to explore and challenge everyday sexism, sexual harassment and abuse together with secondary school students

Revelations of pervasive sexual harassment and abuse are emerging from numerous settings. Moreover, educational research shows that such is prevalent already among school pupils. Children as young as 7 experience sexualized name-calling, unwanted touching and appearance-related bullying. Teachers report witnessing such practices and feeling ill-equipped to respond (Women’s and Equalities Committee Report, 2016).

Our multi-disciplinary collaboration brings together academics from Education, English and Religious Studies to explore sexism and sexual harassment in secondary school settings using one discrete focus and lens: the role of religious imagery in popular culture (particularly advertising and music videos).

Religious imagery (e.g. the veil, the Cross) is widely used in popular culture both to represent and reinforce ideologies about such complex concepts as ‘sexuality’, ‘purity’, ‘virginity’, or ‘im/morality’. This imagery also conveys notions that casualize or glamourize sexual harassment or violence, reinforce the normativity of heterosexuality, and perpetuate racist associations between Blackness and certain sexual characteristics/desires. Such representations can be regarded as problematic in relation to young people’s understandings of gender, sex and sexualities.

In consultation with secondary schools from all three White Rose regions and a third-sector organization offering gender equality training for school-age girls (Fearless Futures), the network will conduct three pilot workshops with secondary school students (girls and boys) to investigate interactions with religious imagery in popular culture and the ways in which these representations shape understandings of gender, sex and sexualities.

Lead Academic from Lead University

Vanita Sundaram – Gender Education and Social Justice, Department of Education, University of York

Lead Academics from other Institutions

  • Katie Edwards (Department of English and Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies, University of Sheffield)
  • Johanna Stiebert (Biblical Studies, Theology and Religious Studies, School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science, University of Leeds)

Other members of staff associated with this project

  • Valerie Hobbs (Applied Linguistics, Department of English, University of Sheffield)
  • Meredith Warren (Department of English and Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies, University of Sheffield)
  • Caroline Starkey (Sociology of Religion, Theology and Religious Studies, School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science, University of Leeds)
  • Jasjit Singh (Sikhism in Britain, Theology and Religious Studies, School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science, University of Leeds)
  • Sarah Olive (English in Education, Department of Education, University of York)
  • Sofia Rehman (Islam in Britain, Islam and Feminism, PhD candidate in Theology and Religious Studies and Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Leeds