Teaching for gender justice: free to be me?

  • Amanda KeddieEmail author
  • Deb Ollis


In this paper, we present case study data from research that sought to evaluate the implementation and impact of a Respectful Relationships in Education (RRE) program. The program is part of the Victorian state government’s school-based response to ending violence against women and their children. It advocates a liberal feminist aligned ‘gender lens’ (of equitable gender access, representation and participation) within six areas of a whole school approach. The paper illustrates how this lens informed the understandings and practices of educators at one of the primary schools in the research. We explore the deployment of an affirmative and non-affirmative gender politics within the context and goals of the RRE program. Identifying the potential and problematics of this deployment in working to support the goals of gender justice, we offer a theoretical framework—the status model—as a way forward. The status model supports a critical engagement with all relations and knowledges (i.e. within dominant and subordinate cultures) that oppress and marginalise. It thus supports the deployment of a critical affirmative and non-affirmative gender politics that reflects capacity to transform the underlying power relations and structures that generate gender-based violence.


Gender justice Gender-based violence Gender identity politics Respectful relationships education Nancy Fraser status model 



This research was undertaken with the funding and support of Our Watch.


The paper presents research and analysis conducted by the authors. As such, any comment, opinion and position presented are that of the researchers and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any persons associated with the programs or organisations featured.


  1. Anthias, F., & Yuval-Davis, N. (1993). Racialized boundaries: Race, Nation, gender, colour and class and the anti-racist struggle. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Atkinson, E., & DePalma, R. (2009). Unbelieving the matrix: Queering consensual heteronormativity. Gender and Education, 21(1), 17–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blaise, M. (2005). Playing it straight: Uncovering gender discourses in the early childhood classroom. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Brah, A. (2012). The scent of memory: Strangers, our own and others. Feminist Review, 100(1), 6–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Coll, L., O’Sullivan, M., & Enright, E. (2017). ‘The trouble with normal’: (re)Imagining sexuality education with young people. Sex education, 18(2), 157–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Connell, R. W. (1995). Masculinities. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  7. Connell, R. W. (2010). Kartini’s children: On the need for thinking gender and education together on a world scale. Gender and Education, 22(6), 603–615.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. David, M. E. (2017). A feminist manifesto for education. London: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  9. Davies, B. (2000). A body of writing, 1990–1999. New York: AltaMira Press.Google Scholar
  10. Enns, C., & Sinacore, A. (2005). Teaching and social justice: Integrating multicultural and feminist theories in the classroom. Washington DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Francis, B. (2008). Engendering debate: How to formulate a political analysis of the divide between genetic bodies and discursive gender. Journal of Gender Studies, 17(3), 211–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Francis, B. (2010). Re/theorising gender: Female masculinity and male femininity in the classroom? Gender and Education, 22(6), 477–490.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Francis, B., & Paechter, C. (2015). The problem of gender categorisation: addressing dilemmas past and present in gender and education research. Gender and Education, 27(7), 776–790.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fraser, N. (1997). Justice interruptus: Critical reflections on the ‘postsocialist’ condition. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Fraser, N. (2007). Feminist politics in the age of recognition: A two-dimensional approach to gender justice. Studies in Social Justice, 1(1), 23–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fraser, N. (2008). Rethinking recognition: overcoming displacement and reification in cultural politics. In K. Olson (Ed.), Adding Insult to Injury: Nancy Fraser debates her critics (pp. 129–141). London: Verso.Google Scholar
  17. Fraser, N. (2009). Scales of justice: Reimagining political space in a globalizing world. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Gill, R. (2016). Post-postfeminism? New feminist visibilities in postfeminist times. Feminist Media Studies, 16(4), 610–630.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gore, J. (1992). What we can do for you! What can ‘we’ do for ‘you’? Struggling over empowerment in critical and feminist pedagogy. In C. Luke & J. Gore (Eds.), Feminisms and critical pedagogy (pp. 54–73). New York: RoutledgeFalmer.Google Scholar
  20. Hall, R. (2015). Feminist strategies to end violence against women. In R. Baksh & W. Harcourt (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of transnational feminist movements (pp. 394–415). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Harrison, L., & Ollis, D. (2015). Stepping out of our comfort zones: pre-service teachers’ responses to a critical analysis of gender/power relations in sexuality education. Sex Education, 15(3), 318–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jones, T. (2011). A sexuality education discourses framework: Conservative, liberal, critical, and postmodern. American Journal of Sexuality Education, 6(2), 133–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kearney, S., Loksee, L., Ollis, D., Joyce, A., & Gleeson, C. (2016). Respectful relationships education in schools: The beginnings of change. Melbourne: Our Watch.Google Scholar
  24. Keddie, A. (2012a). Educating for diversity and social justice. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Keddie, A. (2012b). Refugee education and injustices of representation, redistribution and recognition. Cambridge journal of education, 42(2), 197–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ollis, D. (2017). The power of feminist pedagogy in Australia: Vagina shorts and the primary prevention of violence against women. Gender and Education, 29(4), 461–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Paechter, C. (2007). Being boys, being girls: Learning masculinities and femininities. Maidenhead: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Renolds, E. (2018). ‘Feel what I feel’: Making da(r)ta with teen girls for creative activisms on how sexual violence matters. Journal of Gender Studies, 27(1), 37–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ringrose, J. (2012). Postfeminist education? Girls and the sexual politics of schooling. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Spivak, G. (1987). In other worlds: Essays in cultural politics. New York: Methuen.Google Scholar
  31. Sundaram, V., Maxwell, C., & Ollis, D. (2016). Where does violence against women and girls work fit in? Exploring spaces for challenging violence within a sex-positive framework in schools. In V. Sundaram & H. Sauntson (Eds.), Global perspectives and key debates in sex and relationships education: Addressing issues of gender, sexuality, plurality and power (pp. 68–83). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillian.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Australian Association for Research in Education, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Arts and EducationDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia

Personalised recommendations