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Creating Possibilities of Action instead of Victimizing

Gender- and diversity conscious teaching aims to overcome existing inequalities and discrimination in the context of higher education. When dealing with inequalities, we must name them – that is the only way to counteract them in their specificity. This requires striking a healthy balance. On the one hand, discrimination should be called out. The underrepresentation of women, people of color, and people with visible disabilities in decision-making roles in business, the political system, and higher education. On the other hand, this should not generate the false impression that these inequalities are unchangeable or that people targeted by discrimination have some of kind of personal deficiency or need for special assistance. The point is not to grant special favors, but to compensate for disadvantages, take affirmative action, and mindfully dismantle prejudicial structures.

Taking affirmative action against inequality on behalf of individuals work is about making equal rights a reality. The legal grounds for this are in Article 3(2) of the German constitution, which stipulates: “Men and women shall have equal rights. The state shall promote the actual implementation of equal rights for women and men and take steps to eliminate disadvantages that now exist.” The General Act on Equal Treatment (AGG) names six categories of prohibited discrimination: “on the grounds of race or ethnic origin, gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.” Part 5 of the AGG explicitly permits affirmative action.

In other words, “differentiated treatment is permitted... for the sake of taking appropriate and suitable steps to compensate for or to counter existing discrimination” (Klose 2010: 25). So steps to implement equal rights and eliminate discrimination are anything but special individual “privileges” or “help.” Nor are they a type of “reverse discrimination” (Boell 2010). Affirmative action may also be applied preventively for the sake of achieving “fairness of opportunities that removes obstacles and impedes the creation of additional barriers” (Baer 2010: 11–12).

When it comes to efforts such as promoting women, encouraging people with migration background to pursue higher education, placing door handles in reach of people with disabilities, and providing bathrooms that can be used regardless of one’s supposedly fixed gender assignment – none of these are self-serving. They are about redesigning university structures so that, for example, women can obtain the qualifications they aspire to; young people with migration background feel welcomed by universities; buildings are designed so that all routes can easily be navigated with or without a wheelchair; and bathrooms are available for everyone to use. People who experience discrimination are not voiceless victims relying on on others’ generosity. They make justified requests and possess knowledge and agency.

You can find the legal grounds for equality in regard to gender and diversity under Resources.

Literatur und Links:

Baer, Susanne. 2010. Chancen und Risiken Positiver Maßnahmen: Grundprobleme des Antidiskriminierungsrechts. In Positive Maßnahmen. Von Antidiskriminierung zu Diversity. Dossier, Hrsg. Heinrich Böll Stiftung, 11–20.

Klose, Alexander. 2010. Mehr Verbindlichkeit wagen – Positive Pflichten zu Positiven Maßnahmen. In Positive Maßnahmen. Von Antidiskriminierung zu Diversity. Dossier, Hrsg. Heinrich Böll Stiftung, 21–28.

Rahmenstudien- und Prüfungsordnung der FU (RSPO) / § 11 (Nachteilsausgleich).

Rechtliche Grundlagen von Gleichstellungsarbeit.

Version April 2017. Unless otherwise stated, this content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International licence.