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“The conference is key to help us find ways to incorporate men in the gender equality work”

ICMEO, an international conference on men and equal opportunities, will be held in Stockholm on May 15-16. The theme is “Masculinity and norm critical approaches: Gender equality work with boys and young men”. NIKK has spoken to one of the Icelandic participants.

Hi there, Tryggvi Hallgrímsson from the Centre for Gender Equality in Iceland! You will attend the ICMEO conference on men and gender equality in Stockholm. Can you tell us more about it?

‘Yes, I’m going to Stockholm together with three other persons from Iceland: one young politician, one teacher and one representative from an education and counselling centre for survivors of sexual violence. The aim of the conference is to help us find ways to incorporate men in the gender equality work. The Nordic co-operation and experience in the area make us stronger.’

You will participate in a seminar titled “#metoo – What do men have to do with it? Experiences, responses and perspectives from Nordic Civil Society”. So, what do men have to do with #metoo?

‘The #metoo movement and all the testimonies have given men a chance to step aside and listen. It has been an alarm clock and an opportunity for men to reflect on their own position and gender role. Many men are aware that society is full of sexual harassment and sexual violence, but not in the same way as women who carry these experiences with them. It’s important that men don’t diminish their stories. In Iceland, I think men have responded positively.’

The #metoo movement is still in full swing in Iceland. What’s the latest?

‘We have had a series of campaigns filled with testimonies from various groups of women. The most recent have come from women with a migration background. Their testimonies are the strongest so far. The stories, which are full of both racism and sexism, serve as perfect examples of power structures. These are issues that need to be given more attention.’

What are you doing at the Centre for Gender Equality to change things in the wake of #metoo?

‘We have a very broad mandate when it comes to gender equality issues. One of our roles is to advise the government on possible measures in the area of gender equality. The Icelandic government has been active and has instructed several committees to look into how sexual harassment can be stopped. Today we do have laws and rules against sexual harassment, but the anti-harassment work in the workplace needs to be organised better and carried out more systematically. The Centre for Gender Equality is also in charge of monitoring the employers’ gender equality plans, and that’s an area where we have become stricter. All the attention around #metoo has given us a good tailwind, which is positive.’

What changes are needed?

‘It’s a complex problem because the gendered power hierarchy has so many impacts. We need to get a broad discussion going about gender roles and relations. Today, school are given this responsibility, but that’s not enough. The work to create real change needs to take place elsewhere in society as well – in the workplace, in politics.’

What’s your view of men’s involvement in these issues?

‘Men’s participation and engagement are important. Men need to be included in the work but must at the same time not be held accountable for everything men do. I think we have done this quite well in the Nordic countries. One successful factor has been that we have been able to discuss power structures and the patriarchy, which are things that affect the lives of men, too.’

Updated 20 November 2019