Background of Åsa Ekvall
After a Master’s Degree in African contemporary history at Sorbonne and a Master’s Degree in Peace and conflict research at Uppsala University I went to work in the field of development aid. I have worked many years in both post-conflict and conflict settings (South Africa, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Chad and Sudan). This work was mainly focused on gender equality, women’s empowerment and gender-based violence. This experience made me start thinking about the relationship between gender equality, or rather gender inequality, and the acceptance of various forms of violence. It seemed to me the that the bigger the gender inequalities there were in a society, the more violence there was at different levels in the same society and the more individuals seemed to normalize this violence.
I decided to quit my job and start thinking about these issues full-time by doing a PhD at the University of Antwerp. In 2015 it became a Joint PhD with the International Institute of Social Studies of the Erasmus University in The Hague. I defended my PhD on 14 March 2019 in The Hague. My thesis “Gender inequality, homophobia and violence: the three pillars of patriarchal norms and their relations” shows that the more people in a society approve of gender equality and the more they accept homosexuality, the less violence of all sorts there are in that society – from violent crime to internal armed conflict. The countries that are the most gender unequal and homophobic are the ones that are the most likely to experience armed conflict on their own territory. And the other way around, the countries that are the most gender equal and accepting of homosexuality are the ones the least likely to experience armed conflict on their own territory. However, these egalitarian countries are also the ones the most likely to send troops abroad to fight on other countries territories and to sell arms to other countries – thus exporting violence.
Still, gender equality and acceptance of homosexuality are very strongly correlated to low levels of violence in the society and the theory suggests that it is causal. This would mean that in a society where we treat everyone as an equal, regardless of gender and sexual orientation, we also think that it’s wrong to use violence against other people. Encouraging attitudes that are accepting of and positive to gender equality and homosexuality would therefore make people think more negatively about the use of violence.
I tested this using a gender training for young men in India. The participants got input on gender equality, patriarchal norms and masculinities but not on violence other than violence against women. After the training most participants had more positive views on gender equality and more accepting views of homosexuality. Surprisingly, they also had less accepting views on state violence (torture by the police), ethnic and political violence and militarization, despite the fact that these types of violence had not been mentioned at all during the training. This strongly suggests a causal link between patriarchal norms on gender and sexuality and violence. And that shows the importance on working to increase gender equality and reduce homophobia when addressing violence at all levels.
Having worked with the Nedworc Foundation since 2013 as an independent consultant on gender issues I now work with my own company Ekvall Consulting. During my years as a PhD researcher I have been doing a number of consultancies on the side. These include projects for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the MC Group, PricewaterhouseCoopers, CREA and the European Union sponsored Program for Reform of the Justice System (PARJ) in Kinshasa, DRC. I now consult full time, taking both short-term and long-term assignments, including supervising groups of honors students at the University of Tilburg (since 2019 and still ongoing) and their research projects on sexual harassment, gender inequality and how to combat discrimination of all sorts within the university, including action plans. Since 2022 I’m also a Visiting Fellow at ESPRIT, Erasmus Center for Sport Integrity & Transition, Erasmus University.
During 2016 I was part of founding the Dutch national committee of UN Women, see unwomen.nl. UN Women Netherlands has the double aim to help fundraising for UN Women International and to advocate for gender equality – including against gender-based violence – in the Netherlands. Until 2022 I was also part-time coordinating the UN Women Netherlands Safe Streets program – helping Dutch municipalities to make the public space safer for women and girls (and indirectly for everyone else…).
Since 2019 I’m an active board member of AtGender, the European Association for Gender Research, Education and Documentation. AtGender, https://atgender.eu/, is a broad association for academics, practitioners, activists and institutions in the field of Women’s, Gender, Transgender, Sexuality, and Queer studies, feminist research, women’s, sexual and LGBTQI rights, equality, and diversity. The aim of the association is to spread knowledge about these topics, and the research done in these fields, both inside and outside the classroom.
I have trained with the International Labour Organisation to learn how to make gender equality plans for organizations and companies and with the UN Women on how to make gender budgeting and gender audits. I have also taken the in Scandinavia well-known concept of “härskartekniker”, here translated into Destructive Workplace Domination Techniques, to the Netherlands, providing trainings to women and minorities on how to recognize these techniques when it’s happening to them and how to deal with them. I’m now working with organisations to develop gender equality and diversity policies, based on initial baseline research. Since 2022 I’m also working with ESPRIT, the Erasmus Center for Sport Integrity & Transition at the Erasmus University, on how to better include trans women, women with an intersex condition and non-binary people in sports.
Publications, papers and presentations
Research document on Gender, Sex and Inclusion in Elite Sport, Report for NOC-NSF, Jamuary 2023. https://www.eur.nl/en/esphil/news/research-document-sex-gender-and-inclusion-elite-sport
Gender Inequality, Homophobia and Violence: The Three Pillars of Patriarchal Norms and Their Relations. Doctoral thesis, 14 March 2019.
Don’t be gay: Homophobia, violence and conflict. 2e Congres LGBTI onderzoek in de lage landen. Amsterdam, 10 October 2018.
Young men and gender trainings. 10th European Feminist Research Conference, University of Göttingen, 12-15 September 2018.
Proving what the field thinks. What happens to attitudes to violence when attitudes to patriarchal norms on masculinity change? 58th Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, Baltimore, 22-25 February 2017 and the Gender and Peace Conference organized by the Sabanci University, Istanbul, 6-7 May 2017.
Gender norms and violence. Speaker at SHAPE – Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Powers in Europe, Mons, Belgium, 25 April 2016, at the conference Academics, Activists and Armed Forces: the nexus of greater security?
Patriarchal norms, heteronormativity, gender inequality and violence. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, Atlanta, 16 -19 March 2016.
Society 2.0: The Role of Men? Violence and Evolving Norms on Masculinity. Guest lecture at SHAPE – the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Powers in Europe, Mons, Belgium, 18 November 2015.
Behind the men. Patriarchal norms and their relationship to violence. Paper presented at the ECPR Joint Sessions 30 March – 2 April 2015, Warsaw and at the European Feminist Research Conference 3-6 June 2015 in Rovaniemi.
Promoting change in men’s behavior: egalitarian men, child care and violence. Paper presented at the European Conference on Politics and Gender 11-13 June 2015 in Uppsala; at the Joint International Conference of the European Association of Social Psychology and the Society for Psychological Study of Social Issues “Times are a-Changing but Men’s Roles are Slow to Change: Developing a Research Agenda on the Underrepresentation of Men in Communal Roles” at the University of Leuven 5-7 November 2015; at the International Conference on Political Masculinities and Social Transition, at the University of Koblenz-Landau, 27-29 November 2015.
Speaker on a panel called “A Transformative Women Peace and Security Agenda: Using a Masculinities Perspective to Challenge Militarism” at the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom’s 100 years anniversary conference in The Hague 27-29 April 2015.
And the role of men? A theoretical perspective on how patriarchal norms are related to different types of violence. Paper presented at the 56th Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, New Orleans, 18-21 February 2015.
Speaker on a panel on gender and military at the “Women: Powerful Agents for Peace and Security” at the Amsterdam Conference 16-17 February 2015, an expert conference organized by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the 1325 Dutch National Action Plan Partnership.
Publications, papers and presentations
Men, masculinities and 1325. Discussion paper for the “Women: Powerful Agents for Peace and Security” at the Amsterdam Conference 16-17 February 2015, an expert conference organized by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the 1325 Dutch National Action Plan Partnership.
Promoting change in men’s behavior: egalitarian men, child care and violence. Paper presented at the 3rd Equal is Not Enough conference, University of Antwerp, 4-6 February 2015
And the role of men? A literature perspective on how patriarchal norms are related to poor governance, conflict and violence. Paper delivered at “Why is Gender Equality Good for Governance?” International Workshop of the Collaborative Research Center, Freie Universiteit Berlin, 31/10 – 01/11 2014.
Invited guest speaker at Women Peacemakers Program (WPP) Global Consultation “Gender and Militarism: Analyzing the Links to Strategize for Peace“, Cape Town, 2-4 July, 2014.
Religion, religiosity and inequality. Paper presented at the Politologenetmaal Conference in Maastricht, June 2014.
Masculinities and Militarism, Academics and Activists, in “Gender and Militarism, Analyzing the Links to Strategize for Peace”, Women Peacemakers Program, May 24 Action Pack 2014. https://www.womenpeacemakersprogram.org/assets/CMS/May-24-gender-/May-Pack-2014-web.pdf
Participation in a panel on “Gender and peacebuilding” at the Annual Convention of the International Studies Association in Toronto, March 2014.
Etude sur la féminisation de la magistrature en République Démocratique du Congo, ou comment définir une politique de parité dans la magistrature. Report for Programme d’appui de la réforme de la justice (PARJ). Kinshasa, January 2014.
Norms on Gender Equality and Violent Conflict, e-International relations, http://www.e-ir.info/2013/06/10/norms-on-gender-equality-and-violent-conflict/ 2013.
Femmes masculines et hommes féminins: deux processus pour obtenir l’égalit des genres avec des consquences différentes pour les niveaux de violence. Paper presented at the Sophia Colloque, Brussels, October 2013.
Gender Equality, Attitudes to Gender Equality, and Conflict, in Marcia Texler Segal, Vasilikie Demos (ed.) Gendered Perspectives on Conflict and Violence (Advances in Gender Research, Volume 18a), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.273-295. 2013.
Gender equality, attitudes to gender equality, and conflict. Paper presented at the European Conference on Gender and Politics, Barcelona, March 2013.
Gender Equality and Peace, paper presented at the General Conference of the European Consortium of Political Research (ECPR) in Reykjavik, August 2011.
South Africa as a Regional Peacemaker: The Limitations of Power and Good Intentions. Uppsala University Report, Uppsala University Press, 2001.