A network for




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| Objectives | The significance of including sexual harassment and social changes as separate issues in the targets of research | Collaborative activities during the project | Other links |Updated 01.09.01 ©lteras |

The network is concentrating on researching violence in schools and in teacher education with a special focus on power and representations of femininity, masculinity and sexuality. The network is organised between research groups from Finland, Norway, Sweden and North-West Russia, and with financial support from the Nordic research programme "Gender and Violence" in autumn 2000. 

Central objectives for the network are as follows:

  • to improve the knowledge of gendered violence, heterosexism and the current condition of sex education in the schools and teacher education of the Nordic countries and North-West Russia - with a special emphasis on the northernmost parts of that area

  • to improve the knowledge of the cultural boundaries of the issues researched and discussed

  • to prepare teachers, student teachers and teacher educators to be aware of the issues, to recognise them in practical situations and to prepare teachers, student teachers and teacher educators to be able to deal with the issues with justice, equity and human dignity promoting ways in schools, and so that it supports the development of everyone's full citizenship in society

  • to prepare teachers, student teachers and teacher educators to be able to support the development of such learning environments which are free from heterosexism and violence and whose atmosphere is democratic and free from hostility

  • to develop anti- and non-violent pedagogy, and the content of sex education to take into account the quality of human and intimate relations more generally, and the issues of power and gendering

  • to support postgraduate students in their academic studies

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The significance of including sexual harassment and social changes as separate issues in the targets of research 

Being a woman, and especially being a young woman in recent post-/re-colonised world, is governed by numerous contradictory pressures. One particular pressure is connected to sexuality and power, the issues being intertwined also with gendered violence. The leader of the network, Vappu Sunnari, defines violence as any action or structure that diminishes another human being and as a brutal means by which people seek control over the other. Sunnari understands sexual harassment as unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favours and other verbal or physical conduct, which is related to the sex or gender of the person in a context of formal or informal power imbalance. She, however, thinks this definition to be unsatisfactory. When discussing harassment, you always deal with issues connected with relations: there are people who act, and people who experience the acts in some way. This situation produces the possibility that the aims of the acts and the experiences they produce are conflicting. 

The term gender, Sunnari uses as an analytical and context-bound tool, which means that she understands gender and issues connected with gender to be characteristically historical and cultural phenomena. She thinks that different ideological, institutional and discursive formations and belief systems appear to constitute the central basis on which people value and locate their material and ideal world and its events and processes, and that belief systems connected with gender are one part of these formations. (See e.g. Sunnari's doctoral thesis 1997. Her comprehension is influenced for example by Scott 1986; Hirdman 1990, 1994; Connell 1987, 1995; Acker 1991) She further thinks that the shaping of gender(s) contains different processes. One of them is the creation of differences and discriminations between the sexes and between people of different sexual orientations. Other gendering processes are the construction of symbols and images that explain the discriminations and different norms which visibly and invisibly direct people's actions and behaviour on the basis of what is "right" and what is "wrong" for each gender. In addition to processes, we think that institutional structures are also gendered. 

One form of gendered violence also in educational institutions is sexual harassment, the issues having been almost out of the school-violence discussions and also out of the discussions in teacher education in Nordic countries and in North-West Russia. Some surveys on sexual harassment have been conducted in higher education (e.g. by Teija Mankkinen, T. Varjus, M. Sinkkonen and A. Rautio with her co-researchers in Finland in the mid 1990's). The results of the surveys are contradictory in many ways, although they show that sexual harassment in higher education is surprisingly common. The results and contradictions arising from them create a need for further research on the issues in more detail and also with qualitative approaches. We have even fewer studies of that quality. One example of them is the one conducted in Stockholm by Kullenberg and Ehrenlans in the mid 1990s. Sanna Aaltonen, from Helsinki, Finland, who is a participant in the network, and is applying for an individual grant, is preparing her doctoral thesis on the topic. You also can find some articles where the topic is mentioned. (e.g. articles written by Kerstin Hägg from Umeå, Sweden; Anne-Lise Arnesen from Oslo, Norway; Elina Lahelma, Tuula Gordon and Hannele Saarikoski, from Finland). Also there is some mention about female teachers and student teachers as targets of sexual harassment in some texts. (In Finland in some texts written by Vappu Sunnari, Elina Lahelma, and Matti Haikonen). One of the special challenges on the topic area is, what is the influence of organisational culture and structure on the occurrence of sexual harassment. (Timmerman & Bajema 1999, 7, 18.) 

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Collaborative activities during the project 

The activities of the network will include

  • Network co-operation; general and sub-theme-specific with the help of
  • Telsi- and other types of web-environments 
  • Face to face -seminars, and workshops 
  • Research, and writing of scientific and educational texts
  • Support of the studies of postgraduate and post-doctoral students
  • Action research and other kinds of educational interventions in schools
  • Research seminars and courses  
Preparing and participating in a conference with a working title "Sextual / textual politics and… together with the research groups of Kaarina Kailo (the project "Gendered violence and monoacculturation in educational institutions") in 2004.

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Other links


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