By Renate Haas
At the moment, no-one can tell how long the COVID-19 pandemic is going to last and what its final effects will be in the various fields. It is to be feared that they will be far-reaching. For the sake of comparison, it may, therefore, be useful to ascertain the status quo ante, and in this the survey of the European Commission Gender Equality 2017 can help. It is based on interviews with 28,093 persons over fifteen – 1,000 per EU-country on average – and provides diverse information on the contexts in which women’s and gender studies so far have had to be practiced, i.e., indirectly and to some degree, on their opportunities, tasks and successes.
Concerning the acceptance of stereotypical beliefs, people were, for instance, asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement that “the most important role of a woman is to take care of her home and family”. Here the results for the still 28 member states and the EU average (p. 16):
What immediately strikes the eye is the great endorsement. In more than half of the member states a majority agreed (over 50 % of the respondents). In 8 countries even over 70 % agreed, with a maximum of 81 %. This Bulgarian sum of 81 % is composed of 50 % who totally agreed and 31 % who tended to agree. Merely 12 % of the Bulgarian respondents tended to disagree and 5 % totally disagreed; 1% said “it depends” and 1 % “don’t know” (T 4). On the other hand, in 5 countries, at any rate, the disagreement reached similar, even higher percentages, namely between 70 and 87 %. As one would expect, the three countries with disagreement of over 80 % are small Northern ones. At this end, 74 % of the Swedes totally disagreed, 13 % tended to disagree, only 8 % tended to agree and a negligible 3 % totally agreed, while 1 % each fell into the two undecided categories (T 4).
The EU average greatly levels off differences. For it, the analysts found no notable differences between the opinions of men and women (p. 14). The parallel question concerning the belief that “the most important role of a man is to earn money” yielded quite similar results (p. 16). Unfortunately, no further differentiations are given for the above questions, although they have gone into the gender stereotype index that was calculated on the basis of the answers of the stereotype section of the questionnaire (p. 17). No further genders are considered.
Among other things, the above results illustrate the enormous range of variation across Europe. They give a first idea of the enormous difficulties under which many women’s and gender studies colleagues have had to make their important contributions. Finally, a great irony of history and of missed chances lies in the fact that the 8 countries with the highest approval of female domesticity (and the highest gender stereotype index) are post-Socialist states.
Download the full document: European Commission, Report: Gender Equality 2017, Special Eurobarometer 465, ebs_465_en.pdf