6. Battles over gender, sexuality and the body

Battles over Gender, Sexuality and the Body

Convenors: Valtteri Vähä-Savo, Tampere University & Johanna Hiitola, University of Oulu

Contact: valtteri.vaha-savo (at) tuni.fi

Seminar room: TH118 (Parallel session 1); TH102 (Parallel session 3)

Format: Hybrid

This workshop invites papers that deal with the politics of gender, sexuality, and the body. What kinds of challenges do people face and what types of strategies do they use to combat oppressive structures and practices? The papers can either focus on one of these themes or examine how they intersect in different contexts. We are interested in the role that norms, epistemic practices, cultural conceptions, affects, and forms of resistance play in these encounters. The workshop also invites scholars to examine the material and spatial aspects of conflicts related to gender, sexuality, and the body. The papers can either deal with current issues or take a historical perspective on these topics. We welcome papers from diverse disciplines, and they can be either theoretical or empirical in nature.

Aira Huttunen, University of Oulu, Aira.huttunen@oulu.fi

Information credibility assessment in healthcare settings experienced by Finnish transgender people

Health communication is often understood as one-way information transmission from health authorities to patients. However, there is an ongoing interest on interpersonal information sharing between medical providers and patients, especially with vulnerable groups. Studies have noted that transgender people need the ability to acquire and use medical information in order to move forward in the chain of care. However, there is a lack of knowledge on which information sources transgender people find credible and authoritative while seeking health-related information. By focusing Finnish transgender individuals and their experiences of information sharing in healthcare settings, this qualitative research aimsto answers to following research questions:

  1. Who transgender people see credible information sources as part of their own care?

  2. How affective atmosphere in healthcare settings affects information sharing of transgender patients?

Preliminary results of this study show the importance of affective elements of practitioner-patient interaction. According to the results, the practitioner-patients interaction affects source selection and trust of information sources in health-related questions. The results show that transgender people had to take a strategic approach in order to move forward in the chain of care. This approach was needed because the gatekeeping system caused the fear of not getting treatment if one is seen as somehow uncertain. This strategic approach included that transgender patients’ have to understand medical views in order to present themselves on such a way that would ensure receiving appropriate treatment. Transgender individuals used information triangulation as a method for making health-related decisions. Information triangulation included informational work in which social structures and authorities were challenged and information gained from medical authorities was triangulated with information from other sources, including other experts, scientific articles and information from organizations, peers and friends.

Heli Yli-Räisänen, University of Helsinki, heli.yli-raisanen@helsinki.fi

Consent Matters When Reading the Bible: History of Interpreting Homosexuality in the Sodom Narrative

The interpretation that homosexuality was the reason, why god destroyed Sodom in the story of the Hebrew Bible, has had a strong impact on the oppression of homosexual men. In the story two foreign men come to Sodom, a man called Lot welcomes them into his home, but other men of Sodom surround the house and demand that he surrenders the visitors that they may sleep with them. The text is no later than from the 250 BCE. The first records that refer to male-male intercourse as the sin of Sodom are from the first centuries’ CE from Seneca, Augustine, Ambrose, and Philo of Alexandria. However, they considered any sexual act outside of a marriage against nature, thus, homoerotic sex was not their concern per se. The word homosexuals appeared for the first time the Bible in 1946 and was linked to the Sodom narrative. By then the ancient Hebrew narrative was self-evidently considered a statement against homosexuality. It is, however, only an interpretation and highly problematic. Historical-critical studies on ancient Israel, and studies on homoerotism in ancient Near East and the antique, suggest a rather different approach to the Sodom narrative. There is a high consensus among biblical scholars that the sin of Sodom was xenophobia, and the men demanding to sleep with the visitors refers to rape, submitting and humiliating the foreign men. The aim of my research is to clarify how the negative image of homosexual men has developed in the Christian world. The subject, homosexuality, has been and still is studies from texts which historic-critically do not concern homosexuality, but sexual violence between men. The concept of sexual consent is in the focus of my research. In the case of homosexuality and the Bible it means that interpretations matter: interpreting homosexuality in texts that concern nonconsensual sex, homosexuality is constructed through violence. My methodology and theoretical framework bases on exegetic methods, genealogy, and intersectional analysis.

Hilla Kiuru, University of Jyväskylä, hilla.v.kiuru@jyu.fi

Andrea Lorenz-Wende, University of Jyväskylä, andrea.c.lorenz-wende@student.jyu.fi

Ageing Women: Devalued and Discriminated

"In this workshop, we focus on cultural narratives that shape our understanding of ageing and especially ageing women. Society's cultural, economic, and social values define women’s ageing, and how this goes together with the discourses of activity and productivity. For example, in recent Finnish media discussions, (as a cultural norm), young bodies are idolised while older ones are ridiculed or even scandalised. It is important to ask, what kind of expectations include the idea of ‘dignified ageing’ that is being called for in relation to ageing women. Does it mean withdrawing and being invisible? This leads to the question of what is allowed for older women, and who defines who is old?

How do social restrictions and expectations define how women are expected to age, or how do gendered body ideals influence women's perceptions and experiences of ageing? If ageing women are supposed to be active and participate while their ageing bodies are expected to withdraw (or disengage, see Cumming & Henry 1961) from the public. Our intersectional study aims to understand how social identities and gender normativity create different modes of discrimination for ageing women, and additionally to discuss how macro-discourses surrounding gender, age, and the body impact upon individual’s micro-experiences (see, e.g., Pilcher & Martin 2020).

We call for scholars from diverse disciplinary backgrounds to join us in discussing how gender and age are conceptualised in the everyday-life. We also welcome undergraduate students working on their thesis. Themes to explore could include, for instance the presentation of ageing women in media historically, women’s right to define their own bodies, the state of participation of elderly women in the conceptual framework of active ageing, or normative concepts of gender and temporality.

Heidi Kosonen, Jyväskylän yliopisto, heidi.s.kosonen@jyu.fi

Susi Mikael Nousiainen, Lapin yliopisto, susi.e.nousiainen@gmail.com

In Finnish: Kehojen marginalisaatio ja Instagram-aktivistien tuottama vastapuhe

"Sosiaalisissa medioissa yleistynyt vihapuhe on intersektionaalinen ilmiö, joka kohdistuu erilaisiin vähemmistöihin ja pyrkii näiden vaientamiseen. Monien someaktivistien käyttämässä, visuaalisuuden määrittämässä Instagramissa vihapuhe pyrkii myös tietynlaisten käyttäjien ja kehojen pyyhkimiseen pois näkyvistä. Tämä kohdistuu erityisesti marginaalikehoisiin yksilöihin, kuten lihaviin naisiin ja toimintarajoitteisiin yksilöihin, sekä sukupuolinormeja haastaviin kehoihin. Verkkovihan ohella tietynlaisten kehojen näkyvyyttä rajaavat myös alustan yhteisösäännöt, jotka sensuroivat naistyypillisten kehojen ilmaisua ja esimerkiksi lihavuus- ja vammaisaktivistien tilejä.

Tarkastelemme esityksessämme erityisesti Instagramissa toimivia suomalaisia kehopositiivisuus-, lihavuus- ja vammaisaktivisteja, jotka käsittelevät päivityksissään kohtaamaansa vihapuhetta ja haastavat Instagramin näkyvyyttä sääteleviä epätasa-arvoistavia normeja. Tarkastelemme yhteensä 10 Instagram-aktivistin käyttämiä visuaalisia ja tekstuaalisia vastapuhestrategioita vihapuheen sekä Instagramin syrjivien alustasääntöjen vastustamiseen ja niiden vaikutusten minimoimiseen. Tutkimuksemme hyödyntää Instagram-analyysia, teemahaastatteluita (5 kpl) ja kanssakulkijuustutkimusta (2 kpl).

Analyysin pohjalta pohdimme tarkastelemiemme aktivistien käyttämiä strategioita suhteessa vallitsevaan keskusteluun vihapuheesta ja vastapuheesta. Esitämme, että heidän itserepresentaatioitaan voi tarkastella vastapuheen muotona verkkovihalle ja kehoja ja niiden näkyvyyttä säätelevälle biovallalle. Jakamalla saamiaan vihakommentteja ja niiden heissä aiheuttamia affekteja sekä postaamalla selfieitä he tekevät näkyviksi sekä verkkovihan rakenteita, kuten misogyniaa ja ableismia että Instagram-kulttuurin normeja. Tämä toimii tapana keskustella julkisesti siitä, kenen kehot kuuluvat näkyviin julkisessa verkkotilassa ja kenen eivät.

Sanna Mustasaari, Law, University of Eastern Finland, sanna.mustasaari@uef.fi

Post Mortem: Battles over Gender, Sexuality and the Dead Body

"Past lives are endlessly submissive, allowing us to do whatever we may decide to do with them… The dead have no rights: their property and the circumstances of their fate can be used by anyone and in any way." Maria Stepanova, In memory of memory.

In August 2021, a 21-year-old woman jumped from a balcony in Kivistö, Vantaa. Both planned and accidental, as suicides tend to be, her act demonstrated self-determination over a body that was her own but that was penetrated by control, regulation and violence to the extent – this is my interpretation – that she saw taking her own life as the only autonomous decision she could make. Regardless of her own wishes, her body, both dead and alive, was and continues to be thoroughly politicized. As a transwoman, she had for years been exposed to investigations, medical treatments, evaluations, gendered and sexual violence, as well as regulation and forced politicization. As her mother, I followed these processes closely and often took part in them.

In my role as a supporter and carer, I observed with concern and confusion my child’s body become a battlefield, legally, psychologically, culturally, and medically. Even though my daughter’s physical body no longer exists, these battles over her gender, sexuality and body still linger on. In this paper, I draw on insights from autoethnographic approaches (e.g. Ellis et al. 2011) to try and make sense of my personal experiences and memories as a mother of a young transwoman in order to understand the broader cultural and relational practices, values and battles that work on individuals and shape their strategies of resistance. I am particularly interested in how her body, gender and sexuality were made political and how she resisted this politicization. From legal and ethical perspectives, I examine the need, the right and the obligation to speak or stay silent about these violent processes and individuals in whom they took place. For example, as a victim of a sexual offence, my daughter was forced to go through a criminal process. All details of this case were declared classified. I ask does something change in post mortem; what is being protected by privacy after her death? And to what kind of privacy are the dead entitled to? To what extent should I respect my belated daughter’s clearly expressed wish to be seen as just a girl and not to be spoken of as a transwoman? Is my need to talk about her body and the battles around it merely a strategy of coping with a trauma of losing one’s child, or is there a socially-just and socially-conscious way of speaking publicly about it?

Dr: Jacqueline Wilson, Independent Researcher, wilson_jacqueline@alumni.ceu.edu

Internal Migration

My doctoral dissertation findings show economic and social deprivation among Black lesbians from the rural setting in the Eastern Cape. The lesbian in the study migrated to Western Cape Town to seek better livelihoods and escape social stigma in the rural community. Due to their marginalised sexuality and class position, working-class black lesbians were disproportionately affected, prompting emigration in search of better alternatives. Although the study shows that Black lesbians benefited from urban migration in employment, the lack of education pushed them to seek employment in the low-income sector. With lower wages, most of these black lesbians ended up in the township areas of Cape Town, characterised by a high level of crime, poverty, and anti-homophobic violations, including rape. My ethnographic interviews with 17 respondents from Cape Town show that sexual minorities become vulnerable because of various forms of structural violence both in rural and urban townships, which is analysed from feminist theories (intersectionality heteronormativity), bio/necropolitics (Achille Mbembe) and structural violence (Johan Galtung), I re theories the connections. My empirical data link how law enforcement and healthcare authorities have prevented these lesbians from accessing their constitutional rights, exposing them to unfavourable mental health outcomes. I then examine structural violence consequences of this desertion by retheorise the knowledge gap, strengthening literature on hate crime, consciously constitutional disinterestedness towards sexual minorities and the psychosocial violence these women endure.