Free online course to educate people on gender history launched

Published: 28 October 2020

UofG and FutureLearn are launching a free online course to educate people on gender history as study shows that Brits feel they lack the right knowledge on gender issues/

The University of Glasgow has partnered with social learning platform FutureLearn  to launch a free online course to educate people in the UK, and across the world, on the history of gender, inequality between men and women and discrimination on the basis of sexuality.

It couldn’t come at a better time as new research reveals over 8.9 million Brits say they lack knowledge on toxic masculinity along with over 7.8 million saying the same about LGBTQ+ rights.

The new course, A Global History of Sex and Gender, is live from Monday 26 October on FutureLearn and launches after a year of policy and social change, including the news misogyny is set to be considered a hate crime by law in the UK. Other topics in the course include the #MeToo movement, abortion laws, gay and trans rights and toxic masculinity.

Toxic Masculinity: Men vs Women

Across the UK, while 12 million British people don’t believe toxic masculinity is a problem that exists in today’s society, 37 per cent of men and 52 per cent of women do believe that toxic masculinity is a big issue within present day society.

When asked about the causes of toxic masculinity, 38 per cent said a stereotypical image of what it means to be ‘masculine’ and an environment that allows for misogyny (10 per cent) are enabling toxic masculinity to keep growing.

The research also showed that almost one in five men don’t believe gender inequality is a reality that exists in society. This highlights the need for further education on gender issues in today’s world.

Dr Tanya Cheadle, Lecturer in Gender History at The University of Glasgow, that houses the UK’s largest Centre for Gender History, said: “It’s fascinating that 38% of those surveyed highlighted masculine stereotypes to be a cause of ‘toxic masculinity’.

"History shows us that comparable ideas around masculinity and ‘manliness’ have existed throughout the past and have often had a close relationship with perpetuating inequalities - of gender, but also of sex, race and class. As learners on this course will discover, exploring how masculinity and power have worked in different historical periods and cultures provides invaluable insights on how to effect change in the present.”


Toxic Masculinity: Generational Gap

More than one in five (22 per cent percent) of under 35’s believe gender inequality doesn’t exist today, compared to nearly one in three (30 per cent) of over 35’s. 23 per cent of under 35’s don’t believe toxic masculinity has ever existed while 27 per cent of over 35’s also agree that toxic masculinity doesn’t exist.


The research, commissioned by FutureLearn, also found that when asked how the issue of gender and sexual inequality should be tackled, over 1 in 4 (26 per cent) said education is the most effective method. This was closely followed by holding corporate leaders and decision-makers accountable (17 per cent), and enacting new laws (14 per cent).

Dr Tanya Cheadle is leading the charge and has developed the free course with FutureLearn to help educate learners around the world on the history of gender societal issues. It comes at a time when efforts to balance the scales have been set back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, domestic violence rates have risen, a right-wing US government edges closer to a second term, and lockdown has taken its toll with more women picking up housework and home-schooling.

The course and its lecturers are aiming to highlight the history of gender and sexual inequalities across the world in the hope of educating a generation with the potential to impact change. The course will cover topics from the 1600s right up to 2020 including subjects such as reproductive justice, queer and trans history, the gender pay gap, masculinity and power, and race, sex and colonialism.

Dr Tanya Cheadle, said: “Gender and sexual inequality is a central issue in today’s global culture wars - from the Weinstein scandal and #MeToo, to reproductive justice and trans rights. This course provides the vital historical perspective necessary to enact meaningful social change. Reaching a wide audience through this accessible online platform allows us a real opportunity to inform and progress the conversation, sharing with a broad, international audience the very latest research on the rich and sometimes surprising history of past attitudes and activism on sex and gender.”

Along with #MeToo and reproductive justice, the four-week course covers other key topics throughout history, including the links between gender and sexual history and imperial conquest and colonization.

In four weeks, learners will be educated on the following topics;

  • Week 1: Gender and Power
  • Week 2: Sex and Intimacy
  • Week 3: Work and Care
  • Week 4: Histories of Feminism

FutureLearn, Chief Operating Officer, Dr Susannah Belcher commented, “The history of gender is an incredibly important subject and we're proud to be working with the University of Glasgow to bring topics like gender inequality, reproductive justice and toxic masculinity to our global audience. It's only when people are educated about topics like this that they can effect positive change.”

Launching on Monday 26 October, the online course is available via the social learning platform and will take around four hours of weekly study over a four week period to complete, with learners able to sign up and learn at any time.

Top issues British people don’t understand, according to the FutureLearn survey:

  • Toxic masculinity
  • LGBTQ+ rights
  • Employment opportunities
  • Gender based violence
  • Reproductive rights and justice
  • Sexism
  • Feminism



Survey Information

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2080 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 15 - 16 October 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

About FutureLearn

Here at FutureLearn, our purpose is to transform access to education. We do that by partnering with over a quarter of the world’s top universities to support over 14 million learners across the globe to develop skills and achieve their personal and professional goals. We’re a leading social learning platform founded in December 2012 by The Open University and are now jointly owned by The Open University in the UK and The SEEK Group. We use design, technology and partnerships to create enjoyable, credible and flexible short online courses and microcredentials, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. In addition to top universities, we also partner with leading organisations such as Accenture, the British Council, CIPD, Raspberry Pi and Health Education England (HEE), as well as being involved in government-backed initiatives to address skills gaps such as The Institute of Coding and the National Centre for Computing Education

First published: 28 October 2020

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