In this contribution, I explore how consent discourses and pedagogy have been cultivated via transnational cultural exchanges post #MeToo. I draw on research, teaching resources, and call-to-action campaign materials generated during the internship that I completed in 2018 in Porto, Portugal with AIESEC International. This project was powered by the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development initiative, in collaboration with the EIGE (European Institute for Gender Equality).
My core research question in relation to this call-for-curators asks: how are consent discourses being cultivated in dialogue with other gendered social concerns in international contexts? During my time teaching for AIESEC, I explored 8 critical domains with my students, in accordance with the research findings reported by the EIGE in their 2015 gender equality index. These included Work, Money, Knowledge, Time-Use, Power, Health, Intersecting Inequalities, and Violence. A key strength of this project involved its recognition of the ways in which each of these issues and domains are interconnected, alongside the understanding that gender (in)equality affects the lives of those all across the gender spectrum.
Through this ethnographic, immersive teaching experience, I discovered that as of 2018, the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements had yet to gain full visibility and social integration in Portugal, and implicitly, in other European contexts as well. The issue of “consent” was not explicitly framed in the 2015 research findings (potentially, because the #MeToo movement had yet to take place at the time of publication). This inspired me to create an additional unit related to consent under the domain of “Work,” in relation to workplace assault and harassment.
Much of my class had yet to hear of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, and those who had heard of them reported that these issues were not mainstream or hotly debated in Northern Portugal at the time. My students raised the important question of whether or not we should expect #MeToo to become a “movement” or a “moment.” Although many were open-minded and understanding of a broader need for social change, many remained hesitant to adopt North American attitudes and perspectives concerning consent. We concluded through our discussion that we can potentially see these movements as both - my students remained critical of the social media “hype” that these hashtags generated, even as we collectively acknowledged a need for governments and workplaces to create improved and preventative social policies.
More significant to this particular curative project, is the way in which my students explicitly evaluated issues of consent in relation to other social problems that they believed to be “more” pressing and relevant in a Portuguese context. Students expressed greater concern with issues of uneven access to childcare benefits, and how this disproportionately impacts men and women’s career progress, for example. They also discussed the ongoing commonality of domestic violence as a stubborn, “invisible” issue in Portugal, perpetuated by several intersecting inequalities (i.e., domestic violence arguably flows from unequal power relations between men and women, due to the structural inequalities caused by disparities in money, education, time-use, domestic labor, and workplace authority etc.).
For this reason, I propose that our discussion of consent be placed within a broader transcultural framework, in relation to a variety of gendered social, economic, and cultural issues. Looking forward into how this project might be continued into 2021, I propose that we continue to consider how particular pedagogical interventions can be deployed in international settings, through connecting dialogues concerning the issue of consent to other social inequalities and social justice frameworks.
*My presentation includes an adapted version of some of the lesson plan materials I drafted for this project. It is my hope that these can serve as a preliminary pedagogical template for scholars seeking to engage students in discussions concerning how we might discuss consent in relation to other gendered social concerns, especially in transnational settings and cross-cultural frameworks.
Gender Equality Index 2017: Measuring Gender Equality in the European Union 2005-2015, in partnership with AIESEC International. EIGE Publications. 10 October 2017. https://eige.europa.eu/publications/gender-equality-index-2017-measuring-gender-equality-european-union-2005-2015-report