Irena Pozar, Editor-in-Chief for Veckorevyn (photo: Peter Jönsson)

The Impact of #metoo

A look at the widespread anti-sexual harassment campaign, with a personal take from Veckorevyn's Irena Pozar.

In the fall of 2017, #metoo hit the world like a tidal wave, not least in Sweden. Media, including many of Bonnier’s publications, played an important role in keeping focus on the structures that allowed for sexual harassment and assault of women in the workplace in Sweden.

In the final issue of 2017 of Journalisten of the Swedish Union of Journalists, the paper asked 18 journalists what the biggest media event of the year was. A total of 14 answered: #metoo. Of the four remaining, three of them named #metoo as the year’s sensation and the fourth called #metoo the witch hunt of the year – but adding “in the best way.”

The hashtag, started by U.S. actress Alyssa Milano on October 15 after producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of rape by several well-known actresses, spread like wildfire. Milano aimed to put the focus on how sexual harassment of women is a structural problem in society, and the response was way beyond expectations. In just a few weeks, millions of women described their own abuse and harassment using the hashtag #metoo.

In Sweden, thousands of women in industry after industry joined forces and attested to sexist behavior, harassment and rape. Actresses, women in the military, lawyers, politicians, teachers, dancers, archeologists and journalists were just some of the different professions with their own hashtags and stories published in Swedish media.

At Bonnier Magazines & Brands women’s magazine Veckorevyn, the editorial team had created earlier a hashtag – #anmälalla (report all), aimed at encouraging and supporting women in daring to report sexual offenses to the police.

“The campaign consisted of a series of articles interviewing young women who told their stories of sex offenses they’d been subjected to and their experiences in reporting them or deciding not to,” says Irena Pozar, Editor-in-Chief. 

Irena Pozar

“We worked with the campaign during the entire fall and we were going to publish it two weeks earlier but I got the flu. So when #metoo started, we didn’t need to change a thing in our campaign. The timing was perfect and we had a great response with hundreds of thousands of views,” she says.

For Pozar, the #metoo campaign was the most important thing that happened in 2017.

“It made a big difference, I can tell when I meet my girlfriends. Now, women dare to both talk about and report sexual offenses,” says Pozar.

“In terms of journalism, the campaign was a big challenge. In part because there were many workplaces within media that needed themselves to be investigated, in part due to the ethical problem of when to publish names.”

The question of publishing names came up almost immediately. The first Swedish testimonies under the hashtag #metoo involved a popular program host for TV4’s do-it-yourself show Äntligen hemma (home at last) and a well-known columnist for Swedish news daily Aftonbladet.

Bonnier Broadcasting’s TV4 chose to discontinue working with the TV host and removed the program from its line-up. Simultaneously, the channel ordered an independent investigation of the charges of abusive discrimination and sexual harassment during production of Äntligen hemma. The investigation criticized TV4 for not taking action earlier to ensure a safe working environment during production of the show. As a result, TV4 has adopted a “zero tolerance” goal, which aims to combat and prevent harassment, bullying and harm, and among other things includes a new whistleblower function.

“On the whole, I think that question of how to handle publishing names was handled well by the media. If I understand correctly, there haven’t been more complaints than usual to the Swedish Press Ombudsman [responsible for handling complaints against the press],” says Pozar.

“However, I think the media could have been better in communicating with readers when it came to why they published or didn’t publish each individual name of those accused. Unfortunately, there’s a credibility problem for media and many readers wondered what the media’s reasoning was behind the different cases.”

Both Dagens Nyheter and Expressen together with other Swedish nationwide media played leading roles during the #metoo campaign. The news dailies regularly published the different campaigns and even carried out their own investigative reporting, which among other things resulted in Dagens Nyheter’s disclosure of misconduct by a cultural figure connected to the Swedish Academy and a senior manager at Schibstedt.

“I’m proud of these investigations, they were important,” says Pozar.

She hopes and believes that #metoo will leave a permanent mark on society.

“In the beginning, I was worried that #metoo would evaporate after a few weeks, but that hasn’t been the case at all. I know that many men now see what a problem this is and can say ‘me too’ to call out a friend who is acting sexist,” says Pozar.

“I hope that all work places now on have an active gender equality policy and not just an old piece of paper that’s collecting dust somewhere. I also hope that everyone has seen that the problem that’s surfaced is structural and it is everywhere – in every occupation and in all social classes.”


Bonnier CEO Tomas Franzén on #Metoo

“I’m convinced that we as a media group, and all other employers, have much to learn from the debate that is underway. If there is something that the #metoo campaign has shown, it is that this isn’t happening on the margins, it’s a problem throughout our entire society. It’s our responsibility to make things better based on this insight.”