Isabelle Widmark, Fairpay och initiativtagare till #timeout och Irma Helin, fotbollsspelare som skrivit under uppropet.

#timeout: The sporting world needs to change

2020-01-10 | Undertecknarna padlock


”Those of us who have signed this petition have different relationship to sport. But we share a common experience of men in different ways are helping themselves to our space, our bodies and our rights, in ways that limit our lives and that make our sporting dreams a little harder to realize. Maybe they don’t always do this themselves, but do not protest when others do it. We will not allow this to go on. It is time for timeout.”

Inspired by #metoo and stories from other sectors we are now coming together to give you an idea of what the world of sports looks like. We, 2 290 people, have made the decision to back up this petition and to support one another in having the courage to speak up. We are women, non-binary people and others read as or identifying as women, who have experienced sexism, macho culture, sexual harassment and sexual assault: In the arena, in training facilities, in press rooms, at secretariats of sport and in the boardrooms.

Those of us who have signed this petition have different relationship to sport. But we share a common experience of men that in different ways are helping themselves to our spaces, our bodies and our rights, in ways that limit our lives and that make our sporting dreams a little harder to realize. Maybe they don’t always do this themselves, but do not protest when others do it. We will not allow this to go on. It is time for timeout.

The first and most important step is breaking the silence. And that’s why we do this here and now. Now it’s up to every board, organization, associations, newspaper offices, supporters’ clubs to continue the work. We are doing this in order to create a sports movement that is free from abuse and discrimination. We are doing this as everyone has the right of dreaming big and should not have to be scared into silence or to drop out. We are doing this together, for a sports movement for all.

Here are some of our testimonies:

”When I started going to football games 15 years ago there weren’t that many women supporters. I didn’t get that thing about ’knowing your place’. I sang, went on away matches and helped with tifos [arrangements by fans in the stands of an arena]. I was ridiculed and reprimanded by men. Women around me said, in order to be nice, that girls should not be in the supporter stands. That I would be better off in my own space. All the times men have grabbed me. Told me as a 14-year-old that it’s obvious I’m not interested in the sport since I have a tank top where a cleavage was barely visible. When I have been dragged into the bathroom being told: ’you want everyone to look at your breasts, you want me to touch them’. When men older than my parents have pushed their erections against me in the crowd after a game on the way to the underground.”

”The male football coach who told me not to do too much workout on my thighs. ’Because women should not look like men.’ Since then I’ve always been feeling bad about my body. I am still dealing with it until today.”

”Those in the boards of sports associations meet on national conferences. Some of us employees join them as rapporteurs and as experts. In the evening, at a big party, the hands of the older men’s hands go down on your bum and grab hold of it, at the same time the propositions for the night are delivered. It happens constantly so I prepare a number of colleagues (both men and women) to form a ring around me in order not to be asked to dance, or in order to be close to me if things get too rough.”

”When I was 12 and away on a trip with a youth national team we had an ’indecent’ leader. He used to come straight into the room where we were changing and taking showers. He was overly intimate and unpleasant. It was a big problem and we didn’t dare to tell our parents. We were only 12 and in another part of Europe without our parents. Still he acted that way. He is still a coach for children and I have heard worse stories that are true and confirmed, so he has not become a better person. If anything he’s worse. He has a history of acting in a ’indecenet’ way to both genders. We should have reported him and I still regret that we didn’t till this day.”

”At practice when I was 15 years old we were to stand in line. I was at the farthest end of the line. When our coach had showed us the drill and we were to start he came from behind and touched by bum as he passed me. First I was bewildered and didn’t understand what had happened. This happened a few more times. I started to make sure not to turn my back against him during practice and not to end up alone with him. I was too afraid to talk to anyone as I was ashamed and as the coach’s parent was chairperson of the sports association. At the same time I was happy to get to play matches and I had great ambition with my practice. It was really hard since it was a person that I spent a lot of time with (several times a week) and that I had trusted a lot beforehand.”

”I was raped by a another football supporter, who supports the same team as I. He was very violent. Out of fear he’d tell other supporters what he’d done to me and that I’d get stigmatized and that people wouldn’t believe, I no longer had the energy to go on away matches or be among our mutual friends in the stands. Now I only go to a few matches every season. I get stomach ache every time I see him in the stands. I know he has done the same thing against another female supporter too. None of us have reported him. Who would believe us if we reported him? He is such a ’great guy’ and a ’true supporter’.”

”Once in the stands in an away game, a derby, a guy tried to put a finger inside me. I had never seen him before and we hadn’t even talked to each other. I asked him what the fuck he was doing and he simply said: ’I thought it was ok’. I got really angry and shouted at him but people around me, that I didn’t know, told me to concentrate on the game instead, no one cared. Some years ago guys active in my association stole and destroyed flags that belonged to us girls. In recent years some male supporters have harassed us online and face to face.”

”When I was working for one of Sweden’s biggest hockey associations and we were ordering new suits our vice president said to me: ’I’d rather see you in latex and leather’.”

”I was working with a sports association for a couple of weeks some years ago. In the first week I can feel how the manager, a man, stares at me no matter where I go. It feels like an intrusion on my body, simply by him looking at me. On one of my last days with the club he comes up to me telling me the club has benefitted from having some feminine beauty in the office.”

”I was studying sports science at a folkhögskola [independent adult education college] and the women’s national team in a big sport often visited, having their camps there. Earlier I had been doing media studies and and at the time I was doing sports studies so I was interested in the position of press officer for national teams. I approached and spoke to a man who had just that position. We talked and he asked me about my dream job and I told him it was something like what he was doing, a press officer for a national team. I was networking but he saw another opportunity...He offered to tell me more about his work and I was so happy and we decided to meet for a coffee in town. The coffee turned into a meal at a restaurant. I remember I was so excited to hear all about dealing with media during and around national team camps. But there was no talk of his profession. Instead there was talk of how lovely I was and how great keeping my hair up was as I looked ’more grown-up’ that way, there was talk about his divorce, interchanged with questions about my love life. I was confused but thought I would just stick it out and then I could go home in a short while. I asked him at the end of the ’date’ if he wanted a chewing gum and then he said ’yes’ and asked me to put it in his mouth. I remember how my fingers touched, his wet lips and how disgusted I felt. And I felt so ashamed that I had agreed to put it in his mouth. What the fuck happened? I avoided him after this date despite this I got a text late at night, where he offered to pick me up at school and go to his place. Which I didn’t want to and didn’t do either. I froze every time I met him in different sports contexts from then on. Today I feel really disgusted by the situation and can’t understand what he was thinking. Did he really think I wanted to learn about his profession through sleeping with him? All I wanted to do was to network, something so many guys can do without ending up in a similar situation.”

”I was new in the industry and was doing my first job as a journalist at a new place of work. I was going with the women’s national team abroad for a tournament. During a meeting before the trip the boss told me to ask the women as many questions as possible about players in the male national team and to try to get as controversial responses as possible in order for them to get many hits on their websites and sell stories to newspapers. One of the examples was to ask Kosovare Asllani what it is like to be ’the female equivalent of Zlatan’. When I questioned this way of working it was claimed it was necessary since it was a for-profit company and therefore had no responsibility for what was broadcast. Of course I didn’t when I got there and I was extremely disappointed since I had hoped my workplace would have a sincere interest in boosting the status of women’s football and create stars out of the fantastic personalities and football players there, not to belittle and take advantage of them. Luckily I was traveling with a fantastic (male) colleague who was generous sharing his knowledge and supporting me in my new role. But I couldn’t handle my boss’s lack of creativity and analysis and being belittled time after time during the meeting and decided never to work for them again after the tournament.”

”I was 13 years old and worked for the team by selling programmes at the matches when the men’s team was playing. I was proud, happy and enthusiastic about being part of the club. The matches were allsvenskan [top flight of the Swedish football league system] matches. One match two men said to a third when I offered them programmes – ’you can have her – you could get her into the sack for sure’. It was so disgusting. I felt confused, intimated, wrong, soiled and now avoid everything to do with football in big arenas.”

”When I was 15 years old I decided to move to a new city to play basketball. I was accepted into a high school specializing in basketball where a person had been hired in order to develop women’s basketball, where I, as the youngest in the team, was part of that work. The coach took the new task seriously, at least that was how people perceived it. In my first year in high school I had long school days, and had difficulty getting something to eat in time for making it to practice by myself. The coach offered to take me to practice, he prepared meals. All of a sudden he was also making sure that I ’was properly prepared’ on game days, once by parking outside my then boyfriend’s house and refusing to leave until I got into the car. As the school had after school activities he called my mentor and ranted at him telling him I had to practice. He yelled at me more and more during practice, more at me than anyone else. He ranted at me, belittled me in front of the others, punished me with more drills. Looking back I realize that he was trying to ’erase’ the fact that he otherwise was treating me differently by bringing me food, giving me a lift etcetera. No one knew anything. It escalated, at the weekends he started bringing me to his house and invite me for dinner after practice. In retrospect one can ask why I went along with it...At the weekends he began having alcohol around, acting offensive, grabbing hold of me on a number of occasions, came out of the bathroom without clothes on. The physical ’abuse’ stopped somewhere around there. But when this had gone on for some months he called me one night drunk, saying: ’There’s no point in you fighting any longer, I am gonna fuck you some day anyway’. There and then my basketball career ended. I dropped out of the team, said I had back pains. No one had seen or known anything, no one said anything anyhow. I didn’t say anything either until a year or so later when I was in therapy, unclear of as to why I was going to therapy when finally this came up and I understood the reason behind the worry/anxiety I had been having. I told the current chairperson what had happened to me a few years earlier since I had heard that he was on his way back to the same city again. She understood and he never returned. What happened after that? He started coaching a women’s team in his hometown. As far as I know he is still active as a coach. I hope that he when he sees #metoo in connection to sports get worried that this will come up, it should have long ago.”

”I am a woman, almost 20 years and an elite swimmer. Some six months ago I was practicing at an indoor swimming pool. After doing a tough workout out of the water I was going to the pool area when I meet a group of 14-17-year old basketball guys, one of them groping me. They were shouting, laughing calling me obscene names and ran off. I got so angry I started shouting, crying and throwing what I held in my hands against them. Then my male coach arrives and he understands immediately that something has happened. We decide to look for the guys. We find them on the basketball court and a big row erupts between ourselves and the group of guys. Older men and women join, defending the actions of the guys. It got louder and they were angry with my coach for yelling at the guy groping me rather than the fact that I had been sexually molested. The public pool has always been a safe space for me, where I can do something I love. I visit indoor swimming pools and sport facilities every day and I worry it will happen again. What was once a safe space for me has turned into a place where I constantly have to be on the lookout since more and more abuse, harassment and molestation take place in this environment where people are partially undressed. It shouldn’t be this way.”

”I was in the stand during an ice hockey game when a guy suddenly touches my bum and says: ’I would like to take you from behind’. My blood ran cold. At the next intermission I left the game and lost my passion for going to ice hockey games for several months.”

”When I was 16 I had a charismatic coach who had sex and relationships with several people on the team. He ruined our team and the girls he had ’secret’ relationships with at the same time were feeling bad. He was manipulative and if you weren’t with him you were against him and then you were frozen out. Either you were flattered and into it, or you were nobody in his eyes. When this was brought to the attention of the board it was ignored without any action taken. Some years later this coach was considered for a position for another team I was in, and despite me telling and warning both the board and others in the association I was spurned and what I told them was ignored, they thought I was exaggerating. I quit but heard that the history was repeating itself and he was made to leave after a year and yet again left a team in chaos and broken people behind him. When I worked at the office of the sport’s federation the manager of one our national teams used to ’thoroughly check me out’ when we met. At a championship he started texting me after having a few pints commenting on my body, with sexual innuendos. I’d get texts every now and then for several years after this.”

”The game is over. I step into the underground pathway to reach the changing room and do my interviews. When I’m in the stairs I realize my mistake, wearing a skirt. Didn’t have time to change, had to rush off to do my job. I speed up and think that it was a good thing I was wearing stockings. I should be able to do my job and hand over my article before deadline without any major incidents. There I and several male reporters from tv, radio and other newspapers stand. I am asking my questions – suddenly everyone starts laughing. I understand that they laugh at me but I don’t know why. Not until I look down, next to my pad. One of the athletes is lying there on the floor and looking up under my skirt. He waves and smiles. ’Nicely dressed today’. I ask one last question to the guy I’m doing the interview with. He just laughs. I get so angry that blatantly step over the man, who is still lying on the floor looking up my skirt. ’Have you seen enough, I have a job to do’ the words come out of my mouth before I can even think of what I’m saying. I leave the changing room and write my article. I have a deadline. A couple of weeks later I am yet again on my way underground to a changing room. I ask the athlete if it’s ok go outside (the changing room) to talk. He asks me to wait a second. I wait outside. He comes back after a couple of minutes, only wearing a towel. He makes excuses saying ’You need to come inside, I can’t be out her like this’. I go inside, I have to do my job. After a while other athletes in towels pass us while we’re talking. One after one they let their towels drop. There I am, doing an interview with one of the most famous ice hockey players in Sweden. He’s naked. So are his teammates. They laugh. I stick it out. I continue with the interview, leave the changing room and write my article. I have a deadline.”

”I was told I was sexy when in the ring when I was sparring with a male coach, I was 20 years old and had just recently had the courage to look up a sporting facility. I became so self-conscious, it was difficult to be relaxed while sparring. I have been told by guys that what I do is not real skateboarding, when we had got girls who skateboard together in order to help each other. The same type of guys who have tried to make us leave the skateparks. ’Wow, you’ve really put on weight’ a boxing coach told me after I managed to get better after suffering from an eating disorder, looking me up and down. Another coach pinched me in the stomach to check whether I had put on too much weight. The worst was the chairperson of the association who made a difference between men and women as if the latter category were another species, not real human beings, but ’womenfolk’ with particular and deviant characteristics. I was wondering whom I, as non-binary, fit into all this. The same man was clear with there not being a third gender, that I don’t exist, that my pronoun is a joke. He called a woman who was chairperson of an association a ’little girl’ during a federation meeting with almost only male participants, then again in an e-mail after she asked him not to call her a girl. He didn’t see the problem, he thought she spelled like a little girl.’”

”I was 16 years old. At track practice something terrible happened. It was the first time I was trying out for this acclaimed coach. On this particular day it was I and three older guys practicing together. We had warmed up and were on our way to another part of the athletic field. All of a sudden I can feel someone coming up close behind me, leaning against my back and grabbing my bum hard in what feels like an eternity. He doesn’t let go and I freeze. The adult coach sees everything. I look him in the eyes, scared, pleading for help. His response is him looking at me, sneering and saying: ’this is the way we do things around here’. I never returned to the group and I never really got back to the sport I had once loved.”

”I got some attention in social media some years ago, when I was writing about stuff in connection to being a supporter as a woman. A married, well-known older man heard about this and got in touch with me regarding media production on the subject. Initially he was kind of nice. Then he started texting me. First it was praise for doing a good job and about how smart I seemed. It was hard to ’reject’ so I kindly thanked him. Then the weird texts started. He’d start talking about issues in his relationship, and started to write very questionable things alluding to things I really didn’t want to get involved in. I tried to dismiss it somehow, but I was afraid of what he might do. People (i.e. women) have ran into trouble in these situations before if they have tried to confront/or out men with any form of power. The whole thing culminated when he, drunk at a party, came up to me physically in a way that was really not ok. He was in my face and said stuff like: ’what’s going on between us?’ and that I should come to his house and have tequila. Afterwards he claimed not to remember anything from that night.”


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