The gender photographer Tomas Gunnarsson. Photo: Tomas Gunnarsson
This week's Swede of the Week is Tomas Gunnarsson, whose quest to find Sweden's "Sexist of the Year" has found a viral following across the country. He says Swedes who buy into the 'most equal country in the world' label are delusional.
Who was the most sexist person in Sweden in 2013?
Gender studies lecturer Tomas Gunnarsson, aka the Gender Photographer (genusfotografen), posed this question on his blog
on Sunday and almost 200,000 visitors have taken notice. The blog entry lists a collection of "nominees" and offers readers a chance to vote for who they think has been the worst example of blatant sexism.
The winner... or perhaps loser... gets the title of "Sexist of the Year 2013" and will receive a mug in the shape of a golden breast (Guldtuttmuggen in Swedish) that Gunnarsson made himself.
Nominees include a topless woman used on the homepage of a high-end Stockholm eatery, the TT news agency for erecting a Nicki Minaj "breast wall", and Anders Vendel, a chef whose Facebook page featured nearly naked women cooking in the kitchen.
And people have responded.
"There's been an overwhelmingly positive response from people who want to take part in the voting," 31-year-old Gunnarsson tells The Local. "I had the modest hope that 1,000 people would vote, and I said if I can get that many, then I will personally deliver the golden boob mug. So far there've been 17,000."
But the clear front runner, Gunnarsson explains, is an ad campaign from American Apparel
that saw unisex clothes advertised using fully clothed men but near-naked women.
"That's the worst one. If you look at the images, the women have nothing on them besides the shirt. They're walking around an empty apartment with a polo stick while the man stands there looking cool, slightly sedated, upright, not pleasing the viewer, it's the perfect example of the male gaze."
He says the images remind him of child porn, and adds when he once showed the pictures in a lecture, people working with rehabilitating sexual abuse victims almost jumped out of their chair. So what drives the Swede to blog about something that's already made headlines around the world?
"These scandals blow over very quickly and there isn't much analysis," he explains. "I haven't seen anyone actually comparing these kinds of pictures and looking for a connection, or giving an academic perspective. There have been a lot of sexism scandals in Sweden and I don't know if we're getting more allergic to sexism or if there is some kind of a backlash going on."
Blogging, he explains, is a much quicker outlet to "hack the media" and to thoroughly share his theories in a manner anyone can understand.
So why do Swedes care so much about finding the sexist of the year? Isn't Sweden meant to be one of the most gender equal countries on earth? Indeed, a quick Google of "sexism in Sweden" points immediately to examples of gender equality, such as the recent news that Stockholm cinemas had introduced a test to acknowledge gender bias in films
Has the world got the wrong idea?
"For Swedes, this kind of self-satisfied image of us being the most equal in the world is a bit delusional. Compared to other countries, sure, Sweden is more equal, and there are a lot of concrete examples of this on paper," he says, pointing to prostitution laws and splitting parental leave between the father and mother.
"But we have raging misogyny on the internet directed at female journalists and commentators - at any kind of women with opinions. And we have extremely shocking and stupefying examples of rape cases where women have screamed 'no', or had 2.0 promille of alcohol in their blood, and still the court has ruled that the rapist didn't know she was drunk, or thought it was some kind of BDSM thing."
"When you hear things like that it makes you want to say 'stop deluding yourselves'. Wishful thinking and praising ourselves won't get us the distance we still need to go."
With people joining his fight to crush sexism in Sweden, he hardly needs to keep an eye out for further examples of it in the media, with Swedes using Gunnarsson's Twitter account as a fast track to alert him to anything they find odd.
As for the Sexist of the Year, voting closes
at 8pm on Friday, but that won't be the end of Gunnarsson's fight. Having built a successful brand as the mouthpiece of a movement, he plans to take his show on the road, but he's tight lipped about details.
"I'm planning an exhibition that I hope can be crowd funded," he tells The Local. "But I can't reveal anything more than that for now."
Editor's Note: The Local's Swede of the Week is someone in the news who - for good or ill - has revealed something interesting about the country. Being selected as Swede of the Week is not necessarily an endorsement.