Reflecting Realities and Creating Utopias: Early Career Feminists (Un)Doing International Relations in Finland

Marjaana Jauhola and Saara Sdrmd

Introduction: Mission Impossible? Challenging the World Champions of Gender Equality

The above visual collage (Collage 1) depicts the lived experience of early career feminist scholars of international relations (IR) in Finland. It should make us pause. Darkness, phallic symbols, and zombie witches (from the online game ‘Left for Dead’) speak of the dark tones of being an academic— the grim and very masculine world of Finnish IR—in outspoken, but also in uncomfortable, ways. The images for the collage were ‘crowd-sourced’ from feminist IR scholars along with written reflections on what it is to do research and teach IR as an early career feminist scholar in Finland. Having read the responses, saara used her artistic vision and worked the images into a mixed-media collage.

This piece of art conveys visually the emotionality of working in Finnish IR as a feminist scholar, and offers the viewer/reader an alternative way of engaging with these experiences as opposed to just reflecting on it

M. Jauhola (H)

University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland S. Sarma

University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland © The Author(s) 2017

R. Thwaites, A. Pressland (eds.), Being an Early Career Feminist Academic, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-54325-7_8

Collage 1

textually. Most of the time, in academia, the emotionality of these experiences is either missed or sidelined as unimportant. Or—which is at times even worse—they are thrown back by those in power at whomever has been brave enough to be vocal about them—labelling such experiences as problems of personality, improper and misfit behaviour, or scholarly immaturity. The myth that Finland has already achieved gender equality and the related celebration of Finland’s supposedly being ‘world champions’ in gender equality (Julkunen 2010) is part and parcel of the wider context in which Finnish, and other Nordic, female and feminist scholars must operate and learn to cope (Husu 2001; Kantola 2005).

In this chapter, drawing from a collective memory process (see, e.g., Davies et al. 2013) with early career feminist IR scholars in Finland, we offer insights into the politics and analysis of power in the discipline of IR. The chapter unfolds in the following way: we will start by introducing the context of Finnish academic and higher education careers in general but will then paint a more specific picture of the structural inequalities that form the basis of the everyday experiences that will discussed in the later sections. We conclude the chapter by reflecting on the usefulness of combining textual and visual methodologies and where the next steps for feminist IR in Finland, and more broadly, may potentially take us.

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