Sexism: Denmark’s spectre looms ever-larger as more reports emerge

As further reports of widescale sexism emerge, Danish politicians take increasingly divergent positions on #MeToo

“One of the least feminist countries in the developed world.” That was how Denmark was described by the Guardian in May last year after a YouGov survey found that just one in six Danes considered themselves to be a feminist.

With the eventual arrival of the #MeToo movement this year, perhaps there are more now. However, after a number of damning, graphic testimonies from people in the media and politics it is unlikely that the Guardian will have any reason to alter its views on the sexism that runs rife in the country.

Now almost 700 women – this time from academia – have come forward to tell of their experiences of sexism. It is clearer than ever that the problems within Danish society run deep, and that the debate is as divisive as ever.

Structural abuse 
Less than two weeks after reporting that 322 women from Danish politics had signed a letter reporting experience of sexism in Danish politics (along with 79 testimonies), Politiken yesterday revealed that almost double the number of cases have emerged from Denmark’s universities.

READ MORE: #MeToo in Christiansborg: Hundreds report cases of sexism in Danish politics

A total of 698 women came forward to sign a letter in which they state they have experienced sexism themselves, or been witness to it. Amongst the testimonies were recorded instances of employment discrimination, sexist comments, and a case of rape.

Mille Mortensen, a researcher into abuse in the workplace at Copenhagen University’s psychology department, told Politiken that some academic structures actively promote abusive behaviour.

“The research world is hugely specialised. When researching a field, one’s path can be very narrow, making one very dependent on being in a particular workplace,” he said.

“The combination of that and the insecure nature of many hires can make it extremely difficult to say no. You may feel compelled to accept what is perceived as a basic condition, where you are exposed to abusive acts.”

Criticism from the right
Also reported in last year’s Guardian article was the fact that almost 40 percent of Danes were disapproving of the #MeToo movement – figure that is testimony to the heated debate that now rages within Denmark.

On Copenhagen’s streets the newspaper spoke to a 32-year-old woman named as Sara Pihl, who was out walking with her baby in Kultorvet Square.

She worried about the movement, stating: “I think some men are afraid of talking to women at work in case they get accused of something.” Expressions such as this continue to shape much of the debate.

READ MORE: Former immigration minister: Danish MeToo getting “out of hand”

When Inger Støjberg told reporters that she believed the #MeToo movement was “getting out of hand”, she was doing little more than parroting conservative concerns that have been raised against the movement as it has appeared across the world.

Now Nye Borgerlige has come forward to stoke its own controversy. Pernille Vermund, the party’s chair, posted a picture on Thursday in which she and other party members are grabbing each other by the thighs.

This was followed up yesterday by a willfully ignorant post stating: “Unless you believe arranged marriages are the way forward, physical flirting in some form is a prerequisite for the survival of the species.”

The party’s comments on “common sense and perspective” come just days after Radikale chair Morten Østergaard resigned from his position, having admitted to inappropriately touching MP Lotte Rod a number of years ago.

READ MORE: Danish politics rocked by massive #MeToo drama

Denmark’s #MeToo movement is not going anywhere, and nor does it appear are its detractors.