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"What is feminism? Perceptions of Romanian school students”(Research Report)

February 18, 2022

What do middle and high school students in Romania know about the concept of feminism? Where did they first hear about it ? What kind of connotations does the term have in their collective mind? Can young people name some feminists around them? These are the questions behind the study “What is feminism? Perceptions of students in Romania ”(February 2022), conducted by researchers Laura Grunberg and Diana Neaga in the project“ EGALIS: gender equality through social change and education”.

The Internet - the main source of information about feminism  for young  students

The research found that the vast majority of Romanian middle school and high school students learn about feminism from the Internet and social media, and less at school or in the family. The limited role of the secondary school has to do with the fact that the official curriculum offers little opportunities to discuss this concept and its complementary terms. There are some minimal references to women’s movement or women’s situation in certain history textbooks, as well as some topics connected to feminism in civic education textbooks (for example, in human rights). At the high school level, school appears to be an important source of information about feminism, but also to a lesser extent than the Internet. There is little discussion about feminism in homes / families / circle of friends of the interviewees, which indicates that information about feminism reaches students in an unstructured way.

Well-known / important women in Romania for students

The main known / important women in Romania for high school students are: (1) in sports: Simona Halep, Nadia Comăneci, Gabi Szabo, Cristina Neaga, Elisabeta Polihroniade; (2) from history: Ecaterina Teodoroiu, Regina Maria; (3) in politics: Viorica Dăncilă and Clotilde Armand; (4) from media : Denise Rifai , Vulpița or Raluca Bădulescu.

Perceptions of feminism and women's rights organizations

For boys, feminism is mostly about frowning, fighting (muscles), about she vs. he. For girls, feminism can have a "struggle" component, but with the heart, a "struggle" through empathy, collaboration, dialogue, normalization.

High school students have a rather positive view of this movement. The information that the young interviewees access on the Internet presents feminism in a positive light , and feminism is discussed at school in such a way that, for some of the students, the association with this term becomes a compliment. However, research shows that feminism is associated with claims and positive results only for women.The way it contributes to the improvement of men's lives is less (or not at all) known.

The vast majority of high school students are aware of the lack of equality between women and men. On the other hand, it seems that girls feel this lack of equality more strongly and state it in their answers. The high proportion of students who support the need for organizations active in promoting and protecting women's rights (approximately 50%, a significantly higher percentage than those who believe that there is no equality between women and men) suggests an updated and nuanced understanding of the issue.

About the research methodology

The research is based on 147 questionnaires from secondary school students and 65 from high school students.

The questionnaire for secondary school students had 4 questions and was completed by 147 students (81 girls and 61 boys, 5 questionnaires did not have information on gender or name). Most of the respondents are from Bucharest ( but also from Cluj, Șerbănești, Floresti ) and are between 11 and 13 years old .

The high school questionnaire had 10 questions, answered by a total of 65 students (19 boys, 43 girls and 3 students who did not declare their sex). 

Key actors in feminist education

This report is just the beginning of  understanding  the relationship between new generations and feminism, a relationship that needs to be cultivated with tact and responsibility. We consider that all those involved in the educational process (teachers, activists, educators, parents, representatives of various institutions in education ) can find an inspiration in this report for adapting, updating, enriching and diversifying dialogue and activities with middle school and high school students ( and, why not, even with primary school students ) on various topics about women's activities, contributions and lives and therefore about feminists and feminism.

Report download link: Ce este feminismul? Percepții ale elevilor și elevelor din România

The research is part of the project "EGALIS: Gender equality through social change and education", developed by the Partnership for Equality Center, in partnership with the Front Association, AnA - the Scientific Society for Feminist Analysis, ACTEDO - the Action Center for Equality and Rights Association Man, PLURAL Association and SEX vs The STORK Association, with financial support from Active Citizens Fund Romania, programme funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants Grants 2014 -2021.

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