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Swede of the Week
'Peeping Tom mural romanticizes harassment'

'Peeping Tom mural romanticizes harassment'

Published: 31 Jan 2013 16:33 GMT+01:00
Updated: 31 Jan 2013 16:33 GMT+01:00

A 14-year-old student in northern Sweden who complained that her school’s restroom art "romanticized peeping" and was sexist has won a partial victory as the principal agreed to remove it. Astrid Johansson is The Local’s Swede of the Week.

Johansson made headlines earlier this week after an art project by ninth graders at the Tunaskolan school in Luleå ended up ruffling her feathers.

A door mural showed the customary his n' hers stick figures on the men’s and ladies’ rooms in a compromising situation – the male figure was latched onto the top of a dividing wall, allowing him to peep down on the female figure below.

“Women are always objectified,” Johansson told the regional Norrländska Socialdemokraten (NSD) newspaper this week.

“She’s this thing that should be looked at. And that’s the message they’re projecting in a school with a lot of young children,” said Johansson about the installation at the school, where fourth to ninth graders study.

"And no one reacts when you point this out because there is so much sexism in everyday life."

Johansson had mulled over her upset feelings for several days before publicizing her critique in a Facebook post. At first there wasn’t much feedback.

Yet, people eventually did react. Not only did Johansson hear rumours that several students were considering confronting her, without ever doing it in person, but the school’s art teacher decided to survey the other children about how they felt about the picture.

“Ninety-nine percent of students don’t find this picture offensive and don't want it removed,” a note entitled “pupil democracy” and posted near the restroom door read.

The principal, meanwhile, commented to NSD that she chose to interpret the artwork “with humour”.

And thus the fracas seemed to die down, until social media users and the national press caught whiff of the story.

Several heavyweight commentators lined up to defend and applaud the 14-year-old for standing up against her blazé peers, the morally relativistic art teacher and the “fun-loving” principal.

”What’s more upsetting than the provocative mural is how the school reacted to her criticism and how they treated Astrid,” wrote journalist Malin Michea in the Sourze.se online magazine about the bullying that ensued.

Alongside the “pupil democracy” note, several printouts of negative online reactions to Johansson’s discontent were posted by the mural:

“How can you feel violated by this? How is that psychologically possible? Don’t people have real problems in their lives?” read one of the printouts.

Johansson says that even some of the teachers giggled behind her back.

“No one has talked to me about it,” she told Michea. “Neither the staff nor other students. They’re just silent.”

The school did respond, however, online in a written statement.

"We have chosen not to give voice to any value judgements in the debate that our mural has caused."

Commentator Malin Michea was not impressed by the school's official line of reasoning:

"In a society inundated with sexist stereotypes... the school shouldn't hesitate to promote values of equality and justice and not accept a picture that trivializes sexual crimes," she wrote.

Finally, on Thursday, news broke that the principal had ordered the removal of the mural.

And Johansson herself has underlined that she thinks the school skirting responsibility is unacceptable, because the teachers are there to teach the students about right and wrong.

She welcomed the mural's removal but said that the principal, Agneta Hedenström, still didn’t seem to understand the problem.

“I don’t feel like they’ve taken the criticism on board,” Johansson told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

“They have to admit to being wrong and they need to shape up.”

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Your comments about this article

16:48 January 31, 2013 by colombianska_tjej
Then draw a picture of the woman peeping on the man. Suddenly is considered less sexist and even more, shows "rebellion" against sexism, reversing roles and more mumbo jumbo. Just in case, I am a woman and I find it funny, and in no way I am offended.

Too much PC, in my opinion.
17:08 January 31, 2013 by skogsbo
Another person to avoid employing when she eventually grows up.
17:14 January 31, 2013 by Svensksmith
I've got as much humor as the next guy, but don't find the mural to be appropriate or funny. Why not show some guy in the stall choking his chicken?
17:50 January 31, 2013 by Migga
I agree with this girl that the sign is ridiculous and see no reason why it shouldn`t be removed. With that said I`d like to make a point. These little things get more focus and attention then some other real sues that excist in Sweden today. Muslim women are treated like secondary citizens and the Swedish feminists say nothing to solve the problems. They are to scared to say anything because they don`t wanna be labeld as islamophobes, it`s sad.
18:39 January 31, 2013 by Seamus Sean
I thought she was a pain when she was in "Family Ties" with Michael J Fox also!
19:34 January 31, 2013 by Irishmanabroad
She is a bit judgemental. It could be one female friend leaning over to talk to another female friend. Who says it isn't one gay guy leaning over to talk to his transexual friend? I can't believe she has been taught to think that men and women are so pigeon holed. Shame!
21:05 January 31, 2013 by dizzymoe33
@Irishmanabroad

You can clearly see in the picture it is a male figure not another woman looking over the wall.

I have a wonderful sense of humor but I do not see any humor in this picture. It is objectifying women/girls and should be taken down. It is really a sad state of affairs when the adults can't even see it is inappropriate. I am glad this young woman stuck to her guns and didn't let it go.
21:37 January 31, 2013 by skogsbo
Can't anybody see the creative side in this picture? Why take everything in life so seriously.
22:29 January 31, 2013 by oddsock
Speaking of bathroom sexism, anyone ever noticed that toilets in government buildings/libraries/stations/universities in Sweden have no urinals? It's a part of a long campaign to outlaw penis use.
00:22 February 1, 2013 by Svensksmith
It's as if the school is promoting vouyerism...not funny.
00:49 February 1, 2013 by Reason and Realism
This reminds me somewhat of the recent decision by the municipal government of Uppsala to waste tax payer money by ripping down perfectly good crosswalk signs because the silhouette of the woman on these signs was slightly too attractive, and ordering ones having uglier female silhouettes to replace them.

Or the other recent decision to ban a poster for a children's film that had a bunch of ameoba shaped cartoon characters on it, some with spots and zig zags and crazy hair and angry faces, simply because one of these characters (frankly one of the better looking ones) was black.

The image here is clearly intended to be humourous, by its use of conventional stick figures of the types in airport signage in an unconventional arrangement. The image can also be viewed as an insult to teenage boys, who (it is implied) go through a girl crazy phase, and will even scale bathroom stall walls just to get a look at a girl.

I think those people who get extra upset by this know deep down that it is nearly trivial, and try to compensate for their doubts about its triviality with their histrionics. Not that big a deal, folks. Read post number 1.
08:34 February 1, 2013 by RobinHood
The head was quite right to remove the picture. Her duty is to protect the school, and all its children (including Astrid), from unwanted and unhelpful attention. The poster, right or wrong, was attracting harmful attention.

By making this child its "Swede Of The Week" the Local has not shown the same wisdom. Astrid is a child and, right or wrong, is not a tool of the media, nor the numerous feminists and so called gender experts currently celebrating her. Even if she courted their attention in the first place. Some children have to be protected from themselves,as well as from the media, and those who do not act in her best interests.

Please think again, The Local, before making a child your "Swede Of The Week".
11:07 February 1, 2013 by muscle
nothing funny in it. the picture should be removed at least from the kids school!
16:11 February 1, 2013 by Swede_lee
I just have to say that I think that when it comes to schools where we are supposed to at least try to protect our children from abusive and too much adult-hood life! This girl does the right thing! You should never ever imply any kind of crime on miniors like this! If you see this kind of art at an exhibition or online on an adult site it is a total other thing.

Let children be children for as long as posible, leave offensive material out of their lives, the bullying in schools are really enough! (Even that should be taken out) This girl was even bullyed at school for standing up! And when the bad got worse she still stood strong and did not change her mind. That is a true hero in my world.

And by the way all time a girl stick her neck out saying that something is wrong the guys at Avpixlat goes trolling all over the place! We need people to stand up against that too!
17:27 February 1, 2013 by rise
Clearly sexism towards teenage boys to picturing them behaving like that!
18:11 February 1, 2013 by johann2340
This picture is not fair, it is sexist - it depicts boys as sex-criminals and girls as helpless victims.

I wonder if they draw a picture of a boy peeping on a girl, same as the removed picture, but the girl is 'cleaning' his face with a toilet brush as response of his peeping, will it also be removed? - or is this 'female empowerment?
20:04 February 1, 2013 by ann2
"What's more upsetting than the provocative mural is how the school reacted to her criticism and how they treated Astrid," wrote journalist Malin Michea in the Sourze.se online magazine about the bullying that ensued.

Yes!

Just so Swedish. The following quotes are exactly what I would expect from Swedish group behavior.

Not only did Johansson hear rumours that several students were considering confronting her, without ever doing it in person, but the school's art teacher decided to survey the other children about how they felt about the picture.

Alongside the "pupil democracy" note, several printouts of negative online reactions to Johansson's discontent were posted by the mural:

Johansson says that even some of the teachers giggled behind her back.

"No one has talked to me about it," she told Michea. "Neither the staff nor other students. They're just silent."

. . . . the principal, Agneta Hedenström, still didn't seem to understand the problem.

"I don't feel like they've taken the criticism on board," Johansson told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.
22:45 February 1, 2013 by Jackdempsey187
Good for her! Too many muzzles in society.
14:39 February 2, 2013 by k2kats
Brava to Astrid for speaking out!

If this article is accurate, the school's response (substituting convention and 9th grader's consensus for common sense and morality) is appalling.
06:35 February 7, 2013 by sigfus45
A good start to joining the ranks of the perpetually offended and annoyingly political correct.
10:58 February 7, 2013 by Max Reaver
normally i wouldnt agree to making such a big deal of those signs.

but, we are dealing with kids, and because of that, its better to remove them.
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