My name is Miguel Diaz and I run the initiative Klischeefrei. The service center of our initiative is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth.
The initiative Klischeefrei counteracts gender stereotypes, especially the gender-stereotyped distribution on the labor market. This inequality is reflected in the fact that about 2/3 of professions are dominated by men, just under ¼ are occupied by women, and only slightly more than one in 10 professions has a balanced gender ratio, such as merchants.
This results in a variety of disadvantages, from personal self-realization to later career satisfaction.
We are committed to eliminating these stereotypes. Gender-based attributions limit not only women but also men in their free development.
But the effects are also felt economically and socially. I believe that real equality of opportunity is only possible if all genders are taken into account. That is why it is important to me to include boys and men in this process, because despite the patriarchal dividend, they are not always in a privileged position. To achieve this goal, we offer information materials, methodological suggestions, games and personal advice for different target groups. In this way, everyone can see which offers are most suitable for them and how they would like to work with them, whether in kindergarten, schools, colleges, career counseling or in companies. In this way, awareness of the issue of gender stereotypes can be raised in very different areas.
In addition to the issues I mentioned, my biggest concern is, of course, the climate. And I’m far from alone in that. My thesis may sound harsh, but in view of the further increase in CO2 emissions, I fear that our world as we know it will change extremely before the end of this decade. Not only ecologically, but also economically and socially.
An ambivalence is apparent. On the one hand, there are noticeable movements toward equal opportunities and openness – for example, fathers taking more parental leave, more women in management positions, etc. But parallel to this, we are experiencing regressions, such as the prohibition of gender-appropriate language. I view this kind of language regulation skeptically. Restrictions on free linguistic development, especially for young people, make me uncomfortable. I don’t think we should mandate just language, but I don’t think we should ban it either. Most people don’t make a choice for gender, they just are who they are. We should just accept that fact, in my opinion.
And yes, there are currents that seek a return to the 50s and 60s. Still, that tendency is unlikely to prevail as advances in the LGBTQI+ field have broadened our understanding of gender.
We know from research that younger people are more open to gender boundaries, while these tend to narrow with age. That’s why it’s important to get an early start on the topic. We are committed to maintaining or building on the openness that children show in kindergarten about gender boundaries. We provide a variety of materials, including small details such as a female excavator driver or a gender ambiguous person in our hidden object book. It is important to provide children with materials that show the diversity of our society, including different perspectives.
In my work with parents, I often hear parents say that they gave their son a doll, for example, but he didn’t play with it. My most frequent question is whether there was a father, grandfather or uncle who played with the doll with him. This often shows that men avoid such roles and that is exactly where the problem lies. A little boy perceives this and questions why he should play with something that is considered feminine, such as a doll. So, it takes men to cross such gender boundaries and have new experiences with it. That’s why I think it’s important to critically question constricting gender stereotypes and to try out new ways to broaden one’s own horizons. This is the only way to encourage children to go their own way, independent of common expectations and clichés.
Even though I have been dealing with these topics for more than 30 years, I am not free of gender stereotypes either and my own socialization as a man and my classical professional biography have influenced me. Only those who reflect on their own clichés can also counteract them.
Exactly, that is highly significant. Because, for example, there are definitely women in professions like excavator driving. If you know someone who knows such a woman, you can look for contact, visit her or invite her. The same applies to men, of course. Gender discussions, however, always involve power relations, which are usually in favor of men. Not all men are in powerful positions, but many benefit from power structures at various points, and we should be aware of that. On the one hand, they enjoy these structures, but at the same time they are restricted in their development by such allocations.
We must always keep in mind that the central element in the construction of masculinity is, above all, the rejection of femininity. To be masculine means above all not to be feminine. In contrast, female socialization proceeds differently, which is why it makes a difference when men enter supposedly female territories – whether by wearing pink or skirts. While a few decades ago, for example, it was not so widespread for women to wear pants as well, there has been a positive development here, but there is no comparable movement in which men enter territory with feminine connotations.
One approach concerns the early childhood development of boys, who often have little direct contact with male role models. For them, the path to masculinity is often nebulous and marked by uncertainty. Instead of people to look to for concrete guidance, at some point they often see exaggerated media images of what it means to be a man. The call to “just let boys be boys” insinuates that there is a right (and thus a wrong) way to be a boy. Such calls often recur to a traditional boy image that includes roughhousing, playing soccer, and whittling sticks. Even though there are boys who like to do these things, there are also boys who don’t like them. Since there is no right or wrong way to be a boy, all these boys are just boys! It is important to me to notice and focus on internal differences within the gender groups.
In addition to the issues I mentioned, my biggest concern is, of course, the climate. And I’m far from alone in that. My thesis may sound harsh, but in view of the further increase in CO2 emissions, I fear that our world as we know it will change extremely before the end of this decade. Not only ecologically, but also economically and socially. We are only at the beginning of the climate catastrophe and despite drought, heat, fires and floods, I feel that we in our society often do not yet recognize the reality of the climate crisis. If I could wish for one thing, it would be a good life for all. But for that to happen, we need a healthy and fair world to make it possible.