Sweden’s national rail operator challenges gender norms in new ad

Sweden's national rail operator challenges gender norms in new ad
A still from the new SJ ad. Photo: SJ/TBWA
Sweden's national rail operator SJ has chosen to challenge gender stereotypes in a new ad which is starting to chalk up hits on YouTube.

The ad shows the main character sitting on a train, looking out the window before putting on earrings and make-up. The star is Pelle Pia, a 63-year-old Swede who came out as transgender at the age of 50.

Part of a new advertising strategy designed to show that SJ is “accessible to everyone”, the film was developed by ad agency TBWA Stockholm, who explained that they wanted to show that rail travel is the most inclusive form of transport in Sweden.

“To make this point even clearer in a time when some politicians are trying to divide people, we decided to remind Swedes that SJ – a 161-year-old railway brand – is there for you whoever you are, wherever you want to go. For big journeys and small,” TBWA Stockholm account director Per Olholt told The Local.

The idea is for the film to illustrate the different kind of journeys people may make on the train, he added:

“Commuting to work is a small, everyday journey, but what would be the opposite? People who move to another city, changing their lives, changing everything.”

The film has been watched over 125,800 times since it was uploaded to YouTube earlier this week, and has provoked plenty of comments on SJ's Facebook page. Some, like Alice Odell Kugelberg, praised the message sent by the film:

“How nice that you take the position that everyone should be able to travel with you. That should be obvious, but in a world where there is so much hate (Sweden Democrats, Trump etc) it is nice to see that you're spreading love, especially to vulnerable groups like the one in this video.”

Others complained however about the use of nailpolish on trains depicted in the film.

“If you want everyone to be part of your journey you should work for an environment free from perfume and other toxic substances. Not encouraging people to paint nails,” Anna-Karin Högtorp argued.