Miscellaneous: September 25th, 2008 by JS
The most famous son of Flint, Michigan, might be left-wing populist Michael Moore, but it seems that the denizens in this renowned industrial town have come over all feudal with the imminent visit of the King of Sweden.
The Flint Journal, keen to ensure that unpolished local residents don’t let the side down, has issued a guide on how to greet King Carl XVI Gustaf. The official advice – that a little bow from the neck will do – is not nearly respectful enough for the Journal. Writer Rose Mary Reiz favours a more full bottomed genuflection:
1. Put your left hand behind your back, bent at the elbow and resting at the waist.
2. Bring your right hand to your waist, bent at the elbow while you tip your upper body forward. Hint: the lower you bend, the more respect your show. Another hint: bending too low, losing your balance and falling on the floor is probably not considered respectful.
3. Keep your eyes lowered.
4. Straighten your back and drop your hands.
Reiz is hoping the practice might catch on. “Think how classy Flint’s image would become.” Indeed.
Music: September 24th, 2008 by PO
Check out The Local’s interview with soulful Swede Veronica Maggio.
Britain, we were led to believe at the weekend, is outraged at dastardly foreign attempts to banish busty beauties from the nation’s billboards. The root of their anger was Swedish politicians who, having failed to get sexist ads banned on the home front, scored a win in Brussels.
The Daily Mail, an organ never to miss an opportunity for a bit of Euro-bashing (or, indeed, dredge up images from old Wonderbra ads), was breathless with indignation after a committee of Euro-MPs demanded that EU countries put a stop to any ads that reinforce gender stereotypes. The person behind this controversial plan is none other than Eva-Britt Svensson, a Swedish Left Party MEP and vice chairperson of the European Parliament’s women’s rights committee. The author of the report seems to have swallowed an undergraduate gender studies textbook:
‘Gender stereotyping in advertising straitjackets women, men, girls and boys by restricting individuals to predetermined and artificial roles that are often degrading, humiliating and dumbed down for both sexes.’
Actually, the chances of any country being forced to ban anything is close to nil (no law has been passed – the European Parliament’s women’s rights committee has just recommended a course of action that governments are free to ignore, as they no doubt will, despite the parliament voting to adopt the report), but if you’ve been in Sweden for the past few years, the proposal had a familiar ring.
ERK’s rulings have led to accusations that it was trying to act as the ‘thought police’. They have also raised a number of questions: is sexy advertising always sexist? Why should advertisers be expected to be more politically correct than the consumers they target? Whatever happened to free speech? And besides, surely the whole business should be self-regulating: consumers won’t buy products if the ads are offensive? The controversial nature of ERK’s work also has the self-defeating side-effect that the ads it censures are guaranteed lots of free publicity in the tabloids.
ERK’s rulings don’t have the force of law, but earlier this year an official committee proposed going one step further and banning all material “with a commercial aim” that could be “construed as offensive to women or men.”
Equality minister Nyamko Sabuni refused to adopt the report’s findings, saying: “I don’t want to infringe on fundamental human freedoms and rights for a law the efficacy of which I question. This is not the way to win the fight for gender equity.” Defeated on home soil, it looks like Svensson is seeing whether the battle can be won elsewhere. She probably shouldn’t hold her breath – in the UK, at least, even the left-wing papers are subjecting the idea to ridicule.
Charlie Brooker in the Guardian wonders what effects non-sexist ads might have:
I can scarcely picture what kind of patronising hell we’d be creating for ourselves there. And what if it worked? What if all our ads were suddenly filled with ladylike men eating chocolates and butch ladettes swigging beer, and these images proved so influential that everyone started behaving that way in real life, until these brave new anti-stereotypes had become stale old actual stereotypes, so we had to start all over again by subverting our old subversions?
Equally cutting is an article by Claire Beale, editor of ad-industry magazine Campaign. Calling the report “fatuous bureaucratic meddling,” she describes it as “the legislative equivalent of one of those We Love the 70s programmes, a real trip down time warp lane.”
Ads are never going to be subtle, she continues:
Does advertising deal in stereotypes? Of course. When you’ve only got 30 seconds or a glance to make an impact on a broad group of people you don’t have time to invent a new language. You tap into common themes, ideas and images to create an instant connection.
Svensson’s poorly-presented arguments might leave an open goal for her opponents, but the failure to pass a similar law in Stockholm must beg the question: if rules like this haven’t worked in politically correct Sweden, how on earth could they be made to work elsewhere?
There is some good news for those who think advertising is sexist, though – things have improved over the past 50 years, as these ads show.
Media: September 2nd, 2008 by PO
Would you like to be a member of our readers’ panel?
The Local is looking for eight people — four foreigners living in Sweden and four native Swedes — to answer a few short questions a month about life in Sweden.
We’re not looking for Nobel prize winners in literature, just people with a genuine interest in Swedish news and society and who are willing to share their experiences of living here
The only people who need not apply are the anonymous and the camera shy: we will want to publish your name, photo and some brief personal details.
If you are interested in being a member of our readers’ panel, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to welcoming you to The Panel.
She might be a Swedish royal and the Duchess of Halland, but Princess Lilian, who turned 93 on Saturday is also one of the more illustrious daughters of the town of Swansea in Wales. Newspaper Wales on Sunday has marked the princess’s birthday by looking into her background and ancestry.
Like very few other royals, Lilian was born into a working-class family. She grew up in “a tiny terraced house” in Swansea. She met Sweden’s Prince Bertil during the Second World War, but the couple were barred from marrying by successive Swedish kings Gustav V and Gustav VI Adolf (several other Swedish princes married without the king’s permission, forfeiting their titles and rights to the throne). It was only in 1976 that the current king (Bertil’s nephew) relented and allowed Lilian into the family.
Ancestry researchers quoted by the newspaper sound thrilled with their ‘discoveries’:
“We were charmed, we didn’t realise it was the most magical story. It’s a real-life fairytale. She’s loved in Sweden where she has a reputation for being a wonderful woman.”
Read the full article here.
You are currently browsing the The Local's Blog blog archives for September, 2008.
"He's not a celebrity in Sweden, but everyone in Kentucky knows the name Fred Noe. Even more people know the name of his great-grandfather, Jim Beam." READ »