Talking Violence – Feminist Ethnography in secondary school

The topic of the lecture on 23.1 was very important. It was about gender, school and violence. The lecture was held by Sonja Raunio, whose master´s thesis was called “Violence in secondary school- Feminist Ethnography in secondary school” and the study was made viewpoint of students.

In our group’s opinion, the topic was important and interesting. Even though it was tough to hear how violence still appears a lot in schools, the lecture gave hope for brighter and more tolerant future. It was great to hear that schools have started to give books called “We should all be feminists” and there really are actions being taken for building more tolerant/equal schools!

Questions which rose up in our discussion were, for example: “Where does the line between violence and non-violence goes (is pushing someone violence or not)?, “Do social circumstances define what is violence and what is not?”Why some acts are defined as violence when others are not?” “Why physical violence seemed to be on the top of the “hierarchy” when emotional was lower?” “Violence in school appears to be so normal that it often isn’t even noticed  → How much do we really ignore violence in schools?” and “How much really happens violence in schools nowadays?”

You might assume that everyone knows what violence is, but when taking a closer look at the issue, we notice that violence is actually way more complex than it seems. So what is violence really? Obviously physical violence, such as pushing another person counts, but where should we draw the line when it comes to mental abuse? Bullying in school is seen as mental abuse and (oftentimes) a serious offense, yet still is not (for the most part) equated with “actual” violence, even though bullying can, and often is, physically violent behavior. We also have to consider the context in which the violence happens — if you get in a fight on the street, you could get thrown into jail, but fighting in school might be seen as “playfighting” (where violence is seen as participatory, meant as a jest and means of bonding, although often times one or more of the participants do not see it as a “joke”).These things among others make the delineation between bullying and violence difficult, and have to be taken into account when talking about violence.

Additionally, bullying has a social component to it that is somewhat unique to the school environment (although one might argue that bullying exists in workplaces as well, and that isn’t necessarily called “violence” either). There is an emphasis on the emotional and social aspect of the abuse: bullying is clearly meant to emphasize control and power, whether it is considered between boys and girls, or cross-gendered.

The issue of violence and power is a complicated one, as it seems that the school system itself also helps maintain the social circumstances of bullying.The threat of violence itself was brought up as one means by which this is done.Teachers engage in threats, sometimes even in violent ones, though most often in the form of detentions and other forms of disciplinary actions.

Although violence is often a complex issue and has many abstract qualities, one objective point was made about it in the lecture: Violence means different things to people depending their assumed, expressed or experienced gender. Violence cannot be defined fully or precisely at full length. Still it always should be intervened despite the difficulties in defining it!

For most children being a boy or a girl is natural and gender identity aligns with their biological sex. In addition, when people think of gender, they think of two distinct categories – male and female. However, for some people the match between biological sex and gender identity is not that clear. Gender diversity means that some people fall outside of the classic male/female gender category.  One way to define this more, is to think about gender as a continuum. You don’t have to fit in to discrete category, you can be somewhere in between. Schools are supposed to be equal, but at the same, time schools are gendered institutions because they support specific gender patterns.This is definitely an important thing to improve and it seems that there is still a way to go. A good way is to talk, talk and talk as much as possible!

The issue of gendered violence is also not an issue exclusive to the school system, as there are plenty of examples of such events taking place in adult workplaces as well. The so-called “glass ceiling” for women is a good example of this, as well as the harassment and name-calling that many people (of all genders) experience in the workplace. One form of gendered violence are also unequal career-paths amongst of women and men. Combining family life and work often forces women to choose a part-time job, for example in the Netherlands three quarters of women work part-time. One could even argue that the experiences of gendered violence in school “spill over” to people’s later experiences in working life, perpetuating the cycle even further.

Is there any way out of this? Well, it seems that some progress has been made in this issue. One example would be including the book We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to Finnish middle schoolers in 9th grade. Another one, mentioned in this lecture, is how feminist topics such as privilege and gender inequality are now going to be taught in schools in Australia.

Group K:

Tiia, Mikaela, Jonathan, Sini & Mimmi

Author: Deleted User

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2,214 thoughts on “Talking Violence – Feminist Ethnography in secondary school”

  1. Thank you, group K!

    Very similarly to group B, you had managed to grasp the topic of the lecture, and were attempting to understand where violence actually ‘lurks’ in schools. This is exactly the idea of these group meetings and blog posts.

    Violence is indeed a complex issue with abstract qualities. As you were trying to define what it is, I shall copy-paste my question from the other post here. Can the definition of violence be the subjective feeling of the ‘victim’ of violence (as in “I felt unsafe, threatened, I was afraid that there would be violence”–> hence, that already is violence)?

    Even somewhat philosophically, the issue of ever-present power in all human communities is also an interesting one to ponder.

    Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts throughout the course.


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