Exciting News and Updates from Push*Back*Lash: Issue 2
Project News and Updates
Issue 2
July, 2023

Hello world!


Do you know how to spot an anti-gender equality actor on Twitter? How did Covid-19 lockdown policies affect gender role attitudes in Austria? How do civil society organizations push back against anti-gender equality backlash? Read on to learn about our first findings and reflections.


Don't forget to listen to our first podcast, in which Professor Dr. Zoe Lefkofridi explains why democracy is worth fighting for, reflects on the relatioship between feminism and democracy, and explains what we gain by using an intersectional lens.

Project Updates

The first episode of the project’s podcast titled “Protecting Democracy” is now live! In it, the Principal Investigator, Professor Dr. Lefkofridi, in a deeply personal manner, explains the motivation behind this work to nurture and protect democracy by explicitly considering intersectional perspectives to host Dr. Kristi Winters. Find it on YouTube.


On May 10, Zoe Lefkofridi and Lara Zwittlinger were invited to give a talk to a civil society network for Business and Professional Women. The talk was on the most recent findings from the project on the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown policies on gender role attitudes among Austrians. 

The team also shared their findings virtually with DECODE researchers at the American College of Greece, Athens. DECODE is an EU Horizon 2020 multidisciplinary research and innovation program, under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant, that focuses on the training of young researchers.

The team was also invited to write a book chapter on these findings. The chapter will appear in the edited volume by Aschauer, Eder, and Prandner titled “Die Auswirkungen der Corona-Pandemie auf die österreichsiche Gesellschaft. Ergebnisse der Längsschnittstudie, Werte in der Krise 2020-2022" (“The consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic for Austrian society. Panel study findings, Values in Crisis, 2020-2022").

The key findings suggest that the temporary return to traditional gender norms (with mothers leaving the labor market to make up for closed schools and childcare centers) has produced a stagnation in the emancipative trend in gender role attitudes among women. The team has also observed a re-traditionalization of gender role attitudes among fathers, but much less so if they were the ones who had left the labor market to provide childcare.


At the end of June, Monika Kovács and Enikő Virágh participated in the Gender Pre-conference of the 19th General Meeting of the European Association of Social Psychology. Enikő Virágh presented her paper "Rape Myth and Victim Blaming: Does Gender Equality and Neoliberal Ideology Have an Impact?" while Monika Kovács was invited to be the discussant at the panel  "Gender Research in Europe and Beyond: Contemporary Challenges, Resistance and Opportunities". At the end of the meeting, a new research network - SPRinG - was launched. This network unites social psychologists researching gender+ topics. More information about the network can be found here.

G5+ team mapped actors and anti-backlash strategies at the European level, paying particular attention to the institutional responses to the backlash as well as those of civil society. They also completed a literature review on existing pushback strategies and are now in the process of analysing good practices across the 27 EU  Member States. The team's first research findings include the following:

1. In Poland, where the anti-gender movement has gained significant traction in recent years, organizations have employed various strategies to combat the anti-gender discourse. One example is the Women's Strike Movement, which has organized protests and demonstrations against government policies that restrict reproductive rights and promote anti-gender narratives. Another example is the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, which has challenged discriminatory laws and policies through legal action and advocacy.

2. In sports industry, organizations have employed strategies to promote gender equality and challenge discrimination. For example, the Women's Sports Foundation has launched campaigns to raise awareness about the importance of gender equity in sports and to combat stereotypes and discrimination against female athletes. Another example is the Athlete Ally organization, which works to promote LGBTQ+ inclusion in sports and challenge anti-gay and anti-trans rhetoric.

3. Religious institutions have also been a site for anti-gender discourse, with some religious leaders promoting traditional gender roles and opposing LGBTQ+ rights. Organizations such as Christians for Equality and Women's Ordination Worldwide have employed advocacy, education, and public awareness campaigns to promote gender equality within religious institutions.

4. In the field of education, organizations have employed gender mainstreaming, curriculum reform, and teacher training to promote gender equality and challenge anti-gender discourses. One example is the Gender Equality Education Center in Lithuania, which provides training and support for educators to integrate gender equality into their teaching practices. Another example is the Finnish Education Equality Network, which advocates for gender equality in education policies and practices.

 5. Media and communications strategies have also been used to challenge anti-gender discourses in various contexts. For example, the Swedish non-profit organization, Make Equal, has launched campaigns to challenge gender stereotypes in advertising and media.

Working collaboratively, GESIS, ELTE, HiA, and PLUS teams have completed collection and assessment of existing batteries on gender role attitudes, gender equality, democracy, disability, ethinicty, class, and migration from the cross-national surveys across time. The next step is data harmonization and assessment of trends and patterns in public opinion across space and time. The findings from this work are also being used to develop questions for the cross-national survey. 


Ethical approvals were recieved for WP3 and WP4. 


TUD team, in collaboration with the partners, has been finializing the first integrated report on the contributions of the feminist theory and intersectional analysis and conceptual framework. The report reconstructs major feminist positions on democracy in a genealogical manner to show how concepts have a historical framing. This reconstruction is very important to understand current conundrums and challenges that we are facing in society, politics, scholarship, and activism. The report is expected to be released at the end of summer. It will be discussed in the second episode of the project's podcast in September. Stay tuned!



Upcoming Events

In September, ELTE team (Enikő Virágh, Monika Kovács, Zsuzsa Vidra) will participate in the annual "Language, Ideology and Media" Conference organised by the Gender Studies Research Group of the University of Szeged. The team will present on "Violence against Roma women - stereotypes and discursive positions".


PLUS team will be presenting their findings at the World Association for Public Opinion (WAPOR) 2023 annual meeting on 19-22 of September in Salzburg, Austria.



Reflections and Spotlight

This quarter we would like you to meet the University of Amsterdam team - Liza Mügge, Rebekka Kesberg, and Michael Hunklinger - who reflect on their research in work package four they lead. Work package four explores how anti-gender equality actors mobilize on Twitter, which narratives are frequently repeated, and which counterstrategies are successful.  


With on average 6000 tweets sent per second and  millions of monthly users, Twitter provides an enormous, ever evolving amount of data. To tackle the sheer amount of data, we first needed to decide which tweets were relevant for our aims and which were not. As we are interested in narratives and strategies implemented to shape the discourse about gender equality issues, we aimed to identify key actors who systematically push for or against gender equality.


We realized early on that pro-gender equality actors are ‘easy’ to spot as they proudly mention gender equality (i.e., same rights, responsibilities and opportunities for all genders) in their profile bios or mission statements. However, and perhaps not surprisingly, identifying anti-gender equality actors turned out to be a bit more difficult. They rarely explicitly state that they are against gender-equality and, at first glance, might be mistaken for promoting gender equality using hashtags like #LetWomenSpeak. The examples below help illustrate these points.


For example, one of the current key debates prevalent on Twitter concerns Trans rights. The discussions include, but are not limited to, gender self-recognition laws and gender-affirmative care. Actors who oppose gender self-recognition laws and gender-affirmative care often emphasize that they are worried about the safety of women and children. We realize that one frequent strategy is to evoke threat by representing trans rights/ gender-equality issues as a zero-sum game. That is, for example, any rights obtained by the Trans community is a loss for women’s rights. This, of course, is not the case, as human rights are not a limited resource! Interestingly, in the discussion of Trans people using public spaces, the main focus is on Trans women. Namely, anti-gender equality actors frequently warn and loudly oppose Trans women using female bathrooms/changing rooms or being incarcerated in female prisons, while Trans men using male bathrooms do not seem to be discussed at all.  


Another hotly debated topic is gender-based violence (GBV). Pro gender-equality actors frequently draw attention to the problem by posting information, including statistics, and promoting better laws to combat GBV. As women are disproportionally impacted by GBV, many campaigns primarily focus on women. Here, anti-gender equality actors do not evoke threat, but instead resort to two common reactions: what-aboutism and  victim-blaming. What-aboutism refers to shifting the attention and/or raising a different issue. For example, highlighting that men are also victims of GBV and women can also be perpetrators. Victim-blaming occurs when victims are held entirely or partially at fault for the occurred harm. For example, individuals might mention the clothes of a victim as a potential reason for the experience of GBV. 


In a nutshell, anti-gender equality actors are very active on Twitter and use their reach to spread their messages. Many of these messages seem to deliberatively evoke threat, prevent factual discussions, and have the potential to increase polarization in society. And, while spending time following and reading the content of these actors can be exhausting, understanding the narratives will enable us to develop a toolkit with best practice tips on how to counteract these narratives and to spread messages to promote gender equality. 



The Push*Back*Lash Team

This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon Europe Research and Innovation programme under Grant Agreement No. 101061687.

Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or Research Executive Agency. Neither the European Union nor European Research Executive Agency can be held responsible for them.

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