#deadline 4 084 Swedish journalists say ”Stop sexual harrassment in the media industry!” Here’s our story.

Av | 21 november 2017

We are journalists. Our job is to scrutinize government, big corporations and wrong doings in society. We give a voice to the voiceless. We tell other people’s stories. We push power holders for truth and transparency.

As female and nonbinary journalists, we have been forced to do our jobs while at the same time too many of us have also had to handle our own powerlessness. We have been forced to suppress and undermine our personal stories about big and small assaults, day after day, year after year. Many of us have become freelancers to escape the environments of newspapers, radio stations and TV-networks. Some have even left the media industry completely. Even more of us have bit our tongues, maybe even laughed along at the sexist jokes, while quietly warning each other of those colleagues who always get a little too close, putting their hands in inappropriate places. We have been conditioned to accept that’s what our job environment is like.

The code of silence that exists in other professional fields and our fellow women and nonbinary persons have experienced, is a reality also for us. When we have addressed an issue, even our female bosses have ignored our cries for help. More commonly than not, the perpetrator has been a celebrated and high profile man, substantially older and with more experience and clout than the interns and newly hired, he so easily and without worry for repercussions has harassed. Because of this, he has also been a person of importance to the bosses, who have chosen to ignore complaints as trivial and unfounded, and looked the other way. Though it is the young women in our field who have been the most vulnerable, the sexism hasn’t spared those of us who are older. It just comes in different shapes and expressions, in other forms of diminution.

Many if not most journalists are victims of job insecurity. All to many news outlets have made it a system to eradicate full time positions and install temporary or short-term, project-based employment. The vast majority of us are freelancers and left to fend for ourselves without sick leaves, insurance or other benefits. Losing big assignments or not getting our temp contracts extended is the common punishment befalling those who dare to complain. It’s enough to see this happen one time to a colleague, for us to realize is keeping our mouths shut is the only way to save our careers.

But we are done. We are not going to remain silent any longer. It’s time for us to put the guilt where it belongs. Now that we finally have begun a dialogue about this, and realized that these assaults and harassments, which we, unfortunately to some extent, have been part of normalizing, are both absurd and unacceptable. Especially troublesome is the fact that we live in a country like Sweden, where we pride ourselves of being one of the most gender-equal nations in the world. In a society where we have some of the smallest gender-based gaps in income, the longest parental leave, and consider ourselves highly educated and aware. It’s plain and simple. It’s not us who are in the wrong. It is all of you that have harassed and undermined us, all of you who have accepted this behavior and made us carry the shame for our vulnerability. It is YOU who are wrong, not us.

We are now 4,084 journalists who are putting our foot down—together. All of us have not been victimized personally, but we stand side by side with those who have, in the fight against the sexist and degrading structures that exist in all of society, and unfortunately also in our workplaces.

With love and large, grateful thank yous to those in other fields who have gone before us, paving the way. Let’s break up with sexism and sexual harassment once and for all.

Testimonies:

I was drugged and raped by two established male journalists ten years ago, when I was a young and freelancing journalist, trying to establish myself on the market. Unfortunately, I didn’t dare reporting them to the police. The shame was worse than what I perceived my influence to be there and then.

***

When I made my first debut in one of the morning TV-shows, I was still a journalism student. One of the show’s editors called me afterward. He talked for a long time, telling me that I had potential, did well on camera, and he wanted to become my mentor. He suggested that we should meet regularly over lunch. The following week he began texting me late evenings and in the middle of the night. He wrote: “I want to fuck!” and “Tell me what you look like naked.” This continued for months even though I didn’t respond. This man is still working at that TV-network, as a reporter and I see his byline on a regular basis.

***

I was a new hire at an evening newspaper and sent abroad together with a male, and substantially older, photographer. When I realized that we were to share accommodations, an apartment, I was worried at first but calmed myself down. We were professionals, sent out on a job together. Everything would be fine, I told myself. The harassment began on the first night. He grabbed me. His hands were everywhere and his tongue in my ear. I fought him off, ran out into the darkness and hid among some bushes. I heard him search for me. Calling my name. Several hours later, I snuck back into the apartment and lay on the sofa, trying to catch some sleep. I was terrorized for the whole week by his disgusting advancements. It was terrifying. I was mad and scared at the same time, but didn’t dare to call home to the newsroom and tell my editors. I did, however, tell them when we returned, but the photographer’s behavior was just brushed off.

***

Even though I knew what he was like, I accepted the invitation to my boss’s home for a performance review. When I arrived, the bed was made and ready. We ate dinner and when I wanted to leave, he asked for hugs and tried to fondle me. Told me I didn’t have to do anything; he was going to make me feel good. I never got a performance review, not then and not any other year either.

***

I was invited to appear on a popular weekend entertainment show but realized, in the eleventh hour, that I would share the TV sofa with a man who had molested a collague of mine at a bar, grabbing her breasts and pushing her up against the wall. Uncomfortable with the line up, I told the production team about it. Said it felt wrong to participate in an upbeat weekend show alongside this person. ”So you want to opt out?” came the reaction. ”Uh yes!” I said. ”Or, I can stay and he can leave.” Of course the kept him and not me on the prime time show.

***

When a TV-anchor colleague told me I was so hot that was he not already sexually satisfied, he had gone straight to the bathroom to jerk off. When another TV-anchor colleague snuck up behind me and put his whole arm between my legs, grabbing my vagina. When a third TV-anchor colleague established that I looked great with my hair up, and slutty with it down. When the TV-profile, known and loved by the whole nation, drove after me one night, yelling that I, ”the slut” and ”the whore,” should get into his car—”God damned it!” That he wasn’t going to take it, wasting time by talking to me at the bar without getting anything in return.

***

When I was a 23-year-old journalism student, I landed an internship at a major media corporation. The very first week, one of the TV-profiles (a household name) obnoxiously asked me across the whole open-planned office: ”Do you like to suck dick?” I was shocked. Didn’t know what to say and stammered something like ”ehehe…what?” A few weeks later the same thing happened, slight variation: ”You like to fuck, huh?” came across the newsroom. Another time he pulled me down onto his lap. He would speak direspectfully of his then, wife. So gross! So male chauvinistic! So over this behavior!

***

During my long term internship, while still a student, I ended up sitting next to a senior reporter. He was nice, funny and very helpful. We had a witty jargon and I liked him. One time when I went to get coffee and jokingly said: ”The Coffee-Floozy is en route to the kitchen, you want a cup?” After that he started calling me Floozy. All the time. When he arrived at work in the morning. When we met in the corridor, in the cafeteria, outside the restrooms, at the newsdesk, when he left at night.

***

One of my former bosses actually admitted to having a sexist attitude. A few years ago he was charged with rape and second-degree kidnapping. The charges were dropped. Shortly thereafter he landed a top position at a major magazine. Today, he is the executive editor of one of Sweden’s largest newspapers. I wonder what the repercussions would have been if a woman had been accused of crimes, punishable by law?

***

I worked late nights on the web desk and our office was located next to sports. They watched more porno movies than NHL-games or boxing matches, or whatever it was they were supposed to cover. The sports journalists had their own little TV next to the computer. I received more chat messages with sexual references during this time than I cared to count. One time a famous sports reporter wanted me to join him for “a cozy time” in the bathroom. He wrote, very specifically, how he would go first and to which bathroom I should follow him, in five minutes. I didn’t go. Twenty minutes later he came back, pissy and pouty.

***

He tried to kiss me at the Holiday party and when I declined, he was offended and hurt. The following day he pretended like nothing had happened. But, he started sending me texts, on weeknights and weekends. First, he declared his love in a text where he described how great and beautiful I was. When I didn’t respond to that, he sent me another text. This time it included things like: “you whore” and “you’re disgusting” and “I’m gonna fuck you black and blue.” I didn’t respond to that either and in the morning I got an “I’m sorry!” This became a pattern. Some times at night he would write that he was driving by my house and I was extremely uncomfortable. This harassment continued for months.

***

That time when I, as a brand new summer intern at the large evening paper. Expectant and excited, I got to sit outside the hotel waiting for the mega famous rock band, only to become witness to how the photographer, fifteen years my senior, stepped into the car and began watching porn on his computer. Instead of getting out I remained—paralyzed—in the passenger seat.

***

They started a betting pool. They put money on who would get me to “spread my legs” first. Oh, and the boss, who didn’t say hello for two years but afforded the opinion: “The girl is pretty, but why does she never wear a skirt?”

***

One of the bosses, a man in his early sixties, whispered an invitation to come home with him. I was shocked, stared and thought: He is 60 plus; I am 25. He continued: “I’ll give you a couple of hundred dollars.” I remember feeling sick to my stomach and just walked away.

***

When I was a young and green journalist, I had a boss who enjoyed a mix of dictatorial language and sexual harassment. He moved my desk so I had to sit within arms-length of him. One time, in the middle of a disagreement over a story, he said: “Take off your shirt. You are much prettier then.” I told an older, female colleague about the incident and how he kept treating me. She said: “Don’t worry about it. That’s just how he is.” I never reported it. Instead I quit and left with a dented self-confidence. The boss remained on his post.

***

For presscontact to Johanna and Emma Lindqvist who initated the manifestation please contact Blankspot.

Av | 21 november 2017

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