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Lead academic: Dr Kate Hext (English)
#GCExeterGenderInequality tweets

Gender inequality: how can we create a language of equal rights for the twenty-first century?

Challenge overview

From Hollywood and Washington to Westminster and the BBC, inequality and sexual harassment are finally at the top of the news agenda. The explosive revelations about Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey have shone a light on the often endemic problem of the sexual exploitation of women and men, with Theresa May vowing to take ‘serious action’ to root it out of political life. Meanwhile, the gender pay-gap and widespread reports of employers side-stepping legislation to undermine employees on maternity leave illustrate a culture of more subtle gender inequality.At the same time, the landscape of gender is altering forever with the emergence of transgender rights, which poses important questions for the meaning of gender and equality for transgender people. Now one of the most pressing questions is how we can build an environment in which harassment and inequality are no longer allowed to take place, beginning with the language and images that define our society and places of work.

This is a very dynamic challenge focused on one of the most contemporary challenges faced by society and in the workplace in the 21st-century. It will introduce you to a range of key debates including the shifting definition of sexual harassment and inequality across periods and cultures, including the emerging area of transgender rights; the ethics of complicity; defining professional boundaries in the workplace; how to sensitively address cultures of inequality; interpreting the law; and the language and symbolism of sexual power. 

Grand Challenges 2018 confirmed details

The programme is still developing but amongst our speakers are Prof. Linda Williams (speaking on women in the film industry), Rebecca Roberts Hughes (Head of Policy, Civil Aviation Authority), and Eleanor Wilkins (human rights barrister and specialist in equality law). 

Following introductory sessions students will work in small independent interdisciplinary groups to address one central issue in a creative way: producing a short film, a poster, or a pamphlet, with the opportunity to work with external stakeholders such as charities and schools. As part of these projects students will learn some of the following skills: how to pitch to specific audiences (in words and images); how to address sensitive issues with clarity; how to research and analyse power relations in language and behaviour; how to articulate applied moral questions and provide reasoned answers. 

Enquiry groups

You will work on your projects focusing on one of the enquiry groups listed below. You will be able to choose from these groups when signing up.

Is the Harvey Weinstein scandal indicative of an endemic problem in the Hollywood film industry? And how does Hollywood define gender norms in our society?

Students in this group will look at the way in which our conceptions of gender and inequality are shaped without us even knowing it, by the films we watch and the television we imbibe passively.

How can we define the principles of transgender equal rights? Students in this group will look at the University's policy for transgender equality, and how it could be made more robust and fitting for 2018.

How can young women and men (16-18) develop a vocabulary for effectively understanding and asserting their rights?

Students in this group will visit a school, unertaking a survey of girls between 16 and 18 years old, to think about how they understand themselves through the langauge of gender.

What policies are in place for effectively dealing with issues of male and female sexual harassment in the university? How can university policy-makers learn from recent discussions of sexual harassment to ensure that these are fit for purpose?

Students in this group will be thinking about the corporate world - policies around the difficult subject of reporting and addressing harassment. 

Evidence shows that men find it more difficult to report abuse. So how can we best empower men by researching and representing their experience?

Students in this group will be looking at the language with which men can articulate their gendered identities, and report potential abuse, and the barriers that exist to doing that.