Study of sexual harassment in the workplace – a challenge for Estonia

Katri Lamesoo

Although sexual harassment has been studied in the West for over 30 years, there are only a few studies from Estonia – some broad surveys that have included questions about sexual harassment and some qualitative studies. The aim of the present article is to open the issues related to the study of sexual harassment, give an overview of the development of the research field and place the knowledge into the Estonian context. The critical survey of the development of the study of sexual harassment, its central theories, different approaches, research problems and most important research results can be seen as an input into the study of sexual harassment in Estonia. 

The author believes that research in Estonia has to proceed from the paradox that Western scholars have faced for a while: how do we study harassment in a multilayered fashion, with attention to gendered power structures at a social and institutional level, without treating men and women as homogeneous groups. The author believes that there are two areas that need to be investigated in Estonia – Estonian men’s understanding of harassment from a masculinity studies perspective and the extent to which sexual harassment may be represented as a pseudo-problem by denying its existence. The two aspects should be approached with ethnographic methods that yield deeper understanding about the interpretation of harassment and this in turn can be used for planning a broad survey.