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Studi Interdisciplinari su Traduzione, Lingue e Culture

Studi Interdisciplinari su Traduzione, Lingue e Culture

Collana a cura del Dipartimento di Interpretazione e Traduzione (DIT)

dell’Alma Mater Studiorum – Università di Bologna, sede di Forlì.

La Collana, fondata nel 2004, raccoglie le pubblicazioni scientifiche dei

suoi afferenti e degli studiosi che operano in ambiti affini a livello nazio-
nale e internazionale.
A partire da una riflessione generale sul tradurre come luogo di incontro e
scontro tra lingue e culture, la Collana si propone di diffondere e rendere
disponibili, a livello cartaceo e/o su supporto elettronico, i risultati della
ricerca in molteplici aree, come la linguistica teorica e applicata, la lingui-
stica dei corpora, la terminologia, la traduzione, l’interpretazione, gli studi
letterari e di genere, il teatro, gli studi culturali e sull’umorismo.

Le pubblicazioni della Collana sono approvate dal Dipartimento, sentito

il motivato parere di almeno due esperti qualificati esterni.

Il/la responsabile della Collana è il/la Direttore/rice del DIT, cui si af-
fianca un comitato scientifico internazionale che varia in relazione alle
tematiche trattate.
Literature, Gender
and Education for Children
and Young Adults

Littérature, genre,
éducation pour l’enfance
et la jeunesse
Edited by/Sous la direction de
Raffaella Baccolini, Roberta Pederzoli and Beatrice Spallaccia

Bononia University Press

Questo volume è pubblicato grazie al contributo della Fondazione Cassa dei
Risparmi di Forlì.

Bononia University Press

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tel. (+39) 051 232 882
fax (+39) 051 221 019

© 2019 Bononia University Press

I diritti di traduzione, di memorizzazione elettronica, di riproduzione e di

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ISSN: 2283-8910
ISBN: 978-88-6923-412-5

Grafica: Alessio Bonizzato

Prima edizione: marzo 2019

Table of contents

5 Gender, Literature and Education for Children

and Young Adults
Raffaella Baccolini, Roberta Pederzoli and Beatrice Spallaccia

Gender and Literature

25 Islamic Veil, Secularism and Gender in Texts for Children

and Young Adults
Roberta Pederzoli

47 Girlhood and Masculinity in Rajdeep Paulus’s Swimming

Through Clouds: An Atypical “Masala” Young Adult Novel
Sofia Cavalcanti

59 Trouble dans le genre en littérature de jeunesse : gender

et genre grammatical
Christiane Connan-Pintado

71 Quand s’habiller en garçon ou en fille n’est plus un jeu

Esther Laso y León

85 Japanese Children’s Literature beyond Stereotypes

Maria Elena Tisi

99 Les représentations garçons-filles dans la catégorisation des

métiers à travers les albums de littérature de jeunesse pour
les petit.e.s (2-8 ans) en France : de la bonne intention
aux tensions genrées
Anne Schneider

115 Dare to Disturb: Reading and Agency in Young Adult

Dystopian Literature
Raffaella Baccolini
137 Escaping the Cis Gaze in Trans-Themed Young Adult Fiction
Cheryl M. Morgan

Gender and Education

151 Trolling Patriarchy: Online Activism and Feminist Education

against Gendered Cyberhate
Beatrice Spallaccia

171 Gender and Education: MeTRa Centre’s Research and Activities

Adele D’Arcangelo and Raffaella Tonin

191 Gender and Education: Genealogies, Practices and Knowledges

Cristina Gamberi

211 Contributors
Gender and Education: MeTRa
Centre’s Research and Activities1

Adele D’Arcangelo and Raffaella Tonin

University of Bologna (Forlì Campus) – MeTRa Centre

1. Introduction
Since the late Eighties a growing number of publications addressing the
issues of gender, equality, and education have been published. To quote
just a few among the most relevant ones published in English and in
French, Baudelot and Establet (1992) state how the 20th has been the
century of women’s revolution in schools, Jacobs (1996) focuses on
gender specific trends in Higher Education and early theories that
sought to explain these differences, Duru-Bellat (2004) analyses the rela-
tionship between Gender in education and social roles, Skelton et al.
(2006) bring together leading scholars on gender and education to pro-
vide an up-to-date and broad-ranging guide to the field, while Buch-

Adele D’Arcangelo wrote sections 1 and 3 of this article, while Raffaella Tonin wrote
section 2. However, this work is to be considered as a full and reciprocal collaboration of
the two authors.
172 Gender and Education: MeTRa Centre’s Research and Activities

mann et al. (2008) provide a contemporary review of the literature on

gender inequalities in education. DiPrete and Buchmann (2013) present
a thorough review and analysis of historical trends in gender and educa-
tion in the United States, while Charles (2011) reviews trends in gender
equality in education throughout the world. Another important study is
the UNESCO 2014-2021 Priority Gender Equality action plan, which
recognises equal opportunities, choices, capabilities, power and knowledge
as a precondition to building an equal and sustainable future for all.
As regards Italy, one of the main scholars researching in the field
nowadays is Irene Biemmi, who has published several books and articles
addressing themes such as gender equality, inclusiveness, and empow-
erment with a vast knowledge in the analysis of the interaction between
the Italian education system, publishers working in the field, and the
role of research. In one of her recent publications, Biemmi states that
the lack of investment in policies for gender equality in education derives
from a massive misunderstanding: school is perceived by the public and
the political class as one of the few environments, within the highly sexist
Italian social fabric, in which equality has been achieved. (2015: 812)
However, the Italian school is referred to as “the image of a sexist soci-
ety” where male and female roles are stereotypically perceived and reiter-
ated. Biemmi states that there are three main areas of Education particu-
larly “problematic in gender terms: gendered educational choices; sexist
stereotypes transmitted through textbooks; and the lack of adequate
training for teachers” (2015: 812). Biemmi’s work has been particularly
crucial in some fields such as the analysis of sexist images and language
in school textbooks and in picture books aimed at preschool and pri-
mary school children (Biemmi 2015; 2016a; 2016b; 2017). Being her-
self a researcher at the University of Florence within the Dept. of Educa-
tion Science and Psychology, she has dealt with these issues not only as
her research is concerned but also during her didactic activity, given that
she trains future teachers who will be working in Italian schools.
The increasing importance and attention to gender-related issues as a
research field, with special attention to education in Italian universities is
proved not only by Biemmi’s activity, but also by several centres that
Adele D’Arcangelo and Raffaella Tonin 173

have been founded, mostly in recent years, in academic contexts. Here

below we report only a few significant experiences and quote their mis-
sion. The choice has been made in order to give a representation of dif-
ferent public universities, from Northern to Southern Italy:
– University of Turin: CIRSDE – The Interdisciplinary Research
Centre on Women’s and Gender Studies is the oldest Centre
working in the field of Gender and Education founded in an
academic institution. The Centre started its activity back in
1988 and was meant to become a benchmark for Studies of and
by Women both within and outside the University, working as
a connection with all the institutions involved with gender
questions. The Centre is still very active in organizing events
and coordinating research members on multiple projects, with
partners from Italy and worldwide.
– University of Milan: The GENDERS Centre – Gender &
Equality in Research and Science is the first university research
centre in Italy on gender in research and science and on gender
equality in scientific careers. The Centre was created back in
1995 at the Department of Political Science with the initial
name Centre for Study and Research “Women and Gender Dif-
ferences” and with the aim of promoting research, training, and
dissemination in the more general field of Gender Studies. In
2006, when the Centre became an interdepartmental structure,
a specific section called “Women and Science” was set up. Since
then, the Centre has been very active both at national and
European level and has developed a significant and consolidated
experience in the field.
– University of Bologna: Established in 2015, the Alma Gender
Integrated Research Team (Alma Gender IRT) is a group of
more than one hundred scholars working in twenty-eight de-
partments of the Humanities, Social Studies, Science, Technol-
ogy, and Medicine at the University of Bologna. Alma Gender
IRT promotes research on gender issues, focusing on how socie-
ties shape, organize, and innovate gender roles, relations, identi-
ties, and representations of gender, and how these interact with
other variables such as nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation,
174 Gender and Education: MeTRa Centre’s Research and Activities

gender identity, disability, age, profession, religion, economic

status, etc.2
– La Sapienza University in Rome: La Sapienza is particularly atten-
tive to gender issues and since 2009 has been promoting events
and stimulating debates and initiatives in this field. For example,
the Dept. of Mathematical, Physical, and Natural Sciences re-
ports its mission in its homepage, underlining its commitment to
devote attention to some issues related to diversity. In this con-
text, emphasis is given to contrasting discrimination and all forms
of harassment, particularly those based on sexual orientation. La
Sapienza wishes to work tenaciously to help create a university
community and to allow it to work and study in an environment
where respect for the freedom of human beings is never jeopard-
ized, and where those who hold more responsibility are to be
fully aware of the importance of working on these issues. It also
aims at enhancing the effective participation of women in diversi-
fied areas of work, at promoting the use of a language fully re-
spectful of differences, also in the administration field, and, last
but not least, at contrasting homophobic behaviour and sexual
harassment (see Sapienza n.d.).

Within the ALMA Gender IRT, along with the MeTRa Centre whose activities will
be described in this article (see par. 2) a number of different experiences have been de-
veloped, such as the Centre for Gender and Education Studies (CGSE - Dept. of
Education Studies), dedicated to interdisciplinary research on gender and education
with specific attention to socio-dynamic aspects in a gender perspective; the GEMMA
– Erasmus Mundus Master’s Degree in Women’s and Gender Studies (Dept. of Lan-
guages, Literatures and Modern Cultures), an international programme, offering a
study plan on Women’s and Gender Studies and the PhD programme EDGES
(Dept. of Languages, Literatures and Modern Cultures), which, launched as a EU
LLP Project based on Women’s and Gender Studies, wishes to integrate different geo-
graphical, historical, and socio-political contexts, according to the experiences of the
six different member partners. An overview of gender studies in Bologna would not be
complete without mentioning the Associazione Orlando (Orlando Association) and
the Biblioteca Italiana delle Donne (Women’s Library in Italy).
Adele D’Arcangelo and Raffaella Tonin 175

– University of Catania: Genus is an interdisciplinary study centre

based at the Department of Humanities of the State University
of Catania. The Centre aims at developing interdisciplinary re-
search within disciplines such as Philology, Literature, Linguis-
tics, Philosophy, History, Law, and Anthropology, in order to
promote Gender Studies and to help both the academic world
and the civil society become more aware of these issues. The
Centre aims at encouraging debates, meetings, exchange, com-
munication, as well as scientific collaboration and dissemina-
tion, at local, national, and international level. It is active in
promoting education in this field through a series of workshops
called GenderLab and through modules on Gender, taught at
Master’s level.
It might be worth mentioning that, apart from the very first and pioneer-
ing experiences of the Universities of Turin and Milan, all the other Cen-
tres were established in relatively recent years and this has certainly to do
with a specific attention paid to Gender Issues in School and in Research
by the Ministry of Education during the last two legislatures and in par-
ticular with the promulgation of the Buona Scuola Act in 2015, in which,
for the first time, specific ministerial Guidelines were published in Italy, to
promote inclusion and avoid discrimination of all kinds (including gender
discrimination) in schools of all orders (see par. 3).
In light of this very brief overview that has no scientific claim, but
just aims at introducing and presenting a specific experience of research
in the field of Education and Gender, in section 2, we first describe the
MeTRa Centre, and then, in section 3, we report the activities recently
launched by the Centre in the field of Gender and Education. The pecu-
liarity of the MeTRa Centre, if compared to the above mentioned aca-
demic research centres, is that research on gender in MeTRa is specifi-
cally focused on and aimed at children, thus representing an ideal syn-
thesis of how research and education missions can combine to gain visi-
bility not only within universities and institutions, but can also poten-
tially come to act as a socially useful mediation agent for issues that still
sometimes find strong political and social opposition.
176 Gender and Education: MeTRa Centre’s Research and Activities

2. MeTRa’s Aims and Activities

MeTRa – Centro di Studi Interdisciplinari sulla Mediazione e la
Traduzione a opera di e per Ragazze e Ragazzi (Interdisciplinary Re-
search Centre on Mediation and Translation by and for Children and
Young Adults) – was founded in February 2014 by a group of scholars
of the University of Bologna and within the Department of Interpreting
and Translation (DIT) set in the Forlì Campus.3 MeTRa gathers a
group of linguists, and specialists in Translation and Interpreting whose
interests and research areas were already consolidated at the DIT. Their
three main research domains are:
1. Child Language Brokering (CLB), i.e., the non-professional lin-
guistic and cultural mediation carried out by children (mainly
second-generation immigrants) belonging to ethnic-linguistic
2. Linguistic, pedagogical, and intercultural studies related to the
translation of written and audiovisual texts oriented to a young
audience (both children and young adults).
3. Gender studies related to Literature addressed to children and
young adults, as well as to Linguistics and Translation studies.

2.1. MeTRa before MeTRa

According to these three research areas, MeTRa founders had carried
out their scientific activity in many previous projects before the Centre’s
birth. As for CLB, in 2007 some DIT members (among whom Rachele
Antonini and Ira Torresi) founded a research group called In MediO
PUER(I), i.e., working on interpreting and institutional mediation car-
ried out by children as a means to interface with local authorities and
service providers in some areas of the Emilia-Romagna region. Its aim
was to observe and provide the very first in-depth and large-scale study
of CLB in Italy by using a multidisciplinary and multimethodological
approach and by selecting representative samples of the ethno-linguistic

Among the principal founders are Rachele Antonini, Raffaella Baccolini, Gloria
Bazzocchi, Adele D’Arcangelo, Chiara Elefante, Roberta Pederzoli, Raffaella Tonin, and
Ira Torresi.
Adele D’Arcangelo and Raffaella Tonin 177

minorities present in Emilia-Romagna. One of their most successful ac-

tivities is a school contest called Traduttori in erba (Budding translators)
in which young mediators are asked to describe their experiences as lan-
guage brokers. Several workshops and conferences based on this subject
were also organised by members of the project at DIT among which La
mediazione linguistica e culturale non professionale in Italia, held in Janu-
ary 2011, and the First International Conference on Non-Professional In-
terpreting and Translation, held in May 2012.
As regards children’s and YA literature and translation studies, before
MeTRa’s foundation, other DIT members (i.e., Bazzocchi, Baccolini,
Elefante, Pederzoli, and Tonin) organized two international conferences:
Scrivere e tradurre per l’infanzia: voci, immagini e parole (Forlì, May
2006); and the III International Conference of ANILIJ – National Asso-
ciation for Research in Children and Youth Literature (Forlì, March
2013). ANILIJ is the most important Spanish University Research
Group on Children Literature and Translation, based at the University
of Vigo and, since the very beginning, it has become one of the main
partners of MeTRa, sharing its purposes and eagerly embracing its coop-
eration proposals, as recently happened with a specific project imple-
mented within the EU Creative Europe programme, namely the G-
BOOK project.
2.2. MeTRa’s Activities and Website
The numerous publications showing the vast and varied experience of
MeTRa founders can be easily consulted on MeTRa’s website. The site
( is a useful tool for researchers and students, as
it offers up-to-date information not only on MeTRa’s activities and pro-
jects, but also on international partners and institutions, as well as an
extended bibliography which collects articles, journals, and volumes on
CLB, children’s literature and translation, and gender studies. By query-
ing it in different ways (searching for authors, titles, keywords, etc.),
both researchers and students can collect a wide range of references
about MeTRa’s main research domains. A database of partner institu-
tions is also available and may be similarly queried; both databases may
be consulted from the Service menu (“Servizi”) at the top of MeTRa’s
178 Gender and Education: MeTRa Centre’s Research and Activities

Among MeTRa projects two interesting activities are worth mention-

ing. The first one is G-BOOK – Gender Identity: Child Readers and Li-
brary Collections. This is a Creative Europe project aimed at promoting
gender-positive children’s literature, i.e., a literature that encourages re-
spect and diversity. The project has been developed in six European
countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, France, Ireland, Italy, and
Spain) by six partners (some of which are universities and others librar-
ies) led by MeTRa. Among G-BOOK main objectives there is the crea-
tion of the first European bibliography of books for 3-to-10-year-old
children that is gender positive in terms of roles and models proposed.
The bibliography is available on the project’s website (https://g- The second one is La traduzione di testi per l’infanzia in una
prospettiva di genere: aspetti teorici e applicati (The translation of chil-
dren’s books with a gender perspective: theoretical aspects and applica-
tions). It is an AlmaIdea project (funded by the University of Bologna)
which aims to propose a theoretical and applied analysis of gender issues
(representation of identity and gender roles) in the translation of texts
for young readers.
2.3. MeTRa’s Educational Commitment
Since the very beginning, MeTRa members have demonstrated a strong
vocation for sharing their results through dissemination activities and, in
general, an open attitude towards local institutions in Emilia-Romagna.
In fact, during these four years of commitment with the region, there
have been several collaborations with organizations and institutions set
both in the Municipality of Forlì or more widely in the Emilia-
Romagna regional area, such as primary and secondary schools, the Forlì
headquarter of Unione Donne in Italia – UDI (Union of Women in It-
aly), Centro Donna (Women’s Centre), as well as the Department of
Equal Opportunities of the Forlì Municipality. Among the most recent
ones, we may mention the third and latest edition (2017) of the above-
mentioned competition Traduttori in erba.
Among the activities that MeTRa researchers developed in synergy
with the Municipality of Forlì – Department of Equal Opportunities, a
cycle of conferences called Lingua madre (Mother tongue) took place be-
tween May 2016 and May 2017. They were targeted to an adult audi-
Adele D’Arcangelo and Raffaella Tonin 179

ence and focused both on sexism in language and on women’s literature.

The first series, divided into two seminars, hosted a multilingual round
table and was held by some DIT linguists (“Che genere di lingue” –
What kind of languages – where genere is both gender and kind in Ital-
ian). Its objective was to compare Italian language and society with other
European practices (French, English, and Spanish ones) as for linguistic
norms and behaviours on gender matters. The second consisted in four
conferences on women’s literature and took place in May 2017: through
these four lectures, MeTRa scholars introduced some nearly unknown
French, French-Canadian, UK, and US female writers to a general audi-
ence of the Forlì Municipal Library. In November 2016, another con-
ference was held by Raffaella Baccolini and Roberta Pederzoli at the
Centro per le Famiglie (Family Centre) of Forlì. The conference focused
on sexism and gender stereotypes in school textbooks and children’s
books; it was aimed at possibly overcoming stereotypes through positive
Moreover, Rachele Antonini, Ira Torresi, Roberta Pederzoli, and
Raffaella Tonin took part in the first edition of Unijunior at the Forlì
Campus. Unijunior is an educational association, belonging to the
European Children’s University Network (, which organizes
the homonymous venue in collaboration with the University of Bolo-
gna. It represents an innovative educational project aimed at young peo-
ple from 8 to 14 years old in order to stimulate the learning of complex
subjects in a playful and funny context. Hence, members of the teaching
staff who decide to hold these ‘master’ classes present the main contents
and the purposes of their lessons playing with their young students, revi-
talizing contents and ironizing about their own academic role. Thus, fi-
nally, thanks to the collaboration with MeTRa in September 2015, hu-
manistic disciplines such as the translation of children’s and young adult
literature and the study of CLB entered into the Unijunior didactic of-
fer, usually focused on hard-sciences lectures.

3. Training the Trainers

One of MeTRa’s main challenges consists in ‘training the trainers.’ In
accordance with the guidelines of the 2015 Buona Scuola Act for gender
180 Gender and Education: MeTRa Centre’s Research and Activities

equality education,4 we designed a course for kindergarten teachers (from

0 to 3 and from 3 to 6 years old) called Educare al genere parlando, leg-
gendo e giocando (Gender education through language, reading and play-
ing). This course took place between October and November 2016 and
its lessons were held both by MeTRa members and by external experts.
The project, funded by the Emilia-Romagna region (L.R. 6/14), was car-
ried out in collaboration with the Centro Donna and the Department of
Equal Opportunities and coordinated together with the Pedagogical Of-
fice of the Forlì Municipality, with two different paths of cultural activi-
ties, distributed throughout the school year 2016-2017. Its aim was to
raise awareness on gender issues in a pedagogical/educational perspective.
As for MeTRa’s active contribution to this educational project, here
we describe a specific experience held on 10 November 2016 and di-
vided into two steps. The first one was a one-hour plenary session, held
by Roberta Pederzoli, addressed to all the teachers who were asked to
take part in the initiative as update training sessions; the plenary’s main
issues dealt with different perspectives on gender-positive education,
starting from an overview of recent studies on gender stereotypes and
sexism in children’s literature, and following with the identification of
some types of common stereotypes in books (asymmetries in characters,
illustrations, etc.), then presenting a brief overview on the role of the
major international institutions (also mentioning main conventions and
national laws against discrimination and in favour of an equal education,
etc.). The plenary session ended with an editorial overview presenting,
on the one side, the trend towards genderization in books aimed at chil-
dren, and, on the other, gender-positive Italian publishers (such as Set-
tenove, Lo Stampatello, and Sinnos).

The Buona Scuola art. 1 107/2015 Act for Equal Opportunities and against all forms
of violence and of discrimination was approved by the at-that-time Italian Government,
which also published National Guidelines to be distributed in schools of all orders on
the Italian territory. The Act was soon accused of bringing gender within Italian schools,
and the Ministry of Education had to send a newsletter stating that there was no such
aim in the new Buona Scuola Act which was meant to promote gender and ethnic equal-
ity in all Italian schools. The Act is still in force but education being one of the political
fields on which different parties and governments do claim battle, it is regularly pointed
out as one of the main school issues that need to be still discussed.
Adele D’Arcangelo and Raffaella Tonin 181

The second session held on the same day was organised in a workshop
activity lasting two hours and meant for all the 100 teachers who partici-
pated.5 Due to the high number of participants and to the need for an ac-
tive involvement during the collaborative workshop, the teachers were di-
vided into four sub-groups of 25 people, each one guided by two MeTRa
members. During the first part of the workshop, the MeTRa members
showed three different books available for preschool children, in which
gender roles were traditional. The participants were asked to analyse some
aspects of these books according to a work grid that was distributed to all
participants after having asked them to form small groups of about four
people (see Appendix). In particular, participants were asked to analyse
first verbal and then visual aspects according to elements such as the de-
scription of the protagonists of the books; their interaction in the story;
the setting; colours; and paratextual elements.
This same analysis was then proposed after showing two books that
were particularly sensitive to gender issues. A first discussion was then
encouraged at the end of this first activity in order to compare the analy-
sis of the different groups and to discuss how books can either reproduce
gender roles, reiterating them, or just not take them for granted.6 A sec-
ond activity of the workshop was meant to promote a discussion in
which teachers were asked to report on their own experiences in class
and to describe how children do/do not accept or conform to gender
roles describing their activities and preferences. Here again a work grid
was distributed in order to help the different groups in coordinating the
analysis, but teachers were obviously free to add elements or to report

Interestingly enough, there was only one male teacher in the whole group of 100, a re-
minder that teaching for preschool children, at least in Italy, is still considered a very
gender-based job.
Among a wide selection of children picture-books, we decided to propose some pas-
sages from the following ten texts chosen among the Italian literary production or as
translations. The first five, mainly based on stereotypes, were Milo ai giardini (Giandelli
1999), Il mio papà mi vuole bene! (2016), La mia mamma mi vuole bene! (2016), Polly e
la sua mamma (Casalis and Pisapia 2006), Storie della buonanotte (Cotogni 2016), whe-
reas the other five, offering positive models were Il bell’anatroccolo (Fierstein 2012), La
principessa e il drago (Munsch 2014), Nei panni di Zaff (Salvi and Cavallaro 2005), La
dichiarazione dei diritti delle femmine and La dichiarazione dei diritti dei maschi (Brami
and Billon-Spagnol 2015a; 2015b).
182 Gender and Education: MeTRa Centre’s Research and Activities

aspects that were not necessarily listed in the worksheet (see Appendix).7
During the final part of the workshop, participants were encouraged to
discuss if and how gender issues could be addressed with preschool chil-
dren, and how books could either state gender-based differences and
roles or show a different way in order not necessarily to conform to
them. The workshop ended with a reading of some passages from the
two picture books, La dichiarazione dei diritti delle femmine and La di-
chiarazione dei diritti dei maschi (The Declaration of girls’/boys’ rights),
translated in Italian from the French editions.8
3.1. Evaluation of the Educational Activities Promoted by MeTRa
The two authors of the present article did hold one of the workshops
described above and worked with one of the four groups of 25 teachers.
In this section, first we illustrate some considerations on our personal
experience during the workshop, and then we compare them with the
evaluation report on the educational activity elaborated by MeTRa rep-
resentatives together with representatives of the Pedagogical Office of
the Forlì Municipality.
Our group was particularly responsive as for the activities we asked
them to practice, and almost all participants showed their active in-
volvement during the discussion. However, a small group of about five
teachers decided to sit at the very back of the room, literally detached
from the main group, and never actually participated if not at the very
end of the workshop, when the discussion started reporting the difficul-
ties teachers have with some families when dealing with gender issues.
They were teachers for the 0-3 age-range and stated that for children
who attend nursery school these problems do not really exist. Even if
children who attend nursery schools are less inclined to distinguish their
activities and preferences according to gender roles, some families tend
to buy genderized clothes and toys. In addition, children are never al-

Both worksheets were elaborated as outlines to help coordinating the discussion but
teachers were asked to report any element or aspect they thought would add value to the
La declaration des droits des filles and La declaration des droits des garçons were both writ-
ten by Elisabeth Brami and illustrated by Estelle Billon-Spagnol and published in 2014
with the support of Amnesty International.
Adele D’Arcangelo and Raffaella Tonin 183

lowed to interact with male caregivers, given that the profession of

teachers and childcare givers for preschool children is almost never rep-
resented by men (see Van Polanen et al. 2017). Hence, one aspect that
did not seem to be perceived by the teachers involved in the group was
their own belonging to a category of workers somehow defined accord-
ing to gender, and the fact that there was only one man representative
out of a whole group of 100 underlines how this corresponds to the
situation of Italian schools. We were not able to understand the real rea-
sons for which the small group of teachers decided to avoid being in-
volved in the activity and to symbolically show their detachment by sit-
ting far from the rest of the group, but if we compare the general evalua-
tion and all feedbacks given by participants on the educational activity,
we can actually list a number of motivations.
- Evaluation Report: The Point of View of the Representatives of the
Pedagogical Office
According to the representatives of the Pedagogical Office, who reported
the consideration below after having collected teachers’ feedbacks, one
very simple reason for the apparent lack of interest of several participants
was to be found in the fact that teachers are often unwilling to take part in
work activities that go beyond their normal working time. Therefore, be-
ing the whole project mandatory and evaluated for their continuing-
education training, some among them were resistant simply because they
felt this as an imposition. Another aspect that was underlined by the
Pedagogical Office was that probably it might have been useful to offer a
brief general training on social and psychological aspects related to gender-
based differences, also considering teachers’ personal experience and their
own perception on these questions, before starting practical activities on
language and literature. In fact, a difficulty that was certainly discussed
between the Pedagogical Office’s and MeTRa’s representatives was that
preschool teachers in Italy are a particularly differentiated group within
the vast representation of school teachers as a professional group. This va-
riety is partly related to age but has mainly to do with their educational
background. Whereas in primary and secondary Italian schools teachers
are recruited only if they graduated in specific disciplines, the situation for
kindergarten teachers (especially for the 0-3 age-range) is not as clearly de-
184 Gender and Education: MeTRa Centre’s Research and Activities

fined and there are several people who do not seem to be particularly pre-
pared to assume such a crucial educational role.
Having said this, some among the most critical feedback reported to
the Pedagogical Office by the teachers were nonetheless related to the sub-
ject on which the activities were focused. Several teachers stated they al-
ready had enough knowledge on the issues of gender-based education,
while some expressively declared their firm opposition to approach these
questions for ideological reasons, strongly showing their hostility during
the workshops and during the feedback meeting. Although receiving a
general overview on theoretical aspects related to gender and literature in
education was generally considered as positive by participants, one aspect
that was deemed as critical by most teachers and that is worth of consid-
eration for possible future activities, was that participants felt there was
nonetheless a gap between the theoretical aspects addressed both during
the plenary session and the workshops and teachers’ experiences in class.
This aspect needs to be better focussed for possible new future collabora-
tion between MeTRa and the territory’s institutions and associations, es-
pecially in light of a particularly interesting evaluation given from teachers
who did not present personal prejudices towards the subject of gender.
Several among them stressed their difficulty in addressing these issues es-
pecially because including LGBTQ+ books in preschool children’s reading
activities often implies having to face families’ hostile attitude.
- Evaluation report: the point of view of the MeTRa members
According to the MeTRa members who participated in the workshops and
reported their considerations on the experience for a general evaluation of all
the parts involved, most of the teachers that showed their hostility towards
the training sessions stated that these activities were useless. Although they
said that they were already conversant with gender issues, many of these
teachers seemed to hold very stereotyped notions. Should this kind of
teacher’s training be proposed also for primary school teachers in the future,
the sessions on psychological and social aspects in the field would need to be
anticipated as a first step of the activities. This would facilitate the sharing of
opinions and stimulate discussion on how unconscious gender stereotypes
assimilated by teachers in their personal experience outside the school sphere
can act as negative forces in the class environment.
Adele D’Arcangelo and Raffaella Tonin 185

Certainly, the question of how to gain families’ positive responses

towards addressing gender issues in school is particularly crucial in Italy,
especially at the time of writing, because the government which promul-
gated the Buona Scuola Act is no more in charge and the present politi-
cal forces are particularly adverse towards all kinds of experiences on
gender within schools. In fact, the Ministry of Education recently pub-
lished a newsletter for schools of all orders reporting a specific norm,
stating that all educational extra-curricular activities offered in a school
(and activities regarding sexual and gender education are obviously al-
ways of this kind) can be practiced only if families give their consent.
This implies that the present Ministry of Education decided to confer all
decisions related to sexual and gender education to families, who can de-
cide if their own children will be allowed to attend specific extra-
curricular projects offered by schools in this field.9
3.2. Conclusion
Despite the difficulties and a certain declared hostility shown from sev-
eral teachers, from the point of view of MeTRa members, the whole
‘training the trainers’ experience was undoubtedly deemed positive. For
possible future collaboration aimed at teachers’ training sessions, it could
be helpful to better state how these educational activities need to be con-
sidered not as the key to solve problems, but as instruments to help
teachers find a space where gender equality issues can be discussed, and
as cues to come to know that there are a number of interesting books,
particularly appealing for children, in which gender stereotypes are chal-
lenged.10 We do hope that this kind of activities could help teachers,
school professionals, and more generally speaking the national education
system, to face the evermore differentiated society that nowadays is rep-
resented in Italian schools. Despite negative political reactions that state

The note on “Informed consent for extra-curricular activities in schools” (issued on
22nd November 2018) has been welcomed with enthusiasm by all families’ associations
fighting against the so called “gender ideology” in schools. Most of these associations are
centred on strict Catholic rules that are also approved by the actual Ministry of Family
Affairs, Lorenzo Fontana.
One thing we noticed both during the plenary and during the workshops was that
teachers who showed their interest would take note of almost all the titles of books we
did present during the activities.
186 Gender and Education: MeTRa Centre’s Research and Activities

or municipal governments and right-wing parties can show, it is none-

theless true that children already live in a variety of different families in
our country, and all these families need to be recognized and accepted
especially in the core of our education system. As stated by Biemmi in
the quote reported at the very beginning of this article, one of the areas
that are still very problematic in Italian education and in gender terms is
the lack of adequate training for teachers (2015). Our wish is that
MeTRa’s activities will contribute to covering such gap.

Adele D’Arcangelo and Raffaella Tonin 187
188 Gender and Education: MeTRa Centre’s Research and Activities

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