Teaching material on gender equality and opposition to it in the European Parliament available now!

In recent years, the EUGenDem ‘Gender, party politics and democracy in Europe: a study of the European Parliament’s party groups’ research project funded by the European Research Council (ERC) considerably advanced our knowledge about gender equality in the European Union; notably by investigating the gendered policies and practices of the European Parliament’s political groups. Political Groups consist of alliances of national political parties at the EU level (see this book for an extensive overview of their roles and powers) and are influential actors in the politics and policies of the EU. Yet they were thus far overlooked in EU studies and Gender and Politics scholarship. EUGenDem generated over 70 publications illuminating the role and powers – often gendered – of the political groups within the EU parliamentary machinery and studied their approaches to gender equality and other intersectional equalities. For instance, some findings highlight the groups’ strategies of opposition to gender equality policies and pave the way to analyzing feminist responses to anti-gender actors in parliaments – a topic that stands at the core of our CCINDLE research project.

Although EUGenDem mostly engaged with academic researchers in debates about empirical, theoretical, and methodological innovations, the research also led to the creation of reports providing policymakers in the European Parliament with targeted recommendations and to the creation of teaching material for students in collaboration with the EUGENDERING Jean Monnet Chair.

Valentine Berthet wrote her doctoral dissertation titled ‘the discursive politics of gendered violence and bodily rights in the European Parliament’ as part of the EUGenDem project and worked in collaboration with the Foundation for European Progressive Studies and the Foundation Jean Jaurès – two think tanks providing policymakers with advice based on research – to translate the findings of her thesis into a Policy Study. On one hand, the dissertation focused on the discursive constructions of the political groups about three key gendered policies – consisting of the Istanbul Convention on violence against women and domestic violence, abortion rights, and sexual harassment – unveiling the fault lines that gender equality creates within and amongst the political groups in a Parliament otherwise perceived as a strong supporter for equalities. On the other hand, the Policy Study built on this research to list tailored recommendations for actors in the European Parliament wishing to advance gender equality objectives and to tackle the diverse forms of opposition to it.  The Policy Study is accessible online as well as a French translation of it.

Beyond this, EUGenDem findings helped the development of teaching material for students and civil society actors working on gender equality. Over the past several decades, the scholarship on gender in the European Union has bloomed and has evolved into a rich multi-disciplinary field. From studying the presence and role of women in EU institutions, as elected representatives or consultant experts to assessing the impact that EU policies have on women as citizens, the field has continuously expanded to the point that now the focus rests on studying the gendered nature of EU governing bodies and their policies. Whilst gender as an analytical lens remains largely overlooked in mainstream studies and teaching on the European Union, its policies, and institutions; the study of the European Union, and especially its institutions, remains largely ignored by gender studies and teaching. EUGenDem research outputs contributed significantly to bridging this gap and some of its findings are now being used to create teaching material for students in collaboration with the EUGENDERING Jean Monnet Chair on ‘Tackling the challenges of a Union of Gender+ Equality’ directed by Professor Sophie Jacquot.

Amongst its objectives, the chair seeks to close the gap between the flourishing scholarship on gender in the European Union and the under-representation of the field in students’ curricula. Due to their similarities, synergies between EUGenDem and EUGENDERING appeared as evident. At the end of 2022, Sophie Jacquot got in touch with the members of the EUGenDem project hoping that it would be possible to turn some of the project’s findings into teaching material. Considering the topical nature of the gendered issues covered in Valentine Berthet’s doctoral thesis, we agreed that some of the teaching material would be based on it.

As a result, seven of the EUGENDERING teaching materials will be based on EUGenDem’s findings and five are already available. The different pieces introduce the European Parliament as a gender equality actor and synthesize current academic knowledge on issues such as violence against women, abortion rights, and sexual harassment. One piece specifically introduces the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee (FEMM) as the motor of gender equality policy in the EP by explaining its role and powers to advance gender equality (also during times of contestation). Two pieces focus on that very ‘turbulent times’-context by summarizing the main challenges posed by anti-gender actors in the European Union and the EP, notably by explaining the different types of opposition that can be identified in today’s European Union.

Then, the three pieces respectively look at the EU’s ratification of the Istanbul Convention on violence against women and domestic violence;  sexual harassment in the aftermath of #MeToo. Each summary posits those issues within the relevant scholarly debates and discusses them with examples from recent policy developments in the EP.

All the mentioned pieces (and more) are available on the EUGENDERING website: https://eugendering.eu/teaching/teaching-material/

Stay tuned for more: two final pieces are coming up! One will present the recent adoption of the Matić resolution in the EP on sexual and reproductive health rights and discuss the embryonic development of a supranational right to abortion in the EU. Whilst the final piece will broaden the discussion to issues of racism, anti-racism, and normative whiteness in the EP.

By Valentine Berthet