50,000 shares on facebook – an open letter about groups of boys harassing girls highlights the deep roots of social problems in Sweden, hiding under a veneer of perfection.
The first ones to be blamed are immigrants, mainly muslims, for having a degrading view of women. The strength of that voice is consistent with the 13 % who voted for the protectionists/isolationists/nationalists/social conservatives, the Sweden Democrats.
However, the phenomenon is the same as it has been for decades and even in this specific case ethnicity was not a factor. Some men and boys, regardless of age and ethnicity, whether drunk or not, whether alone or in groups, behave deplorably towards women when nobody is around.
Because that’s what it’s really about; what we do when nobody is looking, and that’s probably why nobody knows how to fix the problem, because they don’t understand what they don’t see.
Let’s try to reason in lack of direct experience. The parents have not instilled sensible values in their kids; this is part of it. The school and the teachers have failed on this point as well; sure. Hormones turn teenagers into lunatics; ok. Peer pressure; yes.
Society is also at fault on a more general scale. The streamlined neoliberalism has no time for kids, to the point where kids at day cares are always sick because the diseases are always present at the day cares because parents can’t just not show up at work when their kids are sick. The separation of parent and child is even more fundamental. Whereas e.g. the San people allow their kids to play amongst themselves, they are always in the vicinity of the parents and a division between parent and adult is prevented by repeatedly crossing over any border before it manifests. The quality time in our culture between parent and child, and don’t even mention other adults, is artificial and isolated from reality, the kids don’t take part in the parents’ everyday activities and the parents don’t take part in the kids’ everyday activities.
In this case, the city centre is peppered with private schools and when the kids leave the school grounds to hang out on the street corners, smoking cigarettes, looking cool, smacking girls on the ass, calling them whores if they fight back, the schools give away their responsibility, a responsibility already given away to the schools by the parents.
Should men (and other women) who pass by such a scene intervene? Yes. Would the scene even take place if an adult walked past? No. Is it any different from when an adult man spies a lone woman late at night in an empty public space with no witnesses around? No.
It is no different from peeing in the shower when nobody is looking either. Or spewing vile hatred over random strangers online from behind the anonymous safety of a computer screen. There is no empathy – the Other is reduced to an object in the Self’s own theatre play called My Life.
To solve the problem, it is not enough to blame one person. The solution is to tear down walls, the walls between me and others, the walls between the schools and the rest of society, between adults and children, between job and spare time; and all of these things can exist together.
Constantly keeping an eye on each other would be counterproductive, but there should be connecting points between all these actors and stages to allow for natural flows between the adult world and the teenagers’ world and the kids’ world, between the schools, day cares, corporate offices, factories, parks, warehouses, cafés, cinemas; to the point where these borders no longer seem like borders.
If you want to fix this problem, no matter where you’re starting from, you have to reach out, talk, listen, incorporate, communicate, share, involve; everyone, sure, but most importantly, the perpetrators.