What's up, Europe? Gender, media and European integration. The story of a a young Dane exploring the continent.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

European citizens speak up

Today I walked with Cecilia Malmström and a small army of journalists to the Berlaymont to hand over one million signatures from European citizens to the EU Commission.

The hand-over was the final part of the Oneseat-campaign which aim was to gather a million signatures against the European Parliament's second seat in Strasbourg.

Unfortunately Margot Wallström was not able to attend since she is in Sweden due to a restructuring of her political party, the Swedish social democrats (they lost the recent national elections).

Malmström said at the press conference:

"The Strasbourg issue is something Europeans really care about. We hope people all over the EU will be inspired by this and take new citizens' initiatives"

With this I can only agree.

See more photos at flickr

It is still possible to sign on the webpage www.oneseat.eu

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

They didn't win...

... but they made a statement!

The text on the picture says "Fi has completed the world's first feminist election campaign. Now we are moving on"

Fi is short for Feministiskt Initiativ, the feminist party in Sweden.

Monday, September 18, 2006

One million Europeans have signed against Strasbourg

Each year 200 million Euro are spend on moving the European Parliament between its two seats in Brussels and Strasbourg in France.

Today the European campaign 'Oneseat' reached its goal: one million Europeans have signed a petitition for a permanent seat in Brussels.

Now it will be interesting to see what will happen. The webpage of Cecilia Malmström (Swedish member of the parliament), who started the petition, explains:

"... when commissioner Margot Wallström said that she, in the framework of her plan D (for democracy, dialogue and debate), hopes to see a few citizens’ initiatives land at her desk, the idea of letting the Strasbourg issue become subject to a campaign started to grow. The citizen’s initiative, as described in the article 47 on participatory democracy in the proposed Constitution, allows for the EU citizens to become more active and to participate on European issues. If any petition collects one million signatures, the commission promises to raise the question. Mrs Wallström’s statement that she considers this initiative valid, independently of what happens to the constitution, is to be welcomed."

In spite of good will there is a limit to what Wallström can do. Legally, the Council of the European Union has the final say in the debate about Strasbourg. Meaning, it will be Europe's heads of states that will make the decision in the end. And whether they will be able to reach an agreement on the matter is doubtful. For sure Chirac will oppose the idea. Strasbourg is the symbol of peace between France and Germany and the seat is far to prestigious for the French to let go of it.

The monthly Strasbourg trips are a waste of time and money. Even a waste of space if you consider the suggestion that the Strasbourg building could accomodate a prominent pan-European university.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Danish media are run by men

A report from the weekly newsletter A4 (published by The Danish Confederation of Trade Unions) reveals that more than half of Denmark's nationwide newspapers does not have a single woman in the editorial management. In spite the fact that 40 percent of the members of the Danish Journalist Union are female it is still to a very large extend men who are in power in the media business.

Media expert Rasmus Jønsson says to A4:

"It is a men's club of old friends who see things from the same perspective, move in the same circles, are raised by each other and have followed the same career path. The problem is not just that there is an overrepresentation of men - these men are also alike. And that has a consequence for the way they shape media."

Ask Rostrup, chief editor at MetroXpress (part of the Metro chain) seems to agree that more women are needed:

"It is about having the best blend of people because it reflects the society media are to describe. When you have to develop ideas it is a problem if everyone relate to the same reality."

Good point. Still Rostrup has hired two men as his closest colleagues. Both of them having worked as journalists at MetroXpress a long time before they were promoted - one even being Rostrup's old fellow student. And as with most other editorial positions the vacant jobs were never advertised. The editor-in-chief explains:

"They were both obvious candidates."

Key to better representation in the media business must be that editors begin to hire people that are not mirrored images of themselves. For example by recruiting from outside the "men's club".

This could also be an effective way of expanding readership. According to A4 consumers of newspapers are the same as those who produce them: Middle-aged men.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Jane Fonda visits Swedish feminist party

"Come on, vote for the feminists!" said American movie and aerobic star Jane Fonda yesterday. She visited Sweden in connection with the national elections that will take place this Sunday and to give her support to the Swedish feminist party "Feministiskt initiativ".

It seems Jane Fonda has really understood what modern feminism is all about. She says to the Danish newspaper Politiken:

"To some the idea about a feministic party may appear threatening. But it is not about turning the patriarchy into a matriarchy. It is about turning the patriarchy into a democracy. That is what feminism represents."

At the moment, though, the Swedish feminist party is far from victory. They need 4 percent of the votes to enter the parliament. According to polls they are to get only 1 percent.

Go, F!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Famous feminist #4

Merrill Beth Nisker (born 1968), better known as Peaches, is an electroclash artist. Her songs are mainly concerned with sex. Before she became "Peaches," she was an elementary school teacher and librarian.

She plays almost all the instruments for her songs, programs her own electronic beats and produces her records.Her songs have been featured in movies such as Mean Girls, My Little Eye and Lost in Translation. Her music has also been featured on Showtime's The L Word television series. Peaches performed guest vocals on Pink's album Try This, on the song "Oh My God." She has been invited to lecture at the Contemporary Music Academy in Berlin. Her most notorious song, "Fuck the Pain Away," is also the name of an electro night club in Brighton.

Peaches' music is preoccupied with gender identity. Her lyrics and live shows self-consciously blur the distinction between male and female; she appears on the cover of her second album Fatherfucker with a full beard. When asked if she had chosen the title for shock value, she commented:

"Why do we call our mothers motherfuckers? Why do we stub our toe and say, "Aww motherfucker!"? What is motherfucker? ... We use it in our everyday language, and it's such an insanely intense word. I'm not one to shy away from these obscene terms that we actually have in our mainstream. Motherfucker is a very mainstream word. But if we're going to use motherfucker, why don't we use fatherfucker? I'm just trying to be even."

She disputes accusations of "penis envy," preferring the term "hermaphrodite envy" since "there is so much male and female in us all." Nevertheless, she does not shy away from identifying herself as a sexual being, although she rejects the sanitized portrayal of women in popular music.

Source: wikipedia

This is a more controversial choice of 'famous feminist'. I chose Peaches because she gave a concert in Copenhagen yesterday. She must be crazy on stage (I've never seen her so I just imagine) but still cool. Politiken wrote in their review:

"It is an interesting, feministic style when this pale, chubby, not very attractive woman again and again in hotpants and bra exhibits her sexuality and appears strong and cool by doing so. You are fascinated and repelled at the same time. At times she looks like a nervous school girl, other times like an ugly transvestite. As she sings: "You love it when I'm bad" - and we do. Because she breaks our ideas about what a woman is and what she does and should do."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Mr. feminist

"The goal of a 'man book' is not to oppose gender equality or to create a manifesto against feminism. On the contrary the idea is to turn feminism into a joint project where both genders fight against gender roles and gender prejudices that for no good reasons keep us from living our lives as we wish. Such a feminism, that is also is a matter for men, will of course have to reflect men's experiences and perspectives as well as it reflects those of women. Such a feminism will have to break female feminists' monopoly power over interpreting gender and gender roles."

- Danish author Niels Ulrik Sørensen in the antology 'Pikstormerne' (2000).

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Danish sex photographer II

A new kind of journalism is thriving in Denmark.

"The media is the new court system and you're the judge!" as stagisblog puts it.

Morten Spiegelhauer and his programme "Operation X" is a good example of journalism that turns your living room into a court. Two weeks ago he revealed the sex crimes of a 'paedophile hunter', effectively collecting evidence and doing interrogation on-screen. Afterwards all footage was handed over to the police who then - rather undramatic - arrested the suspect. What the real-life court has to say will not really matter. Rudy Frederiksen has already recieved his verdict. All those who followed Spiegelhauer's investigation from the sofa have delivered their sentence: guilty.

The thing I have most against "Operation X" is its moralism. One thing is to uncover illegal acts or immoral deeds. Another is to expose the guilt of the perpetrators into endless details. In an earlier episode of "Operation X" Spiegelhauer took a close look at trafficking and sex slavery in Denmark. Here he confronted a pimp with the immorality of sex trade by repeatly asking questions resembling "how can you bring yourself to profit on sex slavery?"

I find this kind of 'moral porn' repulsive. We all know that it is wrong to exploit other people and that there are very few morally acceptable motives for doing so. Why do we need this pillary in prime time?

Danish sex photographer I

Recently a Danish 'paedophile hunter', a was revealed as a sex photographer of young girls. Rudy Frederiksen worked as a school consultant and was one of Danish media's most used experts in paedophilia. The Danish TV programme 'Operation X' exposed his "side business"; recording and selling videos of himself having sex with girls younger than 18.

Rudy Frederiksen found the girls he had sex with on the web. He promised them careers as models and they agreed to meet, have sex with him and have the act filmed. But why on earth would they say yes to do a sex video with a 40-year-old man? Why is there some (very) young girls who accept such sex offers when they appear to be easy to refuse? After all - it is just typing in "no thanks!" on the keyboard. In Information (9-9-2006) Kuno Sørensen from Save the Children Denmark gives an explanation:

"The young girls are part of a culture where the physical plays an important role. Here the chat rooms - where they use their profiles to exhibit themselves - is part of generating a competition that might pressure the girls to go overstep their boundaries."

Another expert, Anna Lynge, says:

"It is difficult for the girls to say no because it is an unknown and exciting territory that they are entering. At the same time they naively trust that adults know what they are doing. And then it should not be underestimated that it is attractive to get attention and compliments from a grown-up man if you are 13-15 years old."

"At the same time there is a lot of focus on being the most sexy and daring. The most beautiful. That is what many TV-shows are about. It is a competition about getting attention by exhibiting yourself."

Sadly, sexuality has - not just for women but also for very young girls - become a very dominant 'tool' to achieve social accept. This is what paves the way for sex offenders as Rudy Frederiksen.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Save me from the baboons

I found a couple of interesting quotes in a commentary in yesterday's edition of the new free Danish daily Dato (collected during a really quick trip to Denmark!). Journalist Esben Kjær comments on a feature in Berlingske: "Feminine values killed the alpha-male" (28th of August 2006). Judging from the headline my spontanious and honest response is to agree with Kjær (he labels it "childish bollocks") but I will read the article more thoroughly later and maybe give a comment. For now I see it mostly as another example that we need a far more nuanced debate about gender roles in Denmark.

But let me pass on two of Kjær's interesting points about gender roles:

"First and foremost women have not made any coups. They have fought openly for equality and modern femininity for almost 40 years - and with great success. Meanwhile the man has more or less done nothing to define a similiar masculine project. So if the women set the agenda then it is the fault of the men - the gender that is presumed to be capable of decisive action. Men need to give word to what the modern man believes..."

"Secondly: men are not 'womanish' ('kvindagtig' in Danish) just because they do not walk around and beat their chests. Because while the women have be talking - and as we know they are pretty good at that - men have been doing what they are good at: acting. Author Bertill Nordahl [...] speaks of a new, masculine identity that builds on more than career. The modern man is an engaged, (almost) equal father - in his own way. He flirts with the feminine (as liberated women flirt with the masculine), is body-conscious and vain, with broad shoulders and a determined look. A many-sided masculinity that we have never before seen so many men have in society."