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'Sexual harassment rife in Swedish theatre'

Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 15 Feb 2010, 08:26

Published: 15 Feb 2010 08:26 GMT+01:00

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"I was not supposed to hear it, but I overheard how they discussed who would take me first during the night. I became scared, went to my room and made sure the door was locked. Later that night someone tried to get in both through the door and the window," was how one female actor described a dinner with colleagues.

The survey sent by SR's Ekot news programme to all the members of the Swedish Union for Theatre, Artists and Media (Teaterförbundet), indicates that the problems are widespread, with female actors being the worst hit, with almost half claiming to have been sexually harassed.

The survey received 1,672 replies and Ekot has looked into 365 cases involving allegations spanning attempted rape, unwelcome approaches, lascivious glances and sexual propositions - including requests for sex in return for being given a role.

Of the cases, 2.5 percent claimed that they had been subject to rape or attempted rape, 46.8 percent cited unwelcome propositions, 49 percent sexual allusions, 67.4 percent inappropriate comments, 15.3 percent unwelcome phone calls, e-mails or text messages, 45.8 percent inappropriate glances or gestures, 67.1 percent physical approaches, and 7.9 percent experienced demands for sexual services.

The Local on Monday spoke to Anna Carlson at the Swedish Union for Theatre, Artists and Media (Teaterförbundet) and asked if the extent of the problem came as a surprise.

"I welcome the report. We did not realize that such a large number of our members felt this way. We needed this review."

Carlsson added that training and education is at the centre of the union's work to identify and tackle sexual harassment and discrimination in the sector.

"We plan to intensify the work that we have been doing before. We have recently announced (February 11th) a cooperation with employer groups. Education is the key to the preparation for change," Anna Carlsson told The Local.

Vanja Hermele, a gender expert and a journalist who has published several studies in recent years highlighting the gender imbalances within the sector, argues however that the problems have been known for some time; but that the tools and procedures have been lacking to address it.

"In the course of my work I have heard these allegations from many sources. What is happening now is that a lot more women are ready to talk about it, and have the tools to do so."

Hermele welcomed the media attention to the report which she argued may help the issue to come out into the open.

"The cork is out of the bottle. Sexual harassment has often been something dealt with in-house, over a coffee. We have to do something about these hidden statistics, about the shame and the silence," she said.

The survey showed that half of those reporting incidents of sexual harassment stated that the source of the complaint was a supervisor - the head of a theatre, a director or a producer.

Anna Carlsson and Vanja Hermele both agree that the report's findings illustrate a demonstration and abuse of power, arguing that it is a reflection of society in general.

Story continues below…

"It may surprise a few people but Sweden today is far from equal, there is still widespread discrimination against women," Anna Carlsson said.

"People think that there is a high level of tolerance and openness within Swedish theatre and the arts. That is a picture we exposed a long time ago, but it has just been quietened down, explained away," Vanja Hermele said.

The Local reported in January that the Royal Swedish Opera ballet director Marc Ribaud was issued with an official warning after sexually harassing a female member of staff.

The case came to light after revelations in the media, whom the opera chief Anders Franzén accused of blowing the matter out of proportion.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

13:51 February 15, 2010 by NickM
I can't believe the harassment is as blatant as portrayed in this photo. That is akin to sexual assault.
14:45 February 15, 2010 by hjoian
Everytime i read a story like this...i cant help but think that Swedish woman just dont like Swedish men......
14:52 February 15, 2010 by eagleh
I agree with hjoian. However, I have to add to that Swedish men also have a very low capacity, and they have no moral.
14:54 February 15, 2010 by EP
Love the photo ...
15:02 February 15, 2010 by peropaco
Until more women start to report these incidents I dont think much will change.
15:11 February 15, 2010 by G Kin
I can't help but find the picture appealing!. It might encourage the behavour instead.

Any way, I am not suprised about this rather swing from the passive/dosile state to the agressive male egos. The swedish society doesn't allow men to be men. In public coming across as dominant is viewed very negative here.

15:37 February 15, 2010 by Thebinary1
The photo is awesome! Although I think the lady should bend a bit more.

It should also be mandatory for all organisations to address this problem by having a special emergency red phone to call "Sexual Harassment Panda".
15:44 February 15, 2010 by spy
After careful review of the image I can say, categorically, that she led him on.
15:47 February 15, 2010 by Sjayna
G Kin, maybe you find the picture appealing...but be carefull, wrong bottom and you will lie on the floor ... Who are these men, who think they have the right to harass women. Do they see women primarily as sex objects, toys, that are for stupid men to play with?
15:47 February 15, 2010 by zircon
Is that you, my darling wife?
15:59 February 15, 2010 by Sjayna
Maybe...Do you want to taste the floor ?;) Harassing men need to face consequences for their actions, so its time that women start to report these incidents. Otherwise nothing change....
16:08 February 15, 2010 by Kevin Harris
I have looked at this bottom for several minutes now (by way of scientific research) and I suspect this is in fact stunt bottom in a posed picture. All stunts in this online newspaper are performed by professionals, or under the guidance of professionals. Do not try this at home. Especially on a Swedish bottom, she will break your nose.
16:09 February 15, 2010 by sherkovic
I wonder if the pic is real or posed for?
16:28 February 15, 2010 by Uncle
If it is posed for - who is the guy who got this job?

Was he like: "No, no... this wasn't right, I didn't feel it... let's take it again..."
17:14 February 15, 2010 by johnnyrebel
This guy has really perfected his technique...the fingers are deftly clasped at the bottom of the buttocks where the leg ends and the butt begins. At the same he is applying subtle pressure with his thumb and palm to make sure she doesnt wriggle away. Tactically he has made sure that she is pinned up against the desk and slightly bent forward leaving her open to perhaps a further advanced move. You have got to hand it to him...the way he is handing it to her.
18:27 February 15, 2010 by peropaco
I wonder why the Local does not allow comments of cases involving police officers? Is it because of fear of reprisals?

(Cop forgets child porn in laundry room) This is probably the 3rd of 4th article involing cops yet noone is able to post a reply....
21:11 February 15, 2010 by speedygonzales
This looks like that Swedish women are without need for enjoying, or they are like children: everything must be like they need, they don't care what men need. Watch this, everything is because of their spoiled character:

46.8 percent cited unwelcome propositions, 49 percent sexual allusions, 67.4 percent inappropriate comments, 15.3 percent unwelcome phone calls, e-mails or text messages, 45.8 percent inappropriate glances or gestures, 67.1 percent physical approaches.

only this is valid and of course serious thing: 2.5 percent claimed that they had been subject to rape or attempted rape, 7.9 percent experienced demands for sexual services.

But Sweden is full of villages, so I am not surprised that women are like that, or in Theaters are working old style women. I was one month in Stockholm, and I saw Swedish women who are like men about sex. Therefore, Stockholm is the best, but surely not women from theaters:)
22:44 February 15, 2010 by dizzymoe33
It is sad that this behavior is clearly accepted by a majority that are posting their comments here. No one man or woman deserve to be treated this way with out their consent it is wrong.
00:13 February 16, 2010 by Uncle
Although a bit brutal, speedygonzales has a point (I will be devils advocate, as usual).

Every interest of men in females includes often unwelcome propositions (how the hell should I know that they are unwelcome?), inappropriate comments (appropriation is subjective, plus "inappropriate" could be also "would you kindly agree to go out with me?"), unwelcome phone calls (Again - HOW THE HELL shall I know that calling a lady who gave me her phone number, could be sometimes unwelcome?) and surely inappropriate goddamn glances! I mean, I need to evaluate the female before I approach. Not creepy staring for 10 minutes, but a glance at that body of hers...

Swedish females would like to suppress all the mating dances of males and then sit with a shrink and cry that nobody wants her and she is already forty and it is too late for kids and she has only cats and "the men are bastards and what do they want? A photomodel??! what is wrong with me? Tell me - what??? Does it scare them that I am a businesswoman? "

No, dummy. You are a career woman and do not go out much, but just work. What scares the guys is that at work you have filed 5 complaints against your potentially future husbands, who dared looking at your legs (since you come with 20 cm skirt, while expecting that no one will look).
01:05 February 16, 2010 by Twiceshy
johnbyrebel LOL.

dizzymoe33 lighten up, get your head out of your ass and realize most (if not all) people are making jokes here.
01:32 February 16, 2010 by repat_xpat
I'm sure the numbers are inflated some what, but it doesn't surprise me. I was shocked at how much sexual discussion there was in the work place while I worked and lived in Sweden. I had one instance where a top engineer showed me comical porn that a manager had sent him (he thought I would like it too). This is one area where the US does much better than Sweden, this behavior is not tolerated in the work place in the US. I never experience in America what is common place in Sweden (WRT sex in the workplace).
04:36 February 16, 2010 by PeeWee
Hey dizzy, I think you are being the heavy here. The comments that you are pointing out are made in jest. However, this is a serious topic and laughing it off is a poor form of rationalization.

I am here in Sweden, I do not care where you or anyone else reading this forum is located. There is a concept in the Western World of common decency. This is not something that is necessarily a task of our various governments. This is up to you, me, and all of our neighbors. Not for nothing but in front of me, or of my knowledge, certain things will not be allowed to happen(period)

It is inconceivable to me that someone would engage in the despicable behavior outlined in the article of the OP in front of me. I would not allow it, and for the sake of all of us I would hope that each and everyone of you would take whatever measures necessary to ensure that it never happens in your presence either.

CRAP: This is not PeeWee but entry posting, she did not logout and I did not check when I posted...
05:11 February 16, 2010 by Romanshure
Is this what's known as a Swedish massage? What a great country! Must visit soon.
07:02 February 16, 2010 by Huwbert
To Johnbyrebel... She does look like she's done that before...
08:05 February 16, 2010 by spy

The way you are writing makes me beleive that you have a posterior significantly larger than the one in the picture. xx
08:08 February 16, 2010 by johnnyrebel
It is sad that this behavior is clearly accepted by a majority that are posting their comments here. No one man or woman deserve to be treated this way with out their consent it is wrong. -dizzymoe33

Sad but true dm33. This kind behavior used to be accepted by the entire race of species known as human beings under the guise of...the mating game. Slowly but surely the species picked itself up onto its two feet and walked out of the woods and invented...the dating game. There are rules, you know. In this case the lady in the pic has two options...she can look back over her shoulder and give the man that sexy 'is that all you got' look (I love it when that happens) or she can wriggle free and try to obtain a good lawyer (sure to throw water on hands on guys parade).

Realistically though dm33...the Battle of the Sexes will never be won, there is simply too much fraternization with the enemy.
09:03 February 16, 2010 by Hong Kong Phooey
I have to intereact regularly with female co-workers in my place of work. One in particular is very highly educated, well paid and has hopped from department to department, only spending between 3 and 6 months in each. One might suspect that she moves so often because she is so good at her job, but actually its because she is absolutely useless. I soon fixed that by giving her buns a good hard squeeze. She has never been more productive.
09:25 February 16, 2010 by sherkovic
ha ha ha! What a healthy discussion!!! Bravo!
09:25 February 16, 2010 by johnnyrebel
Hong Kong Phooey...one might suspect a number of things about this department hopping bunny of an employee (was she a good looking babe and how were the buns?) but you make a great argument for the motivational squeeze. Just be careful she doesnt become re-productive. Keep up the bad work!
09:49 February 16, 2010 by CarlBlack
I would like to know why unwelcome proposals are considered as harassment. Since you cannot know whether proposal is unwelcome before you make it, then logically everyone doing proposal would be potentially harassing ?
10:04 February 16, 2010 by rommy
Worst. Photo. Ever.
11:19 February 16, 2010 by G Kin

A good point. The welcomed advances are never seen or considered advances. Infact the ladies instead will enjoy the attention, the guys flirtatious nater.

Then when it isn't the guy the are interested in or when the imancipation gurus come along with their propaganda, it becomes harassment.

Common ladies what is it you really want?.

16:05 February 16, 2010 by spy
I challenge anyone to prove categorically that this was not a case of male self defence against a rearward attack from that predatory female.
16:23 February 16, 2010 by Sjayna
spy, here we go again...typical man...what you really mean that my writing indicates that: 1) I don't look good 2) I need a good f*ck or 3) I am a bitter bitch or 4) all three together...Should I send you a picture?
17:09 February 16, 2010 by Uncle
Sjayna... stop you are being jealous.

I am sure that the lady on the picture is ugly and has a worse taste than you and probably she will divorce soon and in general - she is a biatch.
17:41 February 16, 2010 by G Kin
Oh what a lovely ass she has!. I would have loved to see a spank follow that grab!
18:11 February 16, 2010 by johnnyrebel
Dear Sjayna

As you can tell from my posts I am not like these typical males posting here. I certainly dont believe that you are guilty of 1,3 or 4...afterall you wouldnt even mention a photo if you were unattractive. About that picture...would a rear shot with you looking over your shoulder be asking too much?

19:03 February 16, 2010 by Sjayna
speedygonzales, you are obviously one of these men who makes inappropriate gestures, unwelcome physical approaches etc. Very funny and rewarding way to approach a woman?!?...It's sad that there are some men, who 'force' themselves on women, one way or the other...Sexual harassment is UNWANTED and it makes the woman feel bad and demeaned, do you like that?! It is a big differens between a drooling, creepy staring man and a man sending you a charming appreciative glance..And Yes flirting can easily became sexual harassment, so men have to always watch carefully for the other person's reactions, she MIGHT not be interested... And its not a rumour that women like more two-sided than one-sided communication...

Dear Johnnyrebel, the women in the picture can also, before she contact a lawyer, turn around and 'play with her knee', thats much more fun than only give the man a sexy 'is that all you got' look.
21:55 February 16, 2010 by spy

I am not in the habit of accepting photos from strange feminists I have met on the internet but I do have a question:

Just after you wrote 'here we go again...typical man...what you really mean that my writing indicates that: 1) I don't look good 2) I need a good f*ck or 3) I am a bitter bitch or 4) all three together' did you then scream, kick the cat and shout at your husband (or ladyfriend)?
08:37 February 17, 2010 by username1234
Sexual Harrassment Works Both Ways

I think the term sexual harassment usually denotes the stereotype of the woman being subjected to it by a man, sometimes older, sometimes not - in a very derogatory fashion and this is true I have seen it before.

But what about all the women who daily sexually harass men? There is never any mention of this, probably because it goes against the typical perspective of gender role in society and because most men never report it themselves or are unaware they were victimized due to the entrenched idea of gender roles in a society.

Everyday I see women staring at men in a lewd, prolonged fashion.

Once, I had a girl call my house and say "I was in love with her." I said she was flattering herself. She said, "It's not flattery!" This is a Freudian self defense mechanism of "reversal" that I think the bulk of women use, and I think it is sexual harassment, and I think women are in for a treat in the not to distant future when sexual/gender roles disappear in society and they get to experiences eons of torment in regards to answering to their sexual harrassment.

So I guess this story is really about my own experiences, but I see it happening around me everyday.
11:42 February 17, 2010 by Uncle
Sjayna "It is a big differens between a drooling, creepy staring man and a man sending you a charming appreciative glance"

First, if you see a drooling staring man, it is whether a mentally challeged guy and you should leave the premises of the special needs school, or a guy who has been stabbed in his back and you need to run for an ambulance.

Second, "charming glance" is subjective and it is steered by culture. Swedes turn their heads, peek and continue turning the head, so the female does not know whether she has something hanging from her nose, or he is just shy.

There is a french glance - including eyebrow movement, there is also a spanish/arab glance - including laughing, clicking with the tongue, poking buddies with en elbow to the ribs and promises of good times for the woman.

Which glance is the best?
13:49 February 17, 2010 by Sjayna
Aha, didn't know that I am a feminist!?! When are you born spy, in 17th century?...No,I didnt scream, I started to think if the nerv cells in a mans brain don't have so good connection with each other, after all, womens nerv cells are much more koncentrerad...and I don't kick animals, why should I? There are other things to kick, as you know...

Uncle, 'drooling staring man' is maybe a little bit exaggerated illustration, but I can guarantee you there are men who can stare a woman like a madman...and unfornately they are not classified as mentally ill persons. Sometimes there can bee subtle distinctions between flirting and sexual harassment...but as I wrote, watch carefully for the other person's reactions..It is not so difficult...
18:16 February 17, 2010 by Alex Coman
Nothing more to say about swedish civilization...
18:35 February 17, 2010 by pjtaipale
@Carlblack - well put. I should like to add that sometimes the un-welcomeness of a proposal may be entirely posthumous. I.e. a person (man or woman) may feel a proposal is unwelcome at the time when it is made, but later it is seen more positively. Or it is positive at the time of making, leads to something, like a relationship which turns out to be a mistake, and then the proposal is deemed unwelcome.

Thus, I do not accept that unwelcome proposals were harassment. Rude, obscene proposals, yes, those should be treated as harassment, but even there you have to take in to account the circumstances - e.g. what was said before, and how.
19:12 February 17, 2010 by spy

Ok, you are not a feminist and you are beutiful and your arse looks good in everything you wear and you are lovely and caring and kind to all creatures and men in particular. . And I think you are just smashing, sorry if I mocked you, please forgive me xx
22:17 February 17, 2010 by Newyork-Växjö
Those ladies who work in Cinema no matter in EU US or Asia, they are being sexually Harassment somehow. Cinema require travelling, staying with different men all sort of men, rich poor... If you are working in societies like that, then you will face many nasty men than to work as teacher or to be a doctor :)

I am sure those who work there, they somehow accept these sort of Harassments. Nobody wants Harassment but this cant be stopped but continued in this film industry.
08:31 February 18, 2010 by Alex Coman
Nothing more to say about swedish civilization...

Although I think a lot of people writing above are not swedish.

About this issue: if you touch my wife or my daughter, you are in danger to die. In pain.
18:19 February 18, 2010 by spy
Alex Coman

The givaway that 'a lot of people here are not Swedish' is the fact that this website delivers 'Sweden's News In English' - so it doesn't take a genius the figure out that TL is frequented by more than a few non-Swedes....
15:45 February 20, 2010 by DamnImmigrant
Sorry but 'Sexual harassment rife in ??ANY?? theater' is old news. It is called the CASTING COUCH.

@username1234 - 'Sexual Harrassment Works Both Ways'

Totally true! Sexual harassment occurs to BOTH sexes! The problem is - who would ever believe that a man could be sexually harassed!? Talk about being sexist!

As far as the inner workings of the male brain vs the female brain, yes they are different! Brain scans show that when men LOOK at a picture of a pretty woman, the pleasure center of his brain lights up! The women DO NOT have the same reaction to being shown pictures. So men derive pleasure simply from looking - which is something women do not seem to understand because they do not experience it.

Every time I meet a woman in a committed relationship who is fretting because her man is looking at other women, I remind her that she should be THANKFUL that he is looking at other women because IF he is NOT looking at other women THEN he is looking at other men!
16:23 February 20, 2010 by DaisyCutter
Ah...the classic 'Svenska Push-back' position. A natural response to extended periods of productivity outside of fika...

Lucky our good man was there to help correct this most unorthodox of data entry stances. Women: Know your limits!
19:21 February 22, 2010 by johnnyrebel
A man being sexually harrassed...most would call it getting lucky.
14:24 February 19, 2012 by Riddarsvamp
I don't want to be mean or anything like that but... Seriously?!

I'm here working on a school project and when I read the comments all I can see is a bunch of audults acting like my eleven-year old friends. 'Cause you are audults right?
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