Changing Gender Roles: "Women back at the stove?"


Traditional gender conceptions accompanied by gender stereotypes, gendered work distribution, and unequal economic realities are still to be talked about. We see current critical tendencies to illustrate that.

In times of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can see that these expectations are deeply rooted in our society and the impact they have on different genders. Multiple pressures are put on women during the times of distance learning, home office, and lockdowns.1

In addition, the so-called “tradwives” and their supporters propagate an image for women that is based on the “natural” and exclusive determination of women to be a mother and housewife and focus on a role image of the 1950s connected with right-wing ideology.2

Because of this, young people must think about these topics critically and realize its connections and impacts.

The following exercise broaches the issue of change and continuity in the context of gender roles and relationships, and it allows thinking about these topics in a creative way. In this exercise, the participants work with historical developments, the legal framework in Austria, and the impact these have on people regarding gender and economy. The 1960s and the current time can act as a baseline and consequently show still existing inequalities and problems. A view to the future can also show the need for action and start a conversation about necessary changes and positive future visions.

The exercise is easy to modify in terms of country-specific legal conditions.

  1. See. f. e.: Bohrn Mena, Veronika: Die unbemerkte Mulit-Arbeit von Frauen, Online Standard, 13.11.2020, https://www.derstandard.at/story/2000121677282/die-unbemerkte-multi-arbeit-von-frauen ↩︎

  2. See. f. e.: Windmüller, Gunda: Sogenannte Tradwives werben fürs Hausfrau sein – klingt harmlos, ist es aber nicht. ze.tt, 6.2.2020, https://ze.tt/sogenannte-tradwives-werben-fuers-hausfrau-sein-klingt-harmlos-ist-es-aber-nicht/ ↩︎


Group size

The exercise is suitable for variable group sizes. Depending on the group, it is also possible to write and discuss the stories in small groups.




This exercise consists of several steps: introduction of the exercise plus explanation of the legal framework, writing of the story (in the 1960s and the present time), reading out loud, presenting and discussion of the stories, and working on the future visions.

The participants should write two fictional stories. The first story starts with a young woman who lives in Austria in the 1960s and gets to know a man. 

How does this story continue? Important in this story are the areas of relationship (marriage, separation, divorce), education, work, and family planning.

The participants must choose one fitting legal framework. One specification could be that the participants must choose at least 3 of the frameworks.

After this, the participants write another story that takes place in the present time. If necessary, there can be further explanation of the legal framework. The participants who want to read their stories out loud can do this now. They can also talk about what they were thinking about when they wrote it. Afterwards, gender roles and the law framework of the 1960s can be viewed from a perspective of the present time. Possible questions can be:

In the third part, a story about future visions or a group work about future visions can take place. 

Legal Background

Background of this exercise are following legal regulations and changes in Austria: 

1975: The man is no longer the family head. Women are allowed to work without their husband’s permission, co-decide the residence and choose the family name. 

1977: “Paternal Violence” is abolished. Until then, a man could solely decide about the children and was given sole custody after a divorce. Now father and mother share the same rights and duties towards their children. 

1978: Reorganisation of the matrimonial property regimes: in case of divorce, assets acquired during the marriage, will be shared, before the man received them.  

1989: Unmarried mothers are on equal footing with married ones. Before, the district authorities automatically became the legal guardian, the mother only received guardianship by filing an application. 

1989: Rape in marriage becomes a criminal offence.

1990: Paternal leave is introduced.1

  1. See f. e.: Feigl, Susanne: Factsheet: 150 Jahre Frauenrechte in Österreich. Bundesminsiterium für Arbeit, Soziales und Konsumentenschutz, Wien: 2016: https://www.lifelong-learning.at/Wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Factsheet_Frauenrechte.pdf; Demokratiezentrum Wien: Familienrechtsreform: http://www.demokratiezentrum.org/themen/demokratieentwicklung/1968ff/familienrechtsreform.html; Demokratiewebstatt: Frauenrechte und Gleichberechtigung in Österreich: https://www.demokratiewebstatt.at/angekommen-demokratie-und-sprache-ueben/frauenrechte-und-gleichberechtigung-in-oesterreich ↩︎