Gender researcher: threats and hate are part of everyday life
“It is almost systematic. Those who hate and make threats are aggressively sexist and racist. Their hate ideology is based on who I am – a woman with a foreign background.”
Diana Mulinari, is a Doctor of Sociology and professor at the Department of Gender Studies, which celebrated its fortieth anniversary last autumn.”. Researchers in gender studies are among those who receive the most threats and the Swedish Association for Gender Studies has been working on this for a long time. Diana Mulinari, together with many other colleagues, is on lists spread by the far-right and Nazi organisations and networks that include indirect and direct threats.
“Threats are of course unpleasant, but how it affects me is not the most interesting aspect. It is how the production of knowledge is affected in an academic climate where certain researchers are regularly threatened because of their research”, says Diana Mulinari, adding that when it comes to gender studies it is often enough to just represent this research tradition.
Diana Mulinari wants to emphasise she is not simply talking about disagreement and tough criticism within academic conversations or in dialogue with wider society, or critical contributions against gender studies in local newspapers.
“Tough criticism is vital for the development of knowledge and for societal relevance. However, this is something entirely different”, she says.
She says there is a risk that anti-democratic forces will manage to generate silence and self-censorship, that researchers may reject certain topics that are relevant within research and for society.
“We are risking a silent, fearful, and some people may even call it cowardly culture”, says Diana Mulinari.
She wishes key representatives for the University would more clearly demonstrate solidarity with the colleagues affected through an offensive and public defence of academic freedom. And that colleagues and management at departments where threats most often take place receive the support they need from both faculties and University management.
“There is support at the department. I remain at the University because there are fantastic, brave colleagues who show care and solidarity.”
At the department, Diana Mulinari says they have tried to establish procedures to document and highlight events that someone has been subjected to.
“Many colleagues have been subjected to it; however, I am wary of using the term ‘someone’ which can give the idea that everyone is equally target or at risk of being targeted.”
Diana Mulinari says threats and hate towards gender researchers are directed at specific categories.
There are live hate ideologies directed at those not considered to belong to the nation, those who break the norm when it comes to gender and sexuality and those who work with the production of knowledge and theoretical perspectives that challenge the far-right view on nation and family.
“I would like a University where the threat against feminists and other colleagues is analytically investigated and discussed from different theoretical perspectives. The weapons the University has are knowledge, dialogue, and criticism”, she says.
For Diana Mulinari it is obvious to think carefully before participating in public situations and at times, she declines to avoid threats.
“However, I am driven by curiosity and commitment and I hope threats do not make me turn away from research questions I consider to be important. Though, of course I am affected”, says Diana Mulinari, adding that her impression is that threat and hate crimes are increasing in Sweden, and particularly those linked to sexism and racism.