Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Can't touch this

Ass grab
Originally uploaded by le Andreas
The news of the day in Finland are quite depressing: in the Parliament of the country that promotes itself as a paradise of equality, a survey amongst the employees showed that sexual harrassment is extremely widespread within the premises of the Parliament. And the worst thing being: the people charged are by default Members of the Parliament.

The situation is a sad picture: middle-aged men selected to the Parliament feel like they are on top of the world and they exercise their powers towards the assistants and office staff - mostly younger women. The men are more or less untouchable, the women are on temporary contracts, often in their first real job. The unfortunate side of things is that MPs cannot be charged for sexual harrassment as they do not have employers and the legislation on the matter falls under labour law.

How the Parliament and more importantly the political parties react to this issue is a good test for Finland: do we take sexual harrassment seriously or do we laugh it away? Unfortunately still way too often the women are characterised as uptight, too serious and with no sense of humour. Just a simple test on Flickr shows how sexual harrassment is too often addressed: search with the words "sexual harrassment" results to numerous pages of "funny" grabbing of friends, both parties laughing.

Sexual harrassment is not fun, not playing. Sexual harrassment means exercising power over another person. In this case the Parliament is unfortunately a representative picture of reality: a man in a higher position intruding the private sphere of a woman in a lower position in the organisation.

1 comment:

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

The excuses that the named MPs gave in the Helsingin Sanomat article http://www.hs.fi/english/article/Sexist+wannabe+alpha-male+MP/1135233649013sound unfortunately sound very similar to how a similar type of Finn tries to laugh off their own racism: "straighforward Ostrobothnian humour" etc.