Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of taking part in a student workshop on “Gender Equality in Eastern Europe (and beyond) – laws and practices” organised by Justyna Stypinska and her students at the Department of Sociology of the Institute for East European Studies, Free University of Berlin. Together with Irina Catrinel Craciun, Majda Hrzenjak, Marc Gärtner and Alexander Kondakov, I participated in expert panels, but the real heroines and heroes of the day were the students who presented the results of their work during a course on gender equality and law conducted by Justyna. During the workshop, one of my tasks was to give a feedback on the student papers gathered in Panel I, Gender equality and policymaking. As I usually like to comment on other people’s work (sometimes more than do my own), I was glad to accept the offer and, to my delight, I was rewarded with really good presentations.
One of them was a paper on European Union discourse on abortion in development policy, in which the authors used frame analysis (Snow, Rochford, Worden & Benford 1997; Snow 2004; Chesters & Welsh 2011) and presented narratives of pro-life and pro-choice supporters in regard to abortion (and other reproductive rights) legislation. I was really amazed by the high quality of Janine Uhlmannsiek and Pia van Ackern’s work and look forward to reading the published version of their paper. I also enjoyed listening to and commenting on the pieces given by Tran Hieu Hanh Hoang, who performed a critical analysis of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies using an intersectional approach, Anne Balzer’s presentation on the Parental Leave Directive, and the analysis of EU programmes aiming to increase gender equality in research and innovation. Thanks to the work done by Eike Gräf and Travis Penner, I became certain that moving to Sweden, where the level of gender equality in academia is the highest in Europe, was a really good choice.
Among papers presented in two other panels, two in particular caught my eye. The first one was dedicated to women’s political participation and power in Russia. The author not only analysed the position of women but also referred to Vladimir Putin’s “figure”, especially with regard to his masculinity performance, situating it within the frame of hypermasculinity (Bengtsson 2015), which can be defined as a form of hegemonic masculinity (Connell 2005) based on power, physical strength, violence and homophobia. Another was a presentation on “Feminism and its changing critique of Neoliberalism”. However, unlike with Sarah-Christin Müller and the other mentioned authors, it wasn’t the content but the author’s form of presenting that caught my attention, and this time my feelings weren’t that positive. In a nutshell, the author presented his analysis of Betty Friedan’s and Slavoy Zizek’s works, and as much as I had nothing against his findings and argumentation line, I couldn’t stay still each time he referred to Friedan as Betty, while Zizek was always Zizek. I was truly surprised that a young man, who openly identifies himself as a feminist movement supporter, cannot see the discriminating power of language that he uses with regard to female authors. I thought back to this situation a few days ago, when I took part in the opening panel of the TTIP and Global Trade: What’s in it for Sweden, Europe and the World? Conference organised by CERGU. During the discussion, one of the male participants kept referring to the only male panel contributor as Professor Kumm while the female contributor was called Elaine. I really cannot wait for the day when female professionals will not have to deal with these types of patronising practices.
Along with the educational perks of attending Justina’s workshop, my visit to Berlin resulted in a new publication, which I was asked to deliver for the European Health Psychologist special issue on men’s health. My short paper was dedicated to methodological challenges in researching men. The paper, obviously, is based on my experiences gained in conducting research projects in which the main subjects were men and presents the most common issues with regard to performing qualitative interviews with men on theoretical, analytical and methodological levels.