Dr. Stoika Penkova is associate professor of “Sociology of Inequality” and dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and History of Plovdiv University “P. Hilendarski”. At the conference on March 27, she is a speaker on the topic “The role of the academic community and educational institutions in changing attitudes and protecting against gender-based violence”
How did the topic of violence against women and girls become part of your professional path?
I am a scholar whose narrow specialization is related to issues of inequalities and in particular those based on gender differences and stratifications. For more than 20 years now, I have been teaching this discipline at the Faculty of Philosophy and History of Plovdiv University “Paisiy Hilendarski” and it is at the center of my main academic pursuits. The topic of gender and gender differences is one of the important emphases I place in my teaching, focusing not only on gender as a social construction, but above all placing the problem of female inequality in the context of the so-called Male dominance, with which one of the great sociologists of the 20th century, Pierre Bourdieu, connects modernity, as well as the gender attitudes, stereotypes and prejudices that fill our everyday life. Violence against women and girls as a negative social phenomenon is largely the result of these inherited and/or acquired gender stereotyped attitudes and ideas.
What will you present at the conference on March 27 in Plovdiv?
In my report, I will try to mark those steps by which we as an academic community can influence changes in existing attitudes towards gender and gender differences and contribute to the formation of future ones based on tolerance, equality and dialogicity. The academic community and higher education are an important factor in bringing about the change of existing attitudes towards gender: not only as a model for the institutionalization of gender equality and partnership between them, but also as an institution for the production of knowledge, through the acquisition of which, on an everyday level, micro-policies aimed at overcoming violence on a daily basis can begin to be generated.
Why do you think this issue is important right now?
Because violence in all its forms, especially against women and girls, is a negative social phenomenon that leads to anomie and social disintegration. Violence has various normative elements and reflects the political and social realities in society. In a society like ours, which is torn by contradictions, surely the rising level of violence against women and girls is a serious social problem that needs to be countered.
What do you think is the most urgent to change in the current situation in Bulgaria, specifically on the subject of violence against women and domestic violence?
Change for me comes with a change in attitudes and gender stereotypes and prejudices, which is achieved only and only with a change in the accumulated social knowledge related to the achievement of equality between the sexes. There is a need to develop research and educational programs related to social studies of gender and gender-based violence in particular. Curriculum development in this area is a sign of a commitment to social change, of an activist orientation to institutional and everyday gender attitudes, stereotypes and prejudices, and hence a long-term strategy aimed at changing future behaviors and preventing gender-based violence (not only physical but also symbolic). In the longer term, this strategy will affect power structures inside and outside higher education institutions.