© VJF Facebook page
"Voix de jeunes femmes", a young mixed gender activism group, promotes equal opportunities for all and aims to involve young people in fighting sexism and addressing inequalities.
The group is a subset of the National Womens' Council (conseil national des femmes du luxembourg - CNFL) and has previously lobbied to reduce the so-called tampon tax as well as focused on a campaign surrounding female athletes called I run like a woman.
On Wednesday 5 December, Voix de jeunes femmes (Young women's voice - VJF) addressed a letter to newly re-inaugurated minister for education Claude Meisch, highlighting issues with the final year curriculum in Luxembourg's secondary schools.
In the letter, the group cites having spoken to numerous students from Luxembourgish schools and having come to the conclusion that the literary curriculum in secondary schools is not only dominated by male authors, but also features sexist topics and instances of sexual violence.
According to VJF, rarely do secondary school students in their final get to read books written by women or about women without reducing them to secondary characters married against their will or even purely sexual objects.
This, according to VJF, is problematic in that it does not provide young women with adequate role models. Additionally, the curriculum does not adequately stress to young men that respect and consent are "non-negotiable."
Literary examples cited in the letter include Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, with its depiction of the character Blanche's rape, and Goethe's Faust, in which the titular character manipulates a young girl to steal her innocence. The letter stresses that students even have to learn passages of Faust by heart.
The letter goes on to state: "As personal development is such a crucial theme in many of the works addressed in class, we wonder why half the classes, the female half, are not provided with role models that they can relate to."
Finally, the authors of the letter acknowledge that students in their final year of secondary schooling learn to have a critical spirit when engaging with these literary works, but nevertheless find it troubling that so much of the curriculum includes a normalisation of sexual violence and asks whether it might be time to expand the curriculum, highlighting that the new coalition government has expressed its desire to reduce gender inequality.
The issue of normalising sexual violence is one that interest groups like VJF are increasingly trying to flag, often calling for a more critical engagement with these literary masterpieces.
For the full letter, the Facebook post is linked below.