Swedish government debates #MeToo days after first meeting between the groups involved

Swedish government debates #MeToo days after first meeting between the groups involved
Equality minister Åsa Regnér pictured during the debate. Photo: Claudio Bresciani / TT
"Despite the serious subject matter, it’s fun to start a revolution," the two women working to coordinate Sweden's #MeToo petitions told The Local.

Elin Andersson and Emmy Lilliehorn have been coordinating the dozens of groups calling for change within their own industries, which had their first in-person meeting last week.

They aren't the only women calling the huge Swedish response to #MeToo a revolution. Centre Party leader Annie Lööf also used the term during a debate in Sweden's parliament on the movement, which was taking place on Monday morning at the request of the Left Party.

“It's very important that #MeToo doesn't become a mayfly, without leading to a profound change in values ​​and attitudes about how men and women treat each other,” Lööf said during the debate.

Around 70,000 women have put their names to over 60 calls to tackle sexism within several different industries, and the pair set up a closed Facebook group for representatives of the different groups. 

Equality Minister Asa Regnér said that Sweden's newly created gender equality authority will be an important tool in effecting change, while spokespeople from Sweden's different parties including the Left Party, the Green Party, and the Feminist Initiative, called for more action to be taken.

Regnér has also invited some of the organizers of the various #MeToo petitions to a meeting later on Monday,

The first in-person meeting between representatives of these groups took place last week, organized by Elin Andersson and Emmy Lilliehorn, who have been coordinating efforts within a closed Facebook group.

Speaking to The Local over email, Andersson said: “The network brings together a fantastically broad spread of skills, experiences, and professional knowledge so we have been able to help each other with everything from wording and planning to publicity and legal discussions.” 

“The idea is simple, but the result is greater than the sum of its parts.”

INTERVIEW: 'We're shouting in unison, because that's what Swedes do'

After thousands of Swedish women joined the global #MeToo social media campaign, sharing their experiences of harassment, the first organized petition was signed by a group of stars alleging assault within the Swedish film and theatre industries in early October. 

This was followed by further industry-specific calls from lawyers, teachers, journalists, politicians, builders, social workers, and many more, some of which have not yet been made public.

Andersson said the atmosphere at last week's meeting was “hopeful”, and that it will definitely not be the last such gathering.

Elin Andersson and Emmy Lilliehorn. Photo: Private

She said: “Above all, we talked about what will happen next — and how we're going to make sure it happens. Our group brings together representatives of tens of thousands of women and non-binary people who have testified of assault and harassment. All these different experiences, professional skills, brains and ideas we can use to go forward to the next step.”

All the women present at the meeting share the conviction that the #MeToo movement is only the beginning of a greater change.

“The foundations have been laid for a movement that is just going to keep growing, and the network that is being built between women right now is completely unique.  Exactly what form this will take, we don't know yet, but we know that we'll do it. We've only just begun,” Andersson told The Local.

The movement has received support from the King of Sweden, and a recent survey showed that seven out of ten Swedes believe it will lead to change.

Arguably, it already has: the number of reports made of sexual offences has increased in recent months, with 33 percent more reports filed in November 2017 than the same month the previous year, according to SVT.

A representative from the Swedish National Council on Crime Prevention (Brå) told the broadcaster: “We see a clear increase after #MeToo.” The agency has previously warned that only around one in ten victims of sexual crimes file a police report, but after the huge response to the #MeToo movement, a higher proportion appear to feel able to share their story.

IN DEPTH: What does the #MeToo campaign reveal about Swedish feminism?