The term sexism refers to the systematic discrimination of people based on their gender. Sexist acts - like other forms of discrimination - can occur unconsciously and consciously. All people can be affected by sexism, although women are usually affected in a different form and to a much greater extent than other genders. Social relations of inequality and gender stereotypes form the basis of sexism. Traditional role models, ways of dealing with others and unequal social conditions are taken for granted. Sexism has many manifestations and shows up differently in all areas of society: in the workplace, in institutions, in advertising, in language, on the internet, in everyday life, in leisure time and in various places. Since sexism can be seen as a central basis of violence against women, dealing with this topic and developing counter-strategies has a special relevance in view of the high number of femicides in Austria in the recent past. At the same time, there are currently hardly any sociological studies on the topic of sexism in Austria. Accordingly, the topic of sexism in Tyrol was to be examined in a first pilot study. The pilot study "Sexism in everyday life - perception and forms of manifestation in Tyrol" was commissioned by the province of Tyrol on the basis of a resolution of the provincial parliament. The Center for Social & Health Innovation of the MCI | The Entrepreneurial School® supported L&R Sozialforschung and, in addition to the quantitative survey, implemented qualitative research on site in the form of focus groups.
The focus groups pursued the goals of including groups of people in the survey who could not be reached with an online survey and of enriching the quantitative results. In doing so, the personal conversations allow to go into depth and to discuss experiences and assessments on the topic of sexism from different perspectives. In total, four focus groups were conducted with 34 participants. Assessments of regional specifics and personal experiences with sexism were discussed as well as needs for action for politics and society. The biggest challenge was to get men to participate in the discussions.
In the meantime, the results have been handed over to the state in the form of a final report. Within the framework of the project, important insights were gained and needs for action were identified. It became clear that it is precisely structural conditions that continue to cause inequalities between the sexes or hinder their equality. For example, insufficient childcare, unequal pay for the same work or wage intransparency are central indicators that continue to contribute to the fact that women primarily do the care work or that parental leave is not taken up equally. It is also striking that almost without exception all female participants report personal experiences of discrimination or disadvantages due to gender, sexual harassment or sexualised violence, and for the discussants these experiences represent everyday risks. The adoption of personal protection mechanisms and defence strategies out of fear of possible incidents in everyday life with a sexist background are common practices of female participants: Only walking where there is light, always keeping the mobile phone handy, always saying to be in a relationship, even if you are single. For example, evening walks through the park, partying or waiting alone at the bus stop are often problematic or associated with risks in the subjective perception. But also association structures, customs and traditional role models, primarily but not exclusively in rural regions, are marked by gender-discriminatory and sexist practices, ways of acting and thinking. Here, too, the structural conditions play an essential role, as public subsidies/funds are distributed to associations of all kinds without demanding inclusion in the statutes and equal access to all functions for all genders in return.
The participants in the focus groups also mention that both women and men lack the communicative skills and sensitivity to choose language that does not devalue gender, but rather is appreciative and appreciative - this is where the education sector sometimes has a duty. This can happen unintentionally and intentionally. In addition, it becomes clear that women have also internalised patriachal structures and gender-specific structures and reproduce them. Benevolent sexism, i.e. behaviour that in its protective and helping form questions or undermines the performance and competences of the other gender, also seems to be a particular issue - women are much more affected here.
A more detailed description of the results as well as the project procedure, samples and methodology of the focus groups can be found in the report on the results of the focus groups "Sexism in everyday life - perception and forms of manifestation in Tyrol", which is available for download. The results of the online survey by L&R Social Research can be found in a separate report. Based on the results of both surveys, the combined needs and options for action can be found at the end of both reports. These can serve as a basis for possible measures and further research initiatives.
Friederike Sahling, B.Sc. M.A.
Teaching & Research Assistant
+43 512 2070 – 7442
Sexism in everyday life – perceptions and manifestations in Tyrol. Photo: @ Isreal Andrade / Unsplash