Transgressive behavior often hidden in cultural sector; Culture change needed: State Sec

The increasing number of reports of transgressive behavior in the culture and media sector only shows the tip of the iceberg. Victims often do not dare to report undesirable behavior, and witnesses often look the other way, according to the Culture Council, which spoke of a “silence culture” in a new report. Hotlines and confidential counselors are not always easy to find, and victims are sometimes hesitant to use them. This problem is not easily solved, State Secretary Gunay Uslu (Culture and Media) said. “A culture change is needed.”

The Culture Council based its conclusions on many conversations with people in the culture and media sectors. Even though few dare to come forward, the number of reports to the special MORES hotline for transgressive behavior in these sectors rose rapidly. By June, the hotline received 160 reports, compared to 57 in all of 2021.

“A good conversation about this must start in every culture and media sector workplace,” said the advisory body. The Council advises focusing “first and foremost” on prevention. Fairer pay and a better legal position should better arm employees against this evil. Many in the sector are uncertain about getting and keeping a job, making their position more vulnerable.

The Council said that to handle the increasing number of reports, the government must give more structural support. The body also sees “a great need for recurring structural research into and monitoring of the nature and extent of the problem.” It advised setting up a new knowledge center to provide this.

According to the Council, transgressive behavior is not only sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and sexism, but also bullying, racism, and discrimination. Although it occurs everywhere, there are specific risk factors in the culture and media sector. In many genres, physical contact is an “inseparable” part of the work. The talent supply is also ample, but the number of places these talents can go is limited. “Casting directors, curators, teachers, and artistic leaders act as gatekeepers, creating an unequal balance of power. Especially if they consciously or unconsciously act based on prejudice and stereotyping, an unsafe working climate is created, ”the Council said.

The recommended conversations in the workplace should focus on power relations and safety and make clear what behavior is undesirable. “Part of that conversation should in any case be awareness of one’s own behavior and how to receive signals from others. But also awareness of one’s own boundaries and how to indicate these. On this basis, concrete agreements can be made about what is and what is not allowed in specific situations, ”the Council said.

Uslu thanked the Culture Council “for the thorough analysis of the problem and the starting point for further work on improvement.” Uslu’s predecessor, Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven, had asked for the advice. Uslu acknowledged that this widespread problem wouldn’t be solved overnight. “A culture change is needed.”

The Cabinet appointed a government commissioner on this topic and is coming up with a National Action Plan against sexually transgressive behavior. The results of this report will be included in that plan. Uslu will respond to the recommendations after the summer.

In a response, Winnie Sorgdrager, chair of a committee of inquiry into undesirable behavior in the art and culture world, told Nieuwsuur that “there is a lot of hidden suffering” in the sector. According to her, there are often “extremely unequal power relations because many young people are applying for one position,” and many self-employed people work in the sector with a “poor position in the labor market.”

She proposed that groups in theaters, for example, ask each other at an early stage how they will interact with each other so there can be a discussion. She also believes that the government should make money available so those who report injustice can be better supported.

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