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

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

New images of the new man

An exhibition by Swedish artist Britt Marie Trensmar explores new sides of the male role. According to her men are too often portrayed as 'agressive macho-types'. Therefore she has, for the last year, encouraged women to send her photos of their men. Right now the exhibition is in Stockholm but a selection of pictures are also available on the web.

"I thought it was boring, one-sided and uninspiring ('åndsfattigt' in Danish) to see the same images day after day, year after year! I was bored. We needed new images that could go against those that glorified the agressive man and that we knew from Hollywood, the sports world, the fashion and advertising business and to some extent the daily news. How else will we change the male role for the better? At least I demand a greater variation," says Britt Marie Trensmar to the Danish newspaper Politiken (15th of October 2006).

See some of the photographs at the project web page (the section is called "utvalta bidrag") or take a look at Trensmar's book "Play the Man". The latter is also an interesting initiative. To me the introduction to the book frames the experience of looking at the images very well:

"Her images challenge us, and generate disgust as well as delight. The pairing of these images and words alerts us to the fact that images of men as sexual and sensual beings apparently touches a raw nerve, even in a society that thinks it's seen it all."

How do you feel about them?

Real beauty?

In spite the 'Campaign for Real Beauty' might have a bit too much commercial involvement for my flavour the intend is still laudable and worth a mention. The Danish national campaign takes place in cooperation with the National Eating Disorders Association

And not to forget: the video is really impressive!

Danish campaign web page
International campaign web page

Saturday, October 14, 2006

A new voter segment for the Danish People's Party?

A month ago the youth division of the Danish People's Party* launched a new website.

Under the headline "report your teacher" the organization encourages people to write down their personal experiences with what is referred to as "indoctrination" in the Danish educational system. Meaning, if you have experienced any discrimination due to you political convictions you are invited to report them on the web page. The web page explains "indoctrination" as:

"Indoctrination can be more or less obvious. Some teachers have a relationship to the Danish People's Party that is so strained that they cannot stop themselves harassing students that are members of or sympathize with the Danish People's Party. It can be verbally, but it can also occur in terms of unfair grading."

Whether it is a commitment to the Danish People's Party that has resulted in the harassment that Kazim here reports on I cannot say. Nevertheless, it must be good news for the Danish People's Party that its youth branch - in spite of its decreasing popularity due to recent events - attracts new members.

"When I started my education at the Aalborg Technical School people stared at me and my teacher asked if I had paid for my bike myself. Several times daily I was verbally assaulted by other students that said things like "go home" and "you smell like camel".

During the Muhammad crisis I was daily the victim of mocking, people called me "turban Kazim" and asked me if I had been examined for bombs. My teacher even asked me if I shouldn't have begun training as a pilot.

I think it is great that you have taken this initiative and I am considering joining your organization."

* Correct, it was these guys who did those nasty drawings at a summer camp. Let us leave that aside. It seems to be a general problem among young members of the Danish political parties that they loose control when alcoholic beverages and drawing implements are available at the same time.

Friday, October 13, 2006

A few words on power structures and women

Today I saw a very interesting definition of sexism. Jacob Holdt answers the question "can blacks be racists, women sexists and so forth?"

"No, they have no social power to in any way harm the power structure of whites (or e.g. men). Example: if all blacks hated whites how would they affect whites? Only through fear. Whites solve this problem by moving out in the suburbs or visiting a psychologist. If, on the other hand, all whites have negative emotions towards black people, how will they harm them? In relation to work, health care, education, housing etc. All very tangible things that you need to consult whites to get access to. It is easy to see that blacks cannot be racists because they do not in any way have power to discriminate whites."

If we draw parallel to the issue of gender it means that women cannot be sexists because they are not in a social position to discriminate men.

Allow me to explain why I think Jacob Holdt is making a valid point.

Firstly, on a global level: according to statistics 99 percent of the world's property belongs to men. Further, 90 percent of incomes goes to men (These are widely recognized numbers but one source is Jackson & Sörensen 2003). From a global perspective there is not much to discuss. Women clearly have no power to discriminate men.

Property and incomes are of course even more unfairly distributed. Women in Africa, South America and Asia are for sure worse off than women in the Western world. So I will focus a bit more. In this context it is interesting to take a look at Denmark since it is a country known for a high degree of gender equality. Are the women in Denmark in a position to discriminate men? Let us examine the Danish elites:

- Danish business life is run by men: 96 percent of Danish chief executives are men
- Danish academia is run by men: 93 percent of university professors are men
- Danish media are run by men: 87 percent of chief editors are men
- Men constitute a majority in the Danish government: 62 percent of ministers are men
(Sources: lige.dk and A4)

Examining power structures it seems that Danish women are not really in a position from where they can effectively discriminate men. The number of women in control of money, law-making and information is very limited.

Conclusion I: women cannot be sexists.
Conclusions II: Ideas such as that of organized feminist conspiracies against men are completely unrealistic. Why such theories exist is probably better explained by what Susan Faludi calls 'the backlash against women' than by actual activities among women.

(If anyone are in doubt: As a feminist my hope is not that women one day will begin discriminate men. I want women to gain more power and to live in a society with gender equality)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A new citizens initiative

Following the succesful Oneseat-campaign another European citizens initiative has seen the light of the day. Now it is time for a million Europeans to unite against nuclear power.

Read more or sign at the website

Now we just need a European constitution that can provide a legal backbone to these democracy initiatives. Article 47 of the proposed constitution said that if one million Europeans signed up for a particular cause then the European Commission would be obliged to make a legislative proposal.

If Oneseat and the Nuclear Power campaign will have any effect we will have to thank the European Commission for its good will. Since the proposal for a European constitution was rejected about a year ago there are no laws saying they should be responsive to citizen initiatives. For sure, Europe needs a better legislative basis for democracy and citizen participation. For sure, I am looking forward to a new proposal for a constitution.

PS - the long silence on this blog was due to vacation and traveling. Now I am settled in Germany and should (hopefully) be posting more often.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sophisticated media critique

I think most people can recognize the comfortable feeling of turning on the TV that this song by the Swedish electronica duo 'The Knife' conveys. It feels so good but still we know it is bad.

We can not wait much longer
We want happiness back
We want control of our bodies
Everything we've lacked
I think I even liked it
If the feeling was mine
A little something about my body
Is it the warmth inside

When we come home, we want it quiet and calm
We want you to sing us a song
When we come home, we pull the curtains down
Making sure that the TV is on

If you move a little closer
I'll tell you what's my aim
It's every evening on a big screen
Hosted by celebrities
I had a dream about deleting and killer whales
Is it the feeling of your body
Or is it the feeling of mine

When we come home, we want it quiet and calm
We want you to be around
When we come home, we pull the curtains down
Making sure that the TV is on

From off to on
From off to on

Watch videos with The Knife here. Impressive, but somewhat disturbing.