If you have been following any Swedish media at all lately, you can’t have missed Linnéa Claeson with her rainbow-colored hair and inspiringly strong views on important issues. The latest in line to recognize her influence is the UN Association of Sweden, who chose her as the recipient for their annual human rights prize. We were at the award ceremony, which also included an interesting panel discussion on men’s online hate against women.
Linnéa Claeson is a handball player, whose success in the sport – having won two World Championships in Swedish U18 and U20 teams – brought her to the public eye. Which in turn led to more and more unwanted advances from men online. Having grown tired of the sexual harassment and abuse she was routinely facing, about two years ago she set up her Instagram account Assholes Online, where she publishes unsolicited explicit messages she has received from men, and her ingenious and humorous comebacks.
Her way of handling these men went viral and made her widely known, so she gained herself a platform – and not just on her Insta account which has grown into a forum for equality and feminism reaching over 200 000 followers. The traditional media have also been eager to hear her opinions, and she’s had the ear of government agencies, political parties and different organisations on various issues ranging from gender equality to anti-racism and LGBTQ issues. In fact, TCO – the Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees – recently placed her at number one on their list of the 99 most influential young opinion-makers in Sweden.
And well that’s not all – Linnéa has also been out in the Stockholm night helping homeless people with her organisation Omtanke Stockholm, and is soon making another trip to help refugees stranded in Greece with another organisation she co-founded: Refugee Relief. She is also a goodwill ambassador for the organisation Kvinna till Kvinna, which works for empowering women in war and conflict areas. And did we forget to mention she is also a law student in her final year. Impressed yet?
The UN Association of Sweden gave Linnéa their human rights prize for “her courage in reacting and acting openly against threats and harassment online, and thereby making visible the frightening reality faced by many.” “She has countered sexual harassment with a mix of humour and seriousness, and also brought these important issues to the forefront in traditional media.”
After receiving her award, Linnéa was joined on stage by four other panellists for an interesting and important discussion with the theme of “Men who hate women online”. The other panellists were Amanda Redin from The Swedish Institute of Law and Internet, Linda Österberg from the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, Luis Lineo from Män för jämställdhet (Men for Equality) and Aleksander Gabelic, chairman of UN Association of Sweden.
The gist of the conversation between the panellists was, that even though Sweden may be number one in the world or high up on many lists measuring gender equality, there is still some ways to go. The legislation may be in place in many regards, but putting all of the fine intentions of the laws into practice may be another issue completely. And being best-in-class shouldn’t be enough, as nothing short of real equality should be accepted, according to Linnéa.
The legislation also seems to be lagging behind when it comes to taking online abuse to court, and the police are dismissing the majority of reported abuse and harassment without further investigation – even when the online hate would fulfil the criteria for crimes such as hate speech, unlawful threats or defamation. Everything that is a crime IRL should be a crime online, and the laws need to be brought up-to-date to better reflect that.