Why should Norway offer migrants a class in how to treat women?

Source: nyti.ms/1TapHIh

1 year 5 weeks
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Hello Ruben,
Thanks for sharing this article. I have worked at one of the reception centres where this program has been offered.
I can see that it may feel presumtious that 'foreign men do not know how to treat women well' and therefore these programs are needed. However, it is important to understand that these programs are strictly offered on volunteer basis and are by no means forced upon anyone. I also would like to add that the program was very popular amongst the men at the center as it was not a course that lectured men on how to behave, but more a safe space to discuss 'taboo' topics. It is, of course not wanted/needed by everyone. But as long as there are participants who voluntarily find it beneficial and it is executed in a dignified manner that does not label foreign men as "rapists", I don't see why not.

But I would be interested in hearing if someone disagree and what could be negative sides to this?

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Comment ID: 7406

Hi Ingi,
Thanks for your comment! I agree that these initiatives can be a very good idea, indeed!
However, the reason why I shared this article in this lab was not to question the program itself but to uncover the questionable assumption made by juxtaposing and connecting migration and a barbaric behaviour (against women). To me, this is a media problem because it clearly makes a (questionable) assumption for the reader. Why not inviting Norwegian men too, I'd wonder (provokingly). Not as examples for migrants, but as participants also. The problem in this case, to me (particularly as a problem of media representation, which is what we're focused in Hacking the Veil), is that we tend to think that they (the other) are problematic. These representations often see the mote in our brother's eye and not the rafter in our own.

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Comment ID: 7409

I think it would a very good idea to bring Norwegian men as participants. If I recall correctly, the men who provided the training were not there to be examples, but also share their personal experiences. I remember that us other employees were not given any information of what all the men talked about as it was confidential for outsiders of the group. But regardless, I think inviting local men from the community as equal participants would be much more beneficial for all parties and potentially much more dignified.

But I do agree the way this course is being reported in the media can certainly promote and 'validate' the stereotype that migrant men are 'barbaric'. I myself was quite wary when I saw the way the article was shared. It is therefore so important for me share that this course was experienced positive by the refugees who voluntarily joined as it was tailored in a way that would not 'target' them as barabric perpetrators just because they were foreigners. E.g. using Norwegian names/context when giving examples of gender/sexual violence.

Do you think there is a better way for this to have been reported better to avoid the juxtapositioning of migrants and violence. Or do you think this was newsworthy just because it builds on the idea that 'others' are 'problematic'.

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Comment ID: 7410

That's a very good question. The thing is right now the media agenda is unavoidably conditioned by the refugee crisis and every news related to this topic is interpreted in the terms set by the crisis itself. That's how simple the mechanism of media works, I believe. I'm not sure whether they'd have published an article/topic like this in any other context, or not... so to me it is impossible to read this article out of the context of the European crisis. On the other hand: do I mean it is impossible to represent this kinds of initiatives in other terms, or even that the NYT is interested only because it perpetrates the stereotype of dangerous migrants? Not really. But I would be very happy to discuss and think in common how media could portray more inclusive perspectives when dealing with migration... I confess I have more questions and doubts than any other thing...

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Comment ID: 7411

You are not alone in having more questions and doubts :) This definately a complex subject.

In many ways, I thought the NYT did a decent job covering the story (interviewing a participant with a personal experience, discussing the concern about how migrants are being portrayed etc). But there is no denying that the very excistence of the article can create problemtic assumptions by the reader.

I guess articles like these are just sub-articles of the overarching 'crisis' and 'threat' that are currently being portrayed by politicians and media (like you said). I think one way to counter this fear is definately to share personal migration stories and to be personally exposed to foreign cultures (this is a part of my work), as many assumptions comes from misrepresented worldviews ("we are rich and civilised - they are poor and criminal"). Thankfully there are many initiatives who works to promote migrant stories, from NGO type of initiatives to larger newspapers, like the Guardian. But I also think misrepresented worldviews needs to be challenged in education, and not only in media.

Do you have any other ideas on how media could portray a more inclusive perspectives when dealing with migration?

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Comment ID: 7412

Hi Ingi, Hi Rubén,
It´s a very complex issue. Reading the article I found there is a lot of issues related to sexual violence and gender violence.
In the article, the NYT makes a whole review of problematic issues stereotyped and being related to migrants such as rape, violence against women, but also criminalism. But I liked when they said it´s better to talk about...no keep in silence. I saw also they talk about honor crimes which a very important challenge in some European countries because it´s a cultural issue for some migrants groups it´s difficult to deal with. There is a nice movie talking about these issues from a dramatic and comedy point of view: Head On.
I agree with Ruben it´s important for Norwegian men to participate as well in these kind of trainings, even other European countries must launch this training because what we have all in common, european and non european countries, is an ashamed number of women killed because gender violence...

I agree with Ruben media have a strong power in fighting against stereotypes, but it seems it´s not what they do. even if my journalist friends tell me the contrary and are always complaining everyone is accusing them of the problems when they are only informing about the problems...

I think it´s something more related to the journalist and it depens on his/her values and vision. Journalist should be also receive some trainings on migration, women´s rights and many other issues in order to enlarge their focus and be able of understanding better complex issues, and of course being much more human in their approach.
For example, in Portugal, there is a young journalist awarded several times for the human attention she provides to migrants and refugees issues. Last prize it´s an honorary mention from UNESCO National Commission of Portugal for an article about how syrian students (provided with scholarships of the Global Platform for Syrian Students) are rebuilding their lives and professional path by poursuing their higher education.
But there is also this interesting article written by Aya Chebbi, Tunisian peace-activist and blogger, about gender stereotypes. She analises women´s rights advances and law in some European and Arab countries. 
And of course there are many other initiatives and good media groups communicating differently.

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Comment ID: 7423