In the past few weeks, a discussion about violence against men, inspired by the international #MeToo campaign has blossomed in Finland. Some of the nation's leading newspapers ran multiple stories of men sharing their experiences of being harassed or abused as children, national broadcaster Yle reported.
According to Yle, the goal of the #MenToo campaign is to highlight the culture in which boys learn to admire physical strength and the use of brute force as an argument, whereas more emotional individuals are perceived as weak or feminine and end up shunned or harassed. Men who have spoken out so far share their experiences of growing up in a culture, where violent behavior has been normalized.
One instance of this is the schoolyard hierarchy, which can be particularly cruel for those at the bottom, who are subjected to daily bullying. Victims are often ashamed and dare not report the mobbing to the school authorities, whereas bullies continue to enjoy the reputation of "tough guys."
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Sports are another area where toughness is admired. For instance, ice hockey players are often seen as role models for adolescents dreaming of becoming "real" men. While ice hockey might indeed be one of the most physically demanding sports, idealizing strength and toughness implies a risk that "softer" values get neglected as signs of weakness, sports psychologist Christoph Treier, who has been working to make sports environments safer places argued. According to Treier, "macho culture" is particularly manifest in ice hockey and football.
"There are some sports where I would like to see the typical male image where you should be tough and never cry toned down. I mainly think of ice hockey and football where there is still a lot of macho culture that already applies from a young age. If you say to a young boy that an ice hockey player or football player should not cry but bite together, you will be incorrect. Why can't a boy playing soccer or ice hockey cry?" Treier asked rhetorically.
In ice hockey, there is a tendency for players to take matters into their own hands to punish an opponent they accuse of foul play, if the referee fails to react with disciplinary action they deem sufficient. In such cases, blows are often exchanged, the logic being that a fist fight provides a good vent, while also preventing more serious injuries.
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According to Treier, though, men taking matters into their own hands instead of following the judge or allowing the leagues' disciplinary committee to solve issues sends the wrong signal.
"It's a behavior that has been passed from generation to generation," Treier said.
Since the adoption of the sexual harassment act, the number of reported crimes had been increasing in Finland, only to stop in 2017, but with one major exception — male victims. According to the Finnish Police, about 7 percent of all harassment claims in 2017 were made by men, whereas the #Metoo campaign apparently failed to result in an increase in reports, Yle reported.