“It’s just inappropriate”: The normalization of sexual harassment in Ontario schools as revealed through teachers’ stories
This study examines teachers’ experiences witnessing and addressing the sexual harassment of girls by boys in elementary and secondary schools in Southern Ontario. Through a feminist, poststructural framework using feminist methodologies, I interviewed seven teachers from different schools in order to determine teachers’ experiences witnessing, addressing and hearing about student-to-student sexual harassment. Although participants’ experiences varied, their responses revealed that sexual harassment is normalized, naturalized and reinforced in secondary and elementary schools. Themes that surfaced revealed how their understandings of sexual harassment existed outside of power relations; how language is “softened” when describing sexual harassment and sexism; how the seriousness of sexual harassment was minimized; and how gendered Islamophobia intersected with the normalization of sexual harassment. Acts of resistance challenging pervasive discourses that normalize the sexual harassment of girls by boys also arose during interviews.