Two Facebook status updates caught my attention this morning: one was a link to a column in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet by writer Katrine Kielos and the other linked to a speech by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, which was published on Youtube October 8, 2012. Julia Gillard’s speech is a must-watch. It is a real pleasure to listen how she with brilliant rhetoric tells opposition leader Tony Abbott off for having continuously been making sexist comments.
The behavior of political party members in Sweden in respect to sexist comments is probably quite different, but reading Katrine Kielos’ column one becomes very much aware of the fact that sexist comments and offense are actually part of daily life even for many women in Sweden. Those who experience sexism just keep quiet or rarely talk about it. Why? Because they won’t be taken serious? Because one just does not talk about it? Because it is shameful to put light on these, sometimes really threatening comments? Because one does not get any help? Because talking and writing about sexist threats just lead to even more threats? Because we are told that we live in a society that thrives for gender-equality and that feminist comments belong back to the seventies and eighties?
Katrine Kielos, who herself experienced multiple offenses, has moved away from Sweden, and writes that she would probably not have written this column had she still lived here. According to her article, 41% of all female columnists and newspaper writers are exposed to sexist comments, but only 5% of all male writers. What does this tell us about the society we are living in? What does this tell us about how women in general, and especially those in public life, are looked upon?
One might say that we are living in a democracy, that everyone can express his/her thoughts and opinion, but – it certainly is not okay that women should be forced to accept physical attacks, violent threats, or sublime offense, and that they should keep quiet, just because they are women.