Big differences in Swedish and Danish media coverage of #MeToo

In Sweden, the hashtag #MeToo created a snowball effect of demonstrations and debates requiring political change, to which Swedish politicians responded by participating in the debate. In Denmark, media coverage was far less extensive and more critical of #MeToo, according to a new study published by Nordicom at the University of Gothenburg.

Following the revelations of sexual abuse in Hollywood, the hashtag #MeToo spread like wildfire across the world. Denmark and Sweden are considered to be some of the world's most equal countries, but the media coverage of #MeToo shows great differences in the attitude of Danes and Swedes towards the phenomenon.

In a new study, published in the scientific journal Nordicom Review, media researchers Tina Askanius (Malmö University) and Jannie Møller Hartley (Roskilde University) have reviewed hundreds of articles and compared the Swedish and Danish coverage of #MeToo.

In Sweden, #MeToo was taken more seriously

The study shows that #MeToo received about four times more attention in the largest Swedish newspapers compared to Denmark. In Sweden, the issue is usually raised on news sites with statements from Swedish politicians, while the Danish newspapers mainly wrote about the subject on cultural and opinion pages.

“In Denmark, #MeToo was presented as something you can have different attitudes to, not as a structural problem that requires answers from Danish politicians or changes in legislation. The fact that #MeToo was treated as a topic of debate meant that virtually no Danish politicians commented on the issue during the period,” says Jannie Møller Hartley.

Different views on #MeToo

The study shows that #MeToo was described differently in Denmark and Sweden. In particular, Danish male journalists were critical of the #MeToo movement.

“The story of #MeToo as a ‘witch hunt’ and an ‘illegal people's court’, which is almost missing in Swedish reporting, permeates Danish coverage. At the same time, we see in Swedish media a story about #MeToo as a popular movement and a struggle against power structures. Swedish media describe #MeToo with terms such as ‘a revolution’, a ‘popular movement’, a ‘scream of silence culture’, an ‘avalanche’, a ‘paradigm shift’, and one refers to one before and one after #MeToo,” says Tina Askanius.

Tina Askanius and Jannie Møller Hartley believe that these differences should be understood in their context. The study points out that gender equality disappeared from the focus of Danish debate and political rhetoric in the 1990s and that the issue was then not recognized as a political problem, while the opposite applies in Sweden. This contributed to Denmark and Sweden having very different conditions for a public debate on sexual abuse, power and inequality.

The article “Framing Gender Justice: A comparative analysis of the media coverage of #metoo in Denmark and Sweden” is written by Tina Askanius and Jannie Møller Hartley and published in the journal Nordicom Review, published by Nordicom at the University of Gothenburg.

Contact:

  • Tina Askanius, Associate Professor, Malmö University, phone: +46 40-66 57707, e-mail: tina.askanius@mau.se     
  • Jannie Møller Hartley, Associate Professor, PhD, Roskilde University, phone: +45 46 74 37 53, e-mail: jath@ruc.dk
  • Cecilie Ravik, Communication Officer, Nordicom, phone: +46 76-618 12 55, e-mail: cecilie.ravik@nordicom.gu.se

Tina Askanius and Jannie Møller Hartley. Photo: Maria Kyriakidou