sociologists of education have over the decades shown the impact of ‘intersectionalities’ on schooling in the maintained sector (Crenshaw 1991).  Less research has been carried out on the independent school sector in the UK generally and even less on the independent sector in Scotland.  The insights gained from the SISP studies, we propose, suggest the need for more research aimed at unravelling the operations of intersectionalities of gender, class and wealth – and other such as ethnicity and religion in independent schools, particularly in Scotland.

Reported widely, the administration of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is now the first – and only – government executive in the UK countries in which cabinet appointments are equally shared amongst women and men.  And, in announcing the legislative programme of her government, Ms Sturgeon made it clear that a priority, indeed her ‘personal mission’, as Scotland’s first female First Minister, is to tackle social inequality.

Will First Minister Sturgeon’s first confident and progressive declarations on gender and inequalities remain rhetorical or symbolic? Or will poverty alleviation – and specifically the elimination of gender-based inequalities in the distribution of income and wealth, become the hallmark of the Sturgeon administration?

Blog post by Joan Forbes, University of Aberdeen

References

Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland (2014) Child Poverty in Scotland. Retrieved 27 November 2014 from: http://www.cpag.org.uk/scotland/child-poverty-facts-and-figures

Commission on Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission (2014) Elitist Britain? Retrieved 01 December 2014 from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment data/file/347915/Elitist Britain – Final.pdf

Cooper, S. (2014) Mission possible: tackling inequality. The National newspaper. Tuesday November 25, 2014. Pp4-5.

Crenshaw, K. (1991) Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics and violence against women of colour. Stanford Law Review, 43.6, 1241-1299.

Forbes, J. & Lingard, B. (2013) Elite school capitals and girls’ schooling: understanding the (re)production of privilege through a habitus of assuredness. In Privilege, agency and affect. Understanding the production and effects of action. Maxwell, C. & Aggleton, P. (eds) pp50-68. London: Palgrave MacMillan.

Forbes, J. & Lingard, B. (in press) Assured optimism in a Scottish girls’ school: habitus and the (re)production of global privilege. British Journal of Sociology of Education. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01425692.2014.967839

Forbes, J. Ohrn, E. & Weiner, G. (2011) Slippage and/or symbolism: gender, policy and educational governance in Scotland and Sweden. Gender and Education, 23.6, 761-776.

Forbes, J. & Weiner, G. (2012) Spatial paradox: Educational and social in/exclusion at St Giles. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 20.2, 273-293.

Forbes, J. & Weiner, G. (2013) Gendering/ed research spaces: insights from a study of independent schooling. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 26.4, 455-469.

Forbes, J. & Weiner, G. (2014a) Gender power in elite schools: methodological insights from researcher reflexive accounts. Research Papers in Education, 29.2, 172-192.

Forbes, J. & Weiner, G. (2014b) Gender sensitive research in schools: insights and interventions on gender, social class, economic wealth, and other intersections. Paper given at the Scottish Universities Insight Institute Seminar Series 2013-14: Children’s Rights, Social Justice and Social Identities in Scotland: Intersections in Research Policy and Practice. Seminar Three: Intersecting childhood identities, inequalities and social justice: Intersectionality, methods and research. The Scottish Universities Insight Institute, Glasgow, 23 June 2014.

The Smith Commission (2014) Report of The Smith Commission for the further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament. Retrieved 27 November 2014 from: https://www.smith-commission.scot/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/The_Smith_Commission_Report-1.pdf

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Towards a politics of hope? Activism and gendered labour

Towards a politics of hope? Activism and gendered labour

In this blog post Janet Newman, Emeritus Professor at the Open University introduces her recent book Working the Spaces of Power: activism, neoliberalism and gendered labour.  She asks, in these dire times, how might it be possible to hold onto a sense of hope? And, given the collapse of trust in political parties (at least in Britain), how can we find the resources for political agency?

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Whenever I look at the ‘big picture’ narratives of the rise of neoliberalism, or the exhaustion of feminism and other social movements, I lose heart. But when I talk to women trying to take their political beliefs into their working lives I regain a sense of hope – and inspiration. My own research traces how women negotiate institutional regimes to find spaces where political agency is possible. In ‘Working the spaces of power’ (Bloomsbury 2012) I draw on interviews with some 60 women over 4 generations, all bringing political expertise and experience to projects of social and economic transformation. They linked governmental programmes to community politics; worked ‘in and against the state’ in local and central government; sought to bring feminist and antiracist politics into policy reform; and brought new forms of research and action into the academy, think tanks and entrepreneurial spaces.

janet newman
janet newman

Education was at the core of their work, even if not employed in the education sector. Some sought to educate civil servants and local government actors, bringing them into conversation with those directly affected by policy shifts or organising events exposing them to alternative ideas and experts. Some were involved in development projects in local communities, seeking to empower those in poverty – particularly women – to take collective action. Some worked in think-tanks, universities and research centres. Their work was flexible and creative; and of course was sometimes vulnerable to cooption by governments looking for new solutions.

But I want to explore in particular how women brought political agency into their work in Higher Education, where two rather different political strategies became evident. One concerned challenging the power relationships between teacher and student, or between researcher and research subject. The language here was of partnership, of coproduction, of involvement. Others set out to challenge hierarchies of expertise in academic knowledge; for example the turn to post-structuralism, embodiment and affect in social theory is largely down to feminist academics. Both strategies of course are vulnerable to critique: the former because of its conception of power, the latter because of its implications for solidaristic forms of politics. But that is not my point: both continue to have a transformative power in and beyond the academy.

The stories of the women I interviewed are not always of success. They faced daily negotiations with institutions and systems that were hostile, or that imposed conditions that took the politics out of their achievements (as was the fate of much of the liberal equality legislation of the past). They had periods of retreat and exhaustion, but what the interviews show is how they tended to move on to a different sphere of action rather than withdrawing from political life. They worked ‘inside/outside’, looking both ways: to their political networks that sustained them, and to the organisations that they sought to change. Such work is becoming more difficult as a result of cuts, redundancies and new forms of contract, all of which make women’s employment particularly vulnerable. But it nevertheless continues, often prefiguring new kinds of social and political action. And it is this that offers me – and I hope others- a sense of possibility, of hope.

by Janet Newman, Open University

 

 

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2015 Biennial Conference of the GEA Association:  Keynote speakers’ short bios and abstracts

2015 Biennial Conference of the GEA Association: Keynote speakers’ short bios and abstracts

2015 Biennial Conference of the GEA Association: Keynote speakers’ short bios and abstracts

Prof. Katarina Eriksson Barajas, Linköping University, Sweden

The Power of Fiction as a Pedagogical Tool for Eliciting Gender Discourses

My paper examines discussions of gender values in everyday life, elicited by books, film and theatre. The analysis draws on three Swedish data sets: 1) teacher-led book talk sessions that raise gender issues in small groups of pupils in Grades 4-7, 2) the use of a feature film (Lilya 4-ever, about sex trafficking) to instill gender equality values in upper secondary school, and 3) discussions of gender issues among adults after leisure-time visits to movies and theaters. The data is analyzed using a discursive approach (Edwards and Potter 1992) combined with poststructuralist feminist research on (children’s) reading (Davies and Banks 1992; Walkerdine 1990). The idea that we learn and develop fundamental values, such as gender equality, through fiction, coincides with research findings indicating that we develop empathy by reading good literature (Kidd and Castano 2013). My presentation contributes some empirical knowledge about how people are “doing equality” in natural everyday settings. The analyses show that gender stereotypes are, at times, transcended in discussions around fiction, regardless of the gender content in the book, film or play in question. Additionally, the analyses show that, even outside of educational contexts, fiction is spontaneously used by participants to address gender equality issues. The idea that fiction can open one’s mind follows Swedes throughout their education, and is apparent among adult film enthusiasts and theater-goers, and also relates to research of everyday learning and adult education (cf. Larsson 1996).

Davies, B. and Banks, C. 1992. ‘The Gender Trap: A Feminist Poststructuralist Analysis of Primary School Children’s Talk about Gender’. Journal of Curriculum Studies 24: 1-25.

Edwards, D. and Potter, J. 1992. Discursive psychology. London: SAGE.

Kidd, D.C. and Castano, E. 2013. ‘Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind’. Science 342: 377-380.

Larsson, S. 1996. ‘Vardagslärande och vuxenutbildning’.

Walkerdine, V. 1990. Schoolgirl fictions. London: Verso.

Keywords: Every day life, popular culture, fiction, gender equality.

Katarina Eriksson Barajas is Professor of Education in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Learning at Linköping University, Sweden. She is interested in child studies, comparative literature, discursive psychology, gender studies, and reader-oriented research. Her research focuses on needs and uses of fiction by applying a discursive approach on everyday practices concerning literature, film and theater. One such practice is the use of fiction as a didactic tool.

 

Prof. Penny Jane Burke, University of Roehampton, UK

Gender, Emotion and Difference

Feminist insights have contributed a richer understanding of the profound relationship between the histories of gendered subjectivity, ontology and epistemology and the vacating of the emotional from the world of the academy. In this keynote I will explore the emotional layers of pedagogic experiences not only to illuminate ‘fear as emotion’ but also ‘fear of emotion’ (Leathwood and Hey, 2009: 435). Such fear is entangled in the destructive forces of multiple political frameworks operating simultaneously to reform processes of misrecognition and symbolic violence, even as higher education policy is demanding that universities evidence inclusive practice as part of their commitment to diversity. Underpinning the hegemony of neoliberalism, meritocracy, and globalisation, and related undercurrents of misogyny, racism and classism, is the construction of ‘difference’ through fixing and pathologising identity positions. Difference and emotion are posed as dangerous forces that require homogenising and neutralising via technologies of managerialism and through the fixing of socially constructed categories. Such manoeuvres are deeply bound to moves towards hyper-individualism in which specific performative and instrumentalist models of success are being mobilised. New formations of patriarchy within neoliberalism ensure that characteristics associated with difference in HE, such as ‘being emotional’ or ‘caring’, are regulated and controlled through a range of new disciplinary technologies, including of teaching. Pedagogical relations are thus deeply implicated in the gendered politics of (mis)recognition, and profoundly connected to the impact of the emotional on the body and the self (Ahmed, 2004) and to the politics of difference. I will argue that we need to re/imagine difference not as a problem to be regulated for neoliberal processes of standardisation and homogenisation but as a critical resource to reflexively develop collective and ethical participation in pedagogical spaces. Such collective participation is not based on a notion that we can overcome power relations, but an understanding that power is complex and fluid and an inevitable dimension of pedagogical relations in which difference is and should be part of the dynamics in which we create meaning and understanding.

Ahmed, S. (2004) The Cultural Politics of Emotion. New York: Routledge.

Leathwood, C. and Hey, V. (2009) Gender/ed discourse emotional sub-texts: Theorising emotion in UK higher education. Teaching in Higher Education. Vol. 14 (4), pp. 429-440.

Key words: emotion, pedagogy, fear, managerialism

Penny Jane Burke is Professor of Education at Roehampton University, London, where she is co-Founder and Director of the Paulo Freire Institute-UK (PFI-UK) and Research in Inequalities, Societies & Education. She is also Global Innovation Chair of Equity and Co-Director of the Centre of Excellence in Equity in Higher Education at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Penny is passionately dedicated to developing methodological, theoretical and pedagogical frameworks that support critical understanding and practice of equity and social justice in higher education. Her research expertise includes gendered formations, higher education access and participation, pedagogical experiences and practices and student and professional identities. She has published extensively in the field of equity in higher education. After returning to study via an Access to Higher Education course, followed by a BA Honours and MA, Penny was awarded a full-time Economic and Social Research Council doctoral studentship from 1998-2001, which resulted in the publication of her book Accessing Education effectively widening participation (2002). Her most recent sole-authored book The Right to Higher Education: Beyond widening participation was published by Routledge in 2012. Her co-authored book Reconceptualising Lifelong Learning: Feminist Interventions (with Sue Jackson) was nominated for the 2008 Cyril O. Houle World Award for Outstanding Literature in Adult Education. Penny was recipient of the Higher Education Academy’s prestigious National Teaching Fellowship award in 2008 and she is the Access and Widening Participation Network co-Convenor for the Society for Research in Higher Education (SRHE). She is Editor of Teaching in Higher Education and a member of SRHE’s Governing Council and Publication Committee. Penny has held the posts of Professor of Education at the University of Sussex and Reader of Education at the Institute of Education, University of London.

 

Prof. Marília Carvalho, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil

To move toward greater democracy in global production of knowledge

In international social science journals, including those with a feminist focus on gender, such as Gender and Education, articles about countries in the global South often show their location in their titles. In these articles, one finds explanations about the geographic and socio-economic context, the educational or political system, historical roots and so forth. But when a paper has no contextualization, and the authors use general words like girls, boys, women or teachers, then it probably comes from the metropole.

These points show some of the imbalances in global knowledge politics and despite the particular attention that gender studies developed to power relations, this situation is true also for our field. These questions have been debated for decades, all around the world, and they pointed out that the conceptual tools of metropolitan social science present themselves as universal and able to decode all societies. So the relevance of metropolitan theory and research is previously warranted by the universality from which it tacitly begins.

We, who produce knowledge from the global South, are used to translating in the broad sense of translation, which goes far beyond transferring linguistic meanings from one language to another. We are used to explaining and contextualizing, in order to make our ideas understandable. And besides translating our own texts and contexts, we also need to understand the locales in which the metropolitan research was conducted and the metropolitan theories were developed.

Behind this set of issues there is actually a wide-ranging epistemological debate about the possibility and need for universalization. But for now, I only intend to suggest a seemingly simple posture that can help us to move toward greater democracy in global production of knowledge, paying particular attention to feminist knowledge: an effort to clarify the contexts, an ongoing effort to shift towards the other, and to realize the necessary mediations to make the ideas of each one understandable for those who do not share the same cultural background.

Key words: North/South division of intellectual labor; translation; social science journals

Marília Pinto de Carvalho is Professor of Sociology of Education and Educational Policies in the School of Education at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. Her research interests focus on sociology of education, relating to gender and teachers’ work and also gender and school achievement of boys and girls. She is especially concerned with how gender, race and class work together in the context of institutional settings such as schools. Her current research is about how family socialization contributes (or not) to girls’ academic success in poor urban area schools.

 

Prof. Farzana Shain, Keele University, UK

Feminisms, imperialism and the ‘war on terror’  

More than thirty years ago, Amos and Parmar’s  groundbreaking paper ‘Challenging Imperial Feminism’, published in Feminist Review  (alongside other seminal works including Hazel Carby’s  ‘White women Listen’ and Mohanty’s ‘Under Western Eyes’)  sparked productive debate among feminists about the limits of ‘global sisterhood’ and about Western feminism’s uncomfortable support of imperialist interventions.   Since then, intersectionality, the concept alluded to by Amos and Parmar and later introduced by Kimberle Crenshaw to denote the multiple and interlocking systems of oppression that shape the lives of black women, seems to have been mainstreamed in academic work and policy discourse, though not without critique (Anthias, 2007).  However, the use of feminist rhetoric by Western leaders after 9/11 to justify the global ‘war on terror’ as well as some open endorsement provided by mainstream human rights and liberal feminist organisations has led to a renewed debate in the last decade about the relationship between imperialism and feminism. Drawing on the recent dialogue between US based feminists (Kumar; Toor; Tax) about the legacy of the global ‘war on terror’ for feminist politics and activism, and with a particular emphasis on the way girls and women’s rights to education have been used to justify such interventions, this paper takes a critical look at the issues to reflect on the direction that has been travelled by feminisms since the 1980s.

Key words: ‘war on terror’, feminist politics, intersectionality, imperialism and feminism

Farzana Shain is  Professor of Sociology of Education in the School of Public Policy and Professional Practice at Keele University.  Her early research  focused on the impact of neoliberalism on educational policy and practice in the further education sector in England.  More recently, her research and writing has focused on young people’s gendered, raced and classed experiences of schooling and also on young people’s understandings of the politics of oil.  She is the author of The New Folk Devils: Muslim Boys and Education (Trentham: 2011), and The Schooling and Identity of Asian Girls (Trentham: 2003), which collectively  explore the social and political identifications of young people in a schooling context in England against the backcloth of the global ‘war of terror’.

 

Prof. Lois Weis, State University of New York, USA

Class/Gender Formation in 21st Century United States: Probing Intersectionality in the New Upper Middle Class in Markedly Altered Global and National Circumstances

Unprecedented levels of executive compensation and finance largely drive well-documented inequalities of income and wealth, with resulting explosive growth in wealth among the top 1% in the United States, in particular (Piketty, 2014; Piketty and Saez, 2012; Saez 2013). As a consequence, the vast majority of highly educated professionals in the US and elsewhere, as well as those who inherited wealth from their parents, find their relative positions substantially eroding in relation to a class of super-rich financiers and senior managers..

This well-documented realignment has deep implications for the extent to which and ways in which relatively privileged parents strive to position their children for future advantage. Based on two years of extensive ethnographic investigation in three representative affluent and elite secondary schools in the United States (Weis, Cipollone & Jenkins, 2014), I argue that as relatively privileged women increasingly engage in a form of “mother work” designed to position their children for access to highly valued postsecondary destinations (at a time when such access can no longer be assumed), women become centrally located in new forms and enactments of “class warfare.” As I will suggest, the stark insertion of gender and gendered labor into new class processes/ productions fundamentally alters the fulcrum of class struggle in current historic moment, thereby setting the stage for class structural arrangements of the 21st century. Where men arguably sat at the center of class analysis and class struggle/warfare of the not too distant past via industrial workplace struggles and/or accumulation and management of massive economic capital, it is now women, via the kind of intricate class positioning such as that explored in this lecture, who sit at the epicenter of new class productions, formation, and outcomes. Turning class/gender intersectionality “on its head” so to speak, sets the stage for future important work on class/gendered productions in a range of class fractions in nations differentially positioned in relation to globalizing culture and capital.

Key words: intersectionality, class, globalization, ‘mother work’, gendered labor

Lois Weis is State University of New York Distinguished Professor of Sociology of Education at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. She has written extensively about the current predicament of White, African-American, and Latino/a working class and poor youth and young adults, and the complex role gender and race play in their lives in light of contemporary dynamics associated with the global knowledge economy, new patterns of emigration, and the movement of cultural and economic capital across national boundaries. She is the author and/or editor of numerous books and articles relating to race, class, gender, education and the economy. Her most recent volumes include Class Warfare: Class, race, and college admissions in top-tier secondary schools (with Kristin Cipollone and Heather Jenkins, University of Chicago Press, 2014); Education and Social Class: Global perspectives (edited with Nadine Dolby, Routledge, 2012); The Way Class Works: Readings on school, family and the economy Routledge, 2008); and Class Reunion: The remaking of the American White working class (Routledge, 2004).

Lois Weis is a winner of the outstanding book award from the Gustavus Meyers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America, as well as a seven-time winner of the American Educational Studies Association’s Critic’s Choice Award, given for an outstanding book. She is past-president of the American Educational Studies Association and past Editor of the American Educational Research Journal-Social and Institutional Analysis section. She sits on numerous editorial and advisory boards, including the International Advisory Group of the Forum for Youth, Participation and Democracy housed at the University of Cambridge, UK. She is member of the National Academy of Education (NAEd), an Honorary Fellow of the American Educational Research Association, and has delivered invited lectures worldwide.

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Feminisms, Power and Pedagogy: 10th Biennial Conference of the Gender and Education Association

Third and Final Call for Papers

DEADLINE EXTENDED TO 10 January 2015

University of Roehampton, 24-26 June 2015

The tenth international biennial conference of the Gender and Education Association, Feminisms, Power and Pedagogy, will be hosted by the School of Education and the Paulo Freire Institute (PFI)-UK & Research in Inequalities, Societies and Education (RISE), at the University of Roehampton, London, UK.

We are seeking contributions that engage with questions of power and pedagogy, broadly defined, in relation to gender and other ‘differences that make a difference’ (such as nation, geography, race, class, sexuality and dis/ability), on local, national and global levels. Feminisms are also defined broadly to include a range of ways of understanding gender and power and how these concepts relate to other inequalities. Similarly education and pedagogy include not only the formal, apparent pedagogies offered in educational institutions, such as schools and universities, and the hidden curricula of such organisations, but also the informal and often unnoticed pedagogies of, for example, material and popular cultures and pedagogies deployed by activists in NGOs and political movements. We are especially keen for this conference to be a forum for feminist engagements with education and pedagogy from across the world.

Keynote speakers:

Dr Katarina Eriksson Barajas, Linköping University, Sweden

Prof. Penny Jane Burke, University of Roehampton, UK

Prof. Marília Carvalho, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil

Prof. Farzana Shain, Keele University, UK

Prof. Lois Weis, State University of New York, USA

Plenary panel: Activists in Conversation

We are very excited to announce our plenary panel of activists to take place on the first day of the conference. This will be a conversation between feminist activists working in and outside academia, about how activism can educate, what academics and activists can learn from each other, and how they can support each other.

The speakers are: 

Nelly Ali, a doctoral student, blogger and effective activist for street children everywhere, but specially in Egypt: http://www.bbk.ac.uk/geds/our-research/phd-students/nelly-ali and www.nellyali.wordpress.com.

Lucy Lake, chief executive of CAMFED: https://camfed.org/about/team/lucy-lake/.

Fahma Mohamed, Integrate Bristol, who spearheaded and is still active in the campaign to combat Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): http://integratebristol.org.uk/# for Integrate Bristol’s website and http://integratebristol.org.uk/2014/02/22/fahma-appeals-to-michael-gove-junior-trustee-of-integrate-bristol-launches-massive-campaign-with-the-guardian-and-change-org/.

Amaranta Thompson, Director of Development and Operations with the International Women’s Initiative: http://www.internationalwomensinitiative.org/#!management-team/c220n.

Key questions:

The conference aims to address the following key questions from feminist perspectives:

How can feminist theories of gender, education and pedagogy benefit from scholars from different parts of the world working together?

How do feminist activists around the world work to promote equality?

How can activists and academics work together to develop and promote equality through feminist and other approaches to pedagogy?

How can we build our understandings of education and/or pedagogy through critical analyses of power relations drawing on, for instance, feminist, subaltern, critical race and postcolonial theories?

How does power operate and influence educational and pedagogic processes, at local, national and global levels?

How do the political, economic and organisation contexts for the production of knowledge impact on the knowledge produced by feminist researchers and others, and what are the implications for social justice?

How can feminist and other approaches to education and pedagogy (e.g. Freirean, subaltern, critical race and postcolonial) reinforce, enrich and build on each other?

All papers, symposia and workshops should engage with educational/pedagogic issues, broadly defined. Within this broad context, examples of what the proposals for papers and symposia may cover include: feminist perspectives from different worldviews and political and theoretical perspectives; feminisms, social movements and pedagogies; the emergence and structuring of gender and education as a field of study in a range of national contexts; masculinities and femininities in education and/or pedagogy; popular culture, pedagogy and gender; policy, politics and practice in education; and neo-liberalism, globalisation and gender. However, this is in no way a comprehensive list and participants should not feel constrained by our suggestions, as we will finalise the conference streams in light of the papers, symposia and workshops accepted.

While contributions will critically engage with feminist theories, they may do so from a variety of fields and subject areas (e.g. gender studies, education, sociology, history, philosophy, linguistics, etc.) and theoretical perspectives. We invite proposals for individual papers and/or symposia from academics, students, policy makers and activists.

GEA featured symposia and workshops:

Featured symposia acknowledge the commitment of GEA to honour and showcase current and outstanding research and/or activism relating to gender and other differences that make a difference in education, broadly defined.  Symposia may consist of one or more two-hour sessions. If organised in a conventional format, each session should consist of a minimum of four and a maximum of six papers (including a discussant if any). We would also be interested in receiving proposals for symposia or workshops that do not follow this conventional format but are more innovative in their organisation. To be featured symposia or workshops, the proposal must show that it has widespread appeal, and explores contemporary and/or historical issues relevant to the aims and purposes of GEA. Please note that each submission will be assessed separately against each of the criteria (relevance to the work of GEA, outstanding research and/or activism). Normally however the symposium/workshop proposer should identify a convenor/chair/facilitator and may identify a discussant for the session. Non-conventional formats should be described and justified in the overview of the symposium or workshop.

Fahma Mohamed and Habiba Said, of Integrate Bristol, will be running a workshop at the conference on teaching about FGM in school and we are in the process of arranging other workshops. If you would like to offer a workshop, please contact Debbie.Epstein@roehampton.ac.uk to discuss this.

Proposals:

Proposals for individual papers, symposia and/or workshops should be sent to Julia.Noyce@roehampton.ac.uk for blind-peer review by 10 January 2015. Proposals for papers should give an abstract of no more than 250 words. Proposals for symposia consisting of four to six papers (or double sessions consisting of eight to 12) should give an overall summary of the theme of the symposium proposed in 250 words or less and brief abstracts (up to 150 words) of the individual papers to be included in it.

Please save your proposal for an individual paper with author name followed by ‘GEA_2015’ (e.g. NAME_ GEA_2015) with a brief biography and contact details on a separate page. For symposia, please give the symposium organiser’s name followed by ‘GEA_2015’ and contact details, plus the names and brief biographies of all contributors on a separate page.

You will be informed whether your paper/symposium/workshop has been accepted by 31 January 2015.

Free conference workshop on getting published:

A free pre-conference workshop for doctoral students attending the conference on getting published in international refereed journals, run by the editors of Gender and Education, will also be held on the afternoon of 23 June. Space permitting, this will also open to other early career researchers who are in their first academic posts or have not got an academic job but preference will be given to research students who are not in academic jobs and who have not yet published in international refereed journals. If you wish to attend this workshop, please indicate this on your booking form. Acceptance will be on a first come first served basis.

Conference fees:

In addition to the conference fee, all delegates will need to pay for one year’s membership of GEA (£30) to begin on 23 June 2015 for those joining for the first time. If you are already a member, this year will be added on to the end of your existing membership. If you are a life member, please contact Julia Noyce by email.

Early bird fees (to be booked by 31 March 2015):

Early bird rates are available for bookings made before 20 March 2015. It is probable that after that date there will be no further residential bookings available. We cannot guarantee accommodation for bookings made before 20 March, but have reserved a large number of rooms so hope there will be enough for everyone wanting accommodation.

Please note that residential bookings include accommodation on the night of 23 June 2015 and breakfast on 24 June as the conference will start no later than 9.30 am.

£275 – Early Bird conference booking fee (non residential package, inclusive of lunches and dinners)

£375 – Early Bird conference booking fee (full residential package, inclusive of three nights accommodation, breakfasts, lunches and dinners but please note that those in residence on Tuesday 23 June will need to sort out their own dinner)

£400 – Early Bird conference booking fee (full residential package, inclusive of three nights accommodation with ensuite, breakfasts, lunches and dinners but please note that those in residence on Tuesday 23 June will need to sort out their own dinner)

£110 – Early Bird conference booking fee (daily rate, inclusive of lunch and dinner)

Standard booking fees (from 1 April 2015):

£305 – Standard conference booking fee (non residential package, inclusive of lunches and dinners)

£405 – Standard conference booking fee (full residential package, inclusive of three nights accommodation, breakfasts, lunches and dinners but please note that those in residence on Tuesday 23 June will need to sort out their own dinner)

£430 – Standard conference booking fee (full residential package, inclusive of three nights accommodation with ensuite, breakfasts, lunches and dinners but please note that those in residence on Tuesday 23 June will need to sort out their own dinner)

£125 – Early Bird conference booking fee (daily rate, inclusive of lunch and dinner)

Accommodation is provided on campus but is limited. It will be available on a first come first served basis.

We have made arrangements with an excellent local nursery to accept children up to the age of 5 (subject to availability of places) from 8.00am-6.00pm during the conference at a daily charge of £58. Please contact Julia Noyce for details. See, also, bursaries, below.

Bursaries:

We will be offering a limited number of bursaries to those who are giving a paper, are unwaged (including doctoral students on studentships) and whose institutions will not support them to come to the conference.

Full conference fee waiver. This will be available to those coming from other countries and who meet the conditions above. They will be awarded on a competitive basis, as judged through a process of blind refereeing.

Fee waiver of £100. This will be available to those from within the UK who meet the conditions above.

An additional fee waiver of £100 towards any extra costs of caring provision (e.g. for children or frail/ill adults) incurred by coming to the conference.

If you wish to apply for any of these three bursaries, please submit a short paragraph with your abstract explaining why you need such a fee waiver in order to attend the conference. Katja Jonsas (Katja.Jonsas@roehampton.ac.uk) and Kate Hoskins (Kate.Hoskins@roehampton.ac.uk) will be looking after bursary applications and will let you know before the Early Bird date whether you have been successful in gaining fee waiver or not. If you have any queries about bursaries, please contact one of them. Please do not make your booking until you have heard from them as you will need to indicate on your booking form that you are in receipt of a fee waiver.

Booking your place:

To book your place at the conference please go to the Roehampton ‘online store’ where you will find a link to the GEA conference. To book your place please visit the online store url.  

Important information about visas:

Please note that we do not send letters of invitation out to all conference participants though we will, of course, provide receipts. However, should you require a letter to support your visa application, we will provide this once you have booked and paid for your place. We can then send a letter to state that you are intending to take part in the conference, and that you have paid. If for any reason your visa application is unsuccessful, we will refund your fee as long as you let us know by email no later than 29 May 2015.

For further information and updates, please visit the conference webpage

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Film and learning how to be a girl

By Dr. Kristina Gottschall, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst NSW Australia

Governments, policy-makers, teachers, education researchers – we all think we know what teaching and learning or ‘pedagogy’ is all about. Indeed, we set our expectations, base our actions, and stake our reputations on knowing all the ins and outs of pedagogy and how we make it work most effectively. Sometimes it’s even taken as a given in regard to how it’s done, what are its aims and how it is achieved. In recent times, pedagogy seems to be increasingly talked about as if it is quantifiable, deliverable and a largely predictable process.

In my research inspired by feminist and post-structural thinking, what I’ve come to realise is that pedagogy cannot be quantified and is far from predictable. Knowledge cannot simply be transferred. In many respects, teaching and learning – how it works – or how it doesn’t work, is a mystery and we are still finding new ways to articulate the challenges it poses.

As a fluid, multi-directional and multi-dimensional process, pedagogy is best understood as a complex meaning-making process between the ‘teacher’ and the ‘learner’. The teacher doesn’t cause learning, rather, they are only one part of the context in which learning may occur. Teaching and learning is complex! It’s profoundly relational and contextual, ideally a consciousness-changing experience that ‘…takes place in the interaction of three agencies —teacher, the learner and the knowledge they together produce’ (Lusted 1986, 3; Ellsworth 1997, 2005). It’s all about producing knowledge in interactive, meaningful and productive ways, as opposed to ‘merely a transmissive act’ (Lather 1991, 15). What works in one place, may not work in another. What works for some students, might spectacularly fail others. This is the nature of teaching and learning – with all its frustrations, difficulties, questionings, silences, diversities and demands.

Primarily, I am interested in how popular culture and popular films might work as pedagogy. All too often film critics and scholars are quick to dismiss films as ‘sexist’ or ‘racist’ or ‘too violent’. The moral panics around the effects on spectators, and particularly children, seen as being more ‘vulnerable’ or susceptible, are par for the course. For me, though, such critiques and concerns are only the beginning of the analysis not the end. What makes a film sexist or racist and to who, and under what cultural and social conditions? How is the film, as a text, designed in such a way so that spectators come to understand key things about gender and race, etc?

In my recent article ‘From the frozen wilderness to the moody sea: Rural space, girlhood and popular pedagogy’ published in Gender & Education (Volume 26, Issue 5), I focus on how a small body of films might potentially work as vehicles for teaching and learning about youth, gender and space. The films include four key Australian ‘coming of age’ films about girls growing up in rural or rural coastal locales: Peaches set in a sleepy town on the banks of the Murray River, Somersault set in the frozen wilderness of Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains, Caterpillar Wish set in a South Australian coastal town full of secrets and lies, and in Indigenous film maker Ivan Sen’s Beneath Clouds, the story of two Indigenous youths on a road trip through rural New South Wales.

In the article, I argue that representations of the ‘rural’ shape what is possible in the making of ‘girlhood’. Ideas of the rural are both enabling and constraining for the girl subject of these films, and potentially more broadly. I explore how popular film might use representations of the rural to educate spectators about girls as ‘successful’, ‘in crisis’ and/or as girls asserting ‘girlpower’. I highlight various filmic, narrative and affective techniques that encourage learning in these terms. For instance, I think about how spectators are invited to know the protagonists of these films as psycho-sexual, moral, relational and spatial subjects, where various techniques such as the sound and music score and familiar tropes like staring off into space, high drama and confessional scenes and ripples of madness, work together to engage us in key ways around girlhood. Not every spectator will respond in the same way to these images because pedagogy is not a simple act of transmission, and people and contexts are diverse. Likewise, key design features do not determine what can be learned in a predictable way, but they do constrain what can be known. The girl in a rural place is made intelligible through common significations that we see repeated time and again.

So in engagement with these films, I explore how we might potentially learn how ideal youthful feminine subjectivity ‘should’ potentially be done, how it is done in the rural space, and what is at stake in forming or not forming oneself as a specific subject in specific ways.

It is this in-between space between the text and the spectator (or the ‘teacher’ and the ‘learner’), and the knowledge they together produce that will continue to frame my research and my own teaching as I question just what is pedagogy, can we ever fully know how it works and what might this mean for our practice?

Dr. Kristina Gottschall is a lecturer in Indigenous Studies for the Centre for Indigenous Studies at Charles Sturt University, joining the centre in 2014. Graduating from her Doctor of Philosophy in Education 2011, she is an early-career scholar researching across the areas of popular and public pedagogies, popular film culture, post-structural theories, social semiotics, subjectivities, gender, sexuality, Indigeneity and discourses about youth-hood. She is also mad for HBO TV series, playing the ukulele, fancy dress parties, salsa with her special gentleman friend, walking her hyper Jack Russell and Terrier-X dogs, and reading a good book in bed with a glass of red.

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Call for Abstracts for a Special Issue of Gender and Education

Special Issue Guest Editors: Sharon Todd, Rachel Jones and Aislinn O’Donnell

Shifting Education’s Philosophical Imaginaries: Relations, Affects, Bodies, Materialities

As Michèle Le Doeuff pointed out in her classic feminist work, The Philosophical Imaginary, images function in philosophical writing to enact certain political possibilities and limitations. Drawing on the importance of the imaginary, this special issue of Gender and Education examines the ways in which it operates to undergird recent feminist perspectives in both philosophy and education. As the pages in Gender and Education reveal, feminist educational concerns have generally focused on images of relationality, sex/gender differences and queer subjectivities and have discussed how such images reframe our attention to educational theory and practice. On the philosophical side, we are witnessing feminism’s recent turns to materialism, embodiment and affect, along with a renewed engagement with phenomenology and a pronounced shift away from the images of social construction that had informed much feminist work since the 1970s.

In this special issue, we are interested in how these philosophical developments might inform a re-imagining of the usual feminist educational concerns, and how educational imaginaries might open up a different set of questions for contemporary feminist philosophies. We are not concerned with how to ‘import’ new philosophical ideas into educational theory and practice, nor with simply reading such ideas as something ‘external’ to the work we do in education. Rather, our aim is to open up a conversation between educational theory and this new body of feminist philosophical scholarship in a manner that reveals their co-implication, particularly when it comes to conceiving of how to theorise what is done in the name of education, and what limits and transformative possibilities lie within the educational project.

Our focus on ‘relations, affects, bodies, materialities’ reflects a number of recent turns in feminist thought, which are not self-contained but spill over into each other, creating a matrix of interlinking ideas, concepts, and positions. These include:

  • the ‘new materialisms’ (aligned with thinkers such as Alaimo, Barad, Braidotti, Coole, Colebrook, Grosz, and Kirby), which re-inflect long-standing feminist concerns with bodies and materiality via a critique of social constructionism and a re-appraisal of matter, nature, agency and the (post)human
  • the turn to affect theory (see especially Ahmed, Gregg and Seidworth), which foregrounds the social, cultural and political efficacy of emotions, feelings and other affective states
  • the new thoughts on relationality and embodiment arising from feminist and queer phenomenologies (Ahmed, Heinemaa, Weiss) and engagements with neuroscience (Pitts-Taylor, Wilson)
  • the re-implication of feminist and queer theory by thinkers such as Ahmed, Colebrook and Huffer; and the deployment of feminist/queer theories of bodies, sexuality and desire by transnational feminists to generate critical perspectives on capitalism, neoliberalism, and feminism itself (Alexander, Grewal, Puar).

We are seeking work that draws on any of the above approaches or thinkers (or any combination thereof) to re-interrogate the role of relations, affects, bodies and/or materialities in a specifically educational context (broadly understood). In keeping with our focus on shifting education’s philosophical imaginaries, we are particularly interested in papers that: contest or transform dominant educational imaginaries; show how pedagogical contexts pose generative questions to new feminist approaches; and explore how the pedagogical and philosophical concerns outlined above are encountered outside the Anglo/American/European world.

We invite substantial, 1000 word abstracts that engage with the above concerns. Authors may wish to address one or more of the following specific questions: 

  • How do new directions in feminist and queer thought transform the images of both education and philosophy implicit in philosophy of education?
  • How do recent philosophical emphases on bodies, affect, materialities and relationality displace the philosophical imaginary inherited from western modernity and open up new pedagogical and philosophical imaginaries?
  • What is involved in re-imagining educational practices through a relational, bodily, materialist, and/or affective lens? How might we rethink and re-theorise the role of bodies and materialities (human and non-human) in education?
  • How do feminist concerns with relationality, bodies, sexual/gender difference and queer/sexed subjectivities transform both images of education and understandings of what is involved in a philosophical approach to pedagogy, curriculum and educational policy?
  • How might feminist pedagogies pose new questions to feminist materialist approaches?
  • How does the use of feminist/queer theories of bodies, affect, sexuality and desire by transnational feminists contest, de-centre or provide alternatives to the theoretical biases of the global North? What are the implications of this for the re-imag(in)ing of education, philosophy, and philosophy of education?
  • What difference does it make to imagine what we are doing when we philosophise about education as ‘critical’, ‘engaged’, ‘ecological’, ‘reparative’, ‘diffractive’, etc.?

This special issue of Gender and Education is edited by Sharon Todd (National University of Ireland, Maynooth) Rachel Jones (George Mason University, US) and Aislinn O’Donnell (University of Limerick).

Deadline dates

If you would like to contribute, please email a 500 word abstract for the attention of the journal’s Editorial Manager, Helen Rowlands to genderandeducation@outlook.com by 1 December 2014.

Invitations to submit full papers will be sent to authors in mid December 2014; papers are to be submitted by 9 February 2015. Peer-reviewing will be completed and final editorial decisions reached by August 2015 . It is anticipated that this Special Issue will be published as Gender and Education Vol. 27. 6, which will be in print in October 2015.

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Policy Report for GEA, June 2014

FEMINISM, GENDER & UNIVERSITIES: POLITICS, PASSION & PEDAGOGIES (London: Ashgate 2014)

Miriam E. David

www.ashgate.com/sociology/9781472437112

Feminist scholarship, feminist knowledge and feminist pedagogies are all celebrated in this book and I hope to tempt you to read the book and engage with the arguments by offering you some of the examples of how these have developed in higher education over the last 50 years. I make a plea for more careful attention to education and how the processes of knowledge-making influence (and are influenced by) gender and sexual relations and how we need to maintain our vigilance in these times of neo-liberal austerity and campaign for transformations against gender and sexual violence in education and the wider society.

My main aim has been to demonstrate how feminism has become an educational as well as political project and, in particular, the robust and positive impacts that feminism has had on higher education. I also look at the ways in which issues around gender equality in education have come onto the agendas of higher education and wider socio-economic and political systems, and what both the opportunities and obstacles to further gender equality in higher education are. How can we create a feminist-friendly future? How do we transform current business and managerial approaches to higher education and neo-liberal tendencies to ensure that feminist knowledge and feminist pedagogies are a continuing source of transformative potential? What kinds of policy changes do we want to advocate?

Using feminist methods of biography, life stories and narratives, I set out to develop a life history and collective biography of feminist activism in academe. Being totally passionate and committed to feminism, I sought out many social networks in higher education across the generations. So this is a partial study in every sense: partial to feminism and partial in that it is about a small group of pioneering pedagogues in academe. I drew on many networks such as the Bristol Women’s Studies Group (BWSG) in which I was involved in the 1970s, the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association (FWSA), the Society for Research in Higher Education (SRHE), sociology of education, linked through the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and especially the Gender and Education Association (GEA) in which I had been involved since its beginnings. I also reached out to international feminist educators and talked to over 100 activist academics in humanities and social sciences, illustrative of the changing forms of global academe in changing socio-economic contexts.

I identified three generations or cohorts of feminists to reveal what a life-changing experience feminism has been and how important education, especially higher education, has been to this. While the three generations have different biographies, in that increasing numbers are ‘first-in-the-family’ (and not only from the working classes) to go to university, all talk with passion about how feminism transformed their lives in both in the family and through university. Through careful attention to the ways feminism has transformed academic feminists’ lives, across three generations of women entering higher education, the importance of creating feminist scholarship and developing feminist knowledge is illustrated. Not all agree that they are ‘second-wave feminists’, nevertheless all feel that they are part of a ‘new wave’, whether wave refers to air, hair, or sea. I discuss critiques of the wave analogy.

Most of the oldest cohort, women born before or in the shadows of the Second World War tended to sign up more to being second wave when ‘the second wave broke on the shores of academe’, to use Lorna Marsden’s lovely phrase; whilst the second cohort (those born in the 1950s and early 60s) were part of ‘the ripple effects of second wave moving into academe’ and saw themselves as ‘riding the waves’; the third cohort (those born from 1965 up to 1980) were ‘on the crest of the wave of academic feminism’ with all the contradictions of being in the neo-liberal global academy today.

Examples of how feminism is central to these feminist activists’ identity include:

  • ‘It changed my life’
  • ‘Feminism has been my life project’
  • ‘My entire life has been shaped by feminism…at university…it was the beginning of the women’s movement…we women were a small minority’…
  • As a scholar I write from a feminist perspective…
  • I began to self-identify as a feminist when I was a graduate student in 1970…Feminism is woven through every fibre of my being…My family were not impressed…

There are differences across the generations in the personal and political influences on becoming feminists. An example from the first cohort is that feminism came after being a student and was initially about political action rather than university influences:

‘I went to university in London …in the late 1960s…I became a feminist when I went to do an MA at Louisiana State University from 1969 to 1971. I read Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and immediately joined the National Organisation of Women (NOW) and consciousness-raising and campaign groups…I still am a feminist but think that things have got more rather than less difficult in academe…’

Women in the second cohort tended to struggle with feminism as part of their intellectual identity and through being in the academy:

‘Feminism has been absolutely central to my life. It allowed me to gradually gain a perspective on Catholicism that eventually allowed me to leave the established church. For a long time I felt that the intellectual, theological knowledge was battling with my intellectual feminism. I would say that through the twists and turns of my life the one intellectual endeavour that I have never doubted is my feminism. I passionately believe in a person’s right to equality and especially to have freedom over their bodies. I would say that I still teach from a feminist perspective…and it informs my personal life profoundly…’

Women in the third cohort tended to learn their feminism as undergraduates and developed this through good inclusive pedagogical experiences. This is the case for both mature students and for those women attending elite universities at the traditional age for undergraduates:

‘I became a feminist during university (as a mature student at Middlesex after an Access to HE course) mainly through my own reading…good experiences taught me about inclusive pedagogies. Feminism has been crucial to my learning – indirectly and explicitly-eg when I was in a women’s aid refuge I first explicitly encountered feminism and this was a life saver in terms of understanding and making sense of my traumatic experiences of domestic violence-and also learning about my rights and my position as a woman- this was strengthened at university when I started to read feminist theories for my coursework-theory has been more directly influential to me than activism…’

And contrast with:

‘I became a feminist at university. I went to an all girls’ school and moved to a mixed environment at Cambridge. In my college I was the only girl of the 14 doing Maths in my year. Some other students and tutors had sexist attitudes. I guess this is what provoked the move…the influence has been huge-most obviously in my work but also in how I dress, what I eat, my friendships…I do not do much feminist activism…more urgent is peace but feminism in daily life eg teaching…women’s studies came gradually…’

Altogether, feminism has enabled them to become the passionate teachers in global academe, and continues to help them to struggle against the changing and constraining conditions of the neoliberal academy. Feminism helps to resist the more overt misogyny that now pervades global academe, despite changes toward gender equality in numbers of undergraduate students. I discuss how feminists’ struggles achieved gender equality in education on the international public policy agenda but how the notion of gender equity has now been incorporated into neo-liberalism and managerialism and lost its critical and radical edge.

Gender equality in higher education amongst undergraduate students has become a numbers game and ‘metrics mask misogyny’. Gender equality amongst academics globally as well as nationally remains a chimera, as the EU’s nicely named She Figures illustrate. We need to transform ‘the rules of the game’ in higher education to move beyond continuing masculine domination of leadership and management in global higher education. We also need to transform education more generally to raise more respectful and inclusive men and women and combat increasing sexual and gender violence: the so-called lad culture of higher education today. Raising questions about what the implications for a feminist-friendly future the changes in the socio-political and economic contexts have been, I argue for policy and practice changes in universities and wider systems of schooling today.

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ESRC Seminar Series: “Researching Girls and Sexuality: Affect, the digital and the body”

affectdigitalbody
affectdigitalbody

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The Naturalisation of Everyday Sexism and Violence

By Nancy Lombard, Glasgow Caledonian University

 

The FRA study from the EU agency for Fundamental Rights released last Thursday did the usual rounds with the same old figures: 1 in three women have experienced abuse in their lifetime, 1 in 10 within the last 12 months.  We know this; we can recite these figures off by heart. The report is simply more evidence of the pervasive extent of women’s experiences of violence that is so engrained in our societies.

Liz Kelly once said that the continued recognition of the magnitude of violence against women results in further normalisation rather than leading to resistance.  We know globally, nationally and locally men’s violence against women is an endemic social problem and an enduring human rights issue within all societies and cultures (Amnesty International, 2004; Bond and Philips, 2000). The prolific extent of male violence against women is confirmed by official data, reproduced worldwide, year after year.

I have been a volunteer, activist and researcher in the field of violence against women since I was 18. My most recent research looked at what primary school children think about men’s violence against women. When I was writing up the research I reflected upon what sociologist Ann Oakley calls my autobiographical path, thinking about why I became interested in this field.

Often women become involved in the area of working against men’s violence because of direct experience but I had always assumed that I was not one of them, as I didn’t have any personal history. However when I sat down and reflected I was shocked, not only by the list of abuses I had experienced, but by my normalisation and minimisation of them – and how I still remained affected by them. Kelly (1988: 23) claims the experience and /or naming of violence is not always an immediate or present one, rather it can be ‘experienced by the woman or girl at the time or later, as a threat, invasion or assault’. My own recalled experiences of abuse included: physical abuse, experiences of coerced sex, flashing and indecent exposure, sexual assaults, physical assaults, verbal sexual abuse. Being aware of my own normalisation of personal experiences of violence made me acutely sensitive to the young people’s narratives of their own experiences and conceptualisations of men’s violence against women.

When I spoke to boys and girls aged 11 and 12 I asked them about what they understood violence was, about why it happened and why. I also spoke to the young people about their own lives, their friendships, their experiences. For the majority of young people violence was something that happened in a public place, between adult men who were physically fighting. Crucially there were visible injuries and official intervention and consequence. That is the men’s behaviour was stopped, they were told they were wrong and suffered consequence (such as jail). This same sequence was replicated at school. Boys would physically fight in public and be told by the teachers or playground assistants that their behaviour was wrong and they were chastised for it.

But that didn’t happen for the girls. Girls told me about of a multitude of experiences; of being pushed, shoved, kicked, followed, called sexualised names from their male peers. These examples did not fit the standardised constellation structure of ‘real’ violence: age (adult); gender (man) space (public) action (physical) and crucially, are generally without official reaction or consequence. Time and time again the girls – when they approached teachers or those in authority were dismissed for telling tales, ignored because of the ‘trivial’ nature of their complaint or relayed that old adage, ‘he’s only doing it because he likes you’. Thus their experiences were minimised and the behaviours, normalised.

This not only results in girls being unable to access a framework by which to make sense of their own experiences, but it also serves to invalidate and minimise many of their own experiences of violence and violent behaviour which is then replicated in their adult lives where much behaviour is seen as what Dobash and Dobash (1992) termed the ‘everyday interactions’ between men and women; the everyday sexism documented here.

The feminist project of ‘naming’, ‘involves making visible what was invisible, defining as unacceptable what was acceptable and insisting what was naturalized is problematic’ (Kelly, 1988: 139). It enables women to name, understand and challenge what had happened to them, by moving the private into the public domain and shifting the boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.

For me this also explains why countries such as Denmark and Sweden had higher figures for men’s violence against women in the recent study. Those countries with greater levels of gender equality are more likely to provide ‘official’ recognition for women which enables them to not only name but also define their experiences as violence.

We need to start acting upon these figures, rather than finding different ways of presenting the same old story. Preventive education and public awareness campaigns to encourage resistance to violence are essential. But we also need to challenge the normalisation of violence. We must contest the dynamics in heterosexual relationships where men’s power over women is naturalised, normalised and used as a justification both of and for the violence.

 

 

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