Six days before the official launch of Scandinavian MAN, news broke about the sexual harassment allegations against the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. We were in New York at the time, and every morning leading up to our launch event at NeueHouse on October 11, we read about new testimonies and allegations in the morning newspaper. To help us with the launch, our contributor Natalia Brzezinski, CEO of Brilliant Minds, wrote that: ’with all that’s happening in the US right now, and the almost daily news of men assaulting women, I think positioning a softer, more equal Scandinavian man is very relevant’.
I was humbled by the gesture, and it was the start of a launch period that would be affected by the #metoo movement. Everywhere we went, from New York to Stockholm, from London to Los Angeles, #metoo was a hot topic. Not only because the interest in Scandinavian equality became even more attractive in the light of the world’s testimonies of sexual assault, but because Scandinavia had it’s own share of male celebrities being outed as sexual predators.
In an interview with Sweden’s biggest business weekly, Veckans Affärer, I was asked how I felt about representing a Scandinavian man, given all the stories in the newspapers about harassment by Scandinavian men. My answer was that we should be proud that the matter was being taken so seriously, and that when the dust settles, it will show that the #metoo movement was stronger in the Nordic region than anywhere else in the world. Low and behold, studies conducted a few weeks later proved that Sweden was more active in addressing the accusations than other countries, highlighting sexual harassment in industries far beyond entertainment and media. The only thing mistaken in my assessment was the notion that the #metoo movement would somehow ’settle’, which it certainly hasn’t.
When we decided to launch Scandinavian MAN, putting our values front and centre was one of our most important missions. But beyond the obvious issues of innovation and equality, what does it really mean to be a Scandinavian man in the year 2018? It’s a question that has been occupying our minds when working with this issue. If the world is in need of a new masculinity, what does that masculinity look like?
We started with the issue of fatherhood. Statistically, Scandinavian men spend more time with their young children than any other man from any other culture. This is of course due to our generous parental leave laws, but it’s interesting to see how this shifts our perspective. The issue of fatherhood is present in most, if not all of the personalities we portray and meet. When our cover star Henrik Vibskov talks about why he loves living in Copenhagen, he points out that it’s ’very easy to have a family life. We can ride our bikes around and have our kids with us everywhere.’ When Our Legacy co-founder Jockum Hallin talks about their company culture he underscores the child-friendly atmosphere ’that allows us to both work a lot but also, in periods, to make time for the family.’
To illustrate Scandinavian fatherhood, we commissioned photographer Peter Gehrke and stylist Maria Montti to create intimate portraits of influential Scandinavian men and their children. The result is our roaming exhibition Present Father, that premiered at our launch event at NeueHouse and which will continue to grow and to be exhibited in new locations throughout the year. You can see a selection of the images on pages 92—97.
As a man, to be present with your children can actually be quite controversial, as one of our writers, Professor Jacob Östberg, points out in his essay ’Scandinavian man vs. real man’ (page 101). He has studied how Scandinavian fatherhood is viewed internationally, and found that in some cases it can actually be seen as something ’betraying true manhood’. This is where things get interesting, I think. If something as basic as being present with your children can be viewed as unmanly, it shows that the issue needs attention.
So how do we put the message out there? Well, for us at Scandinavian MAN, the issue of masculinity is something we examine in all our profiles, essays, and fashion stories. It might seem unusual for a fashion magazine to take on this role, but as Professor Östberg highlights, style can bring about change:
’While many Scandinavian men might indeed engage in activities that are antithetical to archaic masculinity, they do so in a way that is so aesthetically pleasing that it is hard to resist. Therefore, the mix of cutting edge style, spiced up with just enough progressive masculinity that we find in the pages of this magazine is just the kind of Trojan horse that can introduce these ideas to even more men around the globe.’
Thanks Jacob, for saying that better than I ever could have.
Enjoy your read!