The year 2016 has been a very interesting year in terms of gender equality.
One could argue that we are witnessing an era of powerful women: with female leaders in countries like Britain and Germany; and just recently Estonia elected its first female president Kersti Kaljulaid.
But one could also argue that we are witnessing a rise of neo-traditionalism. In Poland, a proposed abortion ban was followed by a mass protest. In Finland, where the edition of Elm Magazine takes place, hate speech on the web has been on the rise for years, attacking women who dare to speak about gender inequality with rape threats and violent fantasies; the new same-sex marriage law has faced a counter-initiative signed by tens of thousands; and at the time writing this, there is a huge ongoing debate about a guidebook promoting gender equality in basic education.
And then, of course, there are the US presidential elections.
Across the pond, discrimination of women has become one of the main topics of the elections fueled by scandals, latest of which being Donald Trump’s “locker room banter”, a video showing him boasting about sexually molesting women. To make matters worse, the scandal was followed by a serious of angry reactions highlighting that this behaviour is intolerable for a man who has daughters, and because hey, let’s think if someone was doing these things to our ‘daughters or wives‘.
The topic of gender inequality has risen to the news headlines with such a force that one could start thinking that some sort of momentum has arrived for both women and men sick of tolerating it. At the same time, it has become tempting to make a conclusion that maybe the neo-traditionalist counter reactions are the last desperate deference of patriarchy before the final surrender.
Whether this or something else, an attitude change is on the rise. And attitude changes – as everything related to learning and unlearning prosesses – are linked to education.
THIS THEME ISSUE, Education and Gender, aims to offer an insight to some gender-related debates and actions that are happening right now in the field of lifelong learning.
The debate of 2016 had a kick-start already on the New Year’s Eve, with mass sexual assaults in Köln and elsewhere. Even though Donald Trump himself will never acknowledge it, locker room bants are linked to real-life actions, and sexual harassment is no new problem in the United states, nor in Europe. This is highlighted by Sabine Skou Gøtterup in her column. To change the alarming situation, she states, we need men to unlearn a certain thinking habits, not the women.
As Gøtterup states, non-formal adult education might just be the right medicine for the needed attitude change. But despite some positive trends, the world, as well as education institutes, still belong to men, says Professor Sue Jackson in an interview. Along the same lines argues a school teacher student and the chairperson of the new Feminist Party of Finland, Warda Ahmed. In her column, she offers feminist pedagogy as a solution.
Meanwhile in Serbia, feminist pedagogy is put into practice in a very creative way. Researcher and educationalist Maja Maksimović participated in the making of a theatre play that combines educationalist methods with art and reported her experiences to Elm. We also interviewed an Italian education expert, Carla Fronteddu. She says that lifelong learning and adult education can play a key role in creating gender equality through consciousness raising, knowledge building and skills development.
The Education and Gender theme issue covers also greetings from the academic world. Religion, economics and sexuality matter to adult education because they influence what is taught, writes Dr Aideen Quilty in her essay. Another essayist, drawing upon her participation in anti-apartheid women’s organizations of South Africa, Professor Emerita Shirley Walters, asks an important question: how can popular adult education help in struggling for a more sustainable and egalitarian world?
Last but not least, one issue remains: in Finland, only about one quarter of all participants in folk high schools are men. The same trend exists in many European countries. If it is the men who need to change their attitudes and adult education is the tool, then how can we attract more men? Elm toolkit article Men Wanted gathers tips from Finnish adult educators.
THE CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES will soon elect whom to place at the most powerful seat on the globe. The choice is between placing the first female − who happens to be also the most experienced politician ever running in the US − or a businessman with a well-recorded history of sexism and xenophobia.
But this call is not just for Americans, it is for all of us. Whether politicians or educationalist, we need to stop and ask ourselves the same important question.
Are we stuck to business as usual, unable or unwilling to grow out our old habits – or are we hearing the last violins?