Ireen von Wachenfeldt, chairman of the national women’s refuge organisation ROKS, was shown in the programme describing men as “animals” and “walking dildos”, but had claimed the broadcast version was heavily edited and had taken the comments out of context.
‘Könskriget’ was shown in two parts on the 15th and 22nd May as part of SVT2’s ‘Dokument inifrån’ series. In the programmes, journalist Evin Rubar sought to investigate the highly influential radical feminist movement in Sweden. ROKS is regarded by a number of people as being a radical organisation, which also happens to receive state support at a national level to run a network of local shelters for victims of domestic violence.
In the second of the programmes last Sunday, von Wachenfeldt appeared to say that “men are animals” and to agree with the statement that men were “machines and walking dildos”.
Both programmes provoked a storm of controversy. But following the second programme, a number of local ROKS shelters sought to distance themselves from von Wachenfeldt and threatened to leave the organisation. The Christian Democrats demanded that the government withdraw their subsidies.
“It’s difficult to be part of an organisation which is so strident, anti-men and aggressive,” said Marit Ghylfe, who works for a shelter in Örebro.
In the interview, Rubar and von Wachenfeldt discuss a review in ROKS’ magazine of a new Swedish translation of ‘The SCUM manifesto’. The book is a famous anti-male tirade by one time prostitute and rape victim, Valerie Solanas, which originally came out in the 1960’s. ROKS’ review is positive and Rubar attempts to get von Wachenfeldt to comment on some of the views expressed in the book.
In the three minute unedited version of the interview, as transcribed by SvD, Rubar quotes a passage from the book and attempts to get von Wachenfeldt to accept that those are the views of her organisation. The passage reads:
“To call a man an animal is to flatter him. He is a machine, a walking dildo, an emotional parasite.”
Von Wachenfeldt tries to explain that the article is about a book:
“Are you trying to say that just because we have this article in our magazine that the whole organisation agrees with that statement? It’s a description based on a book.”
The interview transcription closes with the following exchange:
Rubar: So ROKS praises the SCUM manifesto?
Von Wachenfeldt: Yes, they’ve given it a good write-up.
ER: That men are animals and walking dildos. You would support that?
IvW: Yes, I support that.
ER: Men are animals.
IvW: Men are animals… don’t you think so? Don’t you think they are?
In a press statement after the broadcast, von Wachenfeldt defended herself vigorously and accused Rubar of posing the same question exhaustively during the one and a half hour interview to get her worked up.
“Time after time Rubar asked: It says in your magazine that men are animals. Is that what ROKS thinks? Time after time I replied: No, we don’t think so. But if you’ve been the victim of repeated sexual assaults by men, I can understand why you might think that. Rubar chose not to include these answers in her programme.”
She claimed that ‘The SCUM manifesto’ had been reviewed in the majority of papers and that Expressen, Aftonbladet and Sydsvenska Dagbladet had all published positive notices.
She also claimed that her closing remark “Don’t you think they are?” referred back to her point that Valerie Solanas had been regularly raped and assaulted.
In their turn, Rubar and series editor, Johan Brånstad have also spoken out. Rubar claims that when ROKS realised what kind of programme she was making, she received several threatening phone calls. Brånstad told ‘Journalisten’ magazine that it had been very difficult to get people to speak openly about ROKS at all:
“It got to the point where people in authority would only dare speak to us under the condition of anonymity.”
But von Wachtenfeldt’s remarks were not the only contraversial aspects of the programmes. The first part, screened on 15th May, attracted over sixty complaints to the broadcasting watchdog. The most sensational accusations concerned a feminist organisation called ‘Bellas vänner’.
Rubar claimed that ‘Bellas vänner’ believed that there were men in senior positions in Sweden, who were involved in paedophilia and satanic rituals. She also claimed that ‘Bellas vänner’ had kidnapped two women who had come to them for help and taken them to Norway.
An article in SvD this week accused Rubar of using a discredited story from the Västerbottens-Kurir newspaper as the basis for her claims. The story was published in March 2004, but following a complaint to the press ombudsman, the paper was forced to print a retraction.