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Increased awareness of the violation of women’s rights across professional sectors has led to the exposure of sexual harassment and assault issues within archaeology. The open discussions that followed exposed sexual harassment and gender discrimination in archaeology, and revealed the significance of the profession-wide silence about, and tolerance of, such practices directed primarily against women and members of the LGBTIQ+ community. Recent debates have directed us back to questions of gender equality and the lack of tolerance of diversity on the grounds of sexuality. Despite long struggles and hard-won battles, gender inequality, in particular, has not been dealt with successfully. Gender and sexuality-based discrimination resists change because they are interwoven with the culture of authoritative power, essentialism and the patriarchal values of modern society, which shape our power relations and ultimately also our profession.
The European Association of Archaeologists presents the 2020 Statement on Archaeology and Gender, which, on the one hand, aims to alert us to continuing discriminatory practices on the basis of gender and sexuality in our profession and, on the other, insists that gender inequality can no longer be tolerated. The 2019 EAA Bern Statement on Archaeology and the Future of Democracy articulated the importance of democratic values to ensure an open and free society. Prejudice, discrimination, attack, threat or harassment on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation, marital status, maternity, child-care and gender-related health issues is an exercise of power against individuals. The European Association of Archaeologists does not tolerate any such behaviour among its members, as it violates fundamental human rights.
Recognising gender inequality, breaking gender stereotypes and embracing diversity has a long tradition in archaeology (i.e. studies of the past, contemporary practice, museum exhibitions, communication with the public, etc.). Feminist archaeologists have paved the way to reach the current more diverse and inclusive archaeological community. However, there is still a long way to go to fully eradicate discriminatory perceptions and deeply embedded injustices. A democratic society has to remain highly vigilant to ensure the protection of human rights, and gender equality is one fundamental stepping stone for equal opportunities in archaeology. However, the focus of gender equality on the homogeneous categories of "man" and "woman" overlooks diversity within both categories, as well as individuals who do not fit into either. While studies of people in the past have started to address this issue, archaeology as a profession has yet to articulate a clear position.
Overall, archaeologists across Europe are almost equally divided between men and women, with some regional deviation from this pattern. There is also equal access to education and early career employment. However, many parts of Europe are lagging behind in appointing women to leadership positions and ensuring fair pay. Furthermore, the higher number of women archaeologists in some countries, such as 76% in Greece, 71% in Italy, 68% in Cyprus, and 63% in Slovenia and Norway, is surely not a consequence of similar social developments. In some of these countries, the balance is reversed in positions of power and in the academy: the number of males in leading positions is much higher than their proportional representation in the discipline. In some countries, more men than women never enter the discipline or are stepping out of archaeology because of low wages and society‘s perceptions of men as breadwinners. Therefore, differences in archaeologists’ pay and the level of dependence of women on men in households need to be considered in discussions on gender ratios in the profession.
Increased confidence in a fair evaluation of grant proposals has resulted in more applications by female archaeologists across the board and currently grant awards are equally divided between male and female applicants (for example in the men-women applicant ratio among ERC Starting Grants). The equal involvement of male and female archaeologists is not reflected in the same proportional representation of academic publications and membership of decision-making bodies. This is clearly the case with the European Journal of Archaeology, with its long-term bias in favour of male authors, which has recently slightly diminished. To date, the EAA has not benefited from the election of a single female President*. Very often fairness is not just about equal access and treatment on paper but should also take into account the effects of motherhood, care responsibilities, disability and illness that continue to be overlooked in recruitment and evaluation processes.
Furthermore, our profession continues to struggle with various forms of workplace harassment often based on gender and sexuality. Surveys demonstrate that women are the primary targets of sexual harassment and the perpetrators are predominantly senior men more highly placed in the professional hierarchy. This calls for urgent action towards ending such practices and assuring a fair, safe, gender-equal, gender-inclusive and respectful working environment.
The hard-won battles for women’s and LGBTIQ+ rights and the increased feminisation of the profession have created a false sense of security and a culture of complacency. Positive discrimination has only got thus far. The problem lies in normative behaviour which is primarily embedded in the dominant patriarchal system forms. Acceptance, tolerance and respect for diversity are taken for granted now and paid mandatory lip-service, while power asymmetries, harassment and discrimination based on gender and sexuality continue unchallenged across European archaeology.
In our work, it is important that all people – past ones as subject to archaeological research as well as present ones as part of the profession – are addressed equally and without preconceptions, prejudices or bias. Gender-informed training, research and public outreach are needed to raise awareness of gender complexity and diversity in past and present societies in a long-term perspective and to prevent power asymmetries inside and outside academia. Based on more than four decades of outspoken feminist scholarship in archaeology, the time has come to take measures to put an end to the silencing and tolerance of gender inequality, discrimination, and harassment within archaeology. To that end, the EAA intends to show leadership by including in its revised Code of Conduct recommendations for ensuring gender diversity and equality within its structure and practices, encouraging other archaeological institutions and organisations to take similar action.
*The Gender Statement was drafted prior to the election of Eszter Bánffy to the position of Incoming President in September 2020.