Cultural Council: additional risk of cross-border behavior in the cultural sector

Yes, it occurs everywhere, but in the culture and media sector, the risk of unwanted cross-border behavior is particularly high due to the specific characteristics of the sector in question. This is an important conclusion of the study that a special committee in the Cultural Council has conducted in the past year. On Tuesday, the Council presented the Council based on this, Over the limit, to Foreign Minister Gunay Uslu (Culture and Media, D66). The committee, chaired by former Minister Winnie Sorgdrager, bases its advice on political documents, scientific literature and discussions with stakeholders from the culture and media sector.

Also read this interview with Winnie Sorgdrager: ‘Artists often have to push their boundaries, and that creates a gray area’

Former Minister of Culture Ingrid van Engelshoven (D66) had asked the Council for advice in June last year, following incidents such as the prosecution of the artist Julian Andeweg for his behavior at the Art Academy in The Hague, the prosecution for several rapes committed by the director. of the cultural platform Moam, Martijn N. and the artistic director and director Marcus Azzini’s departure from Toneelgroep Oostpool due to (sexual) misconduct. Since the request for counseling, sexual hunting behavior has increased The voice of the Netherlands in the light, and director Ralph Keuning had to leave the Museum de Fundatie because, according to an independent investigation, safety at work had been jeopardized by his behavior.

the top of the iceberg

These known cases are probably only the tip of the iceberg, writes the Council. There are no reliable figures for the Netherlands, but in Flanders, three quarters of women in the culture and media sector have experienced cross-border behavior in the workplace, research from 2019. The Netherlands shows is different. ”

The Council looked not only at sexually transgressive behavior but also at insecurity due to discrimination, exclusion and bullying.

The Council for Diversity and Inclusion calls for special attention; taking these goals seriously leads to a more open, safer work environment.

The culture and media sector is particularly vulnerable to cross-border behavior because many people compete for few seats, giving ‘gatekeepers’ such as casting directors, curators, art teachers or artistic leaders disproportionate power. “It promotes precarious situations,” the council writes.

Many vulnerable freelancers

The great job insecurity of the many self-employed in the sector – more than half have no fixed contract – also leads to skewed power relations and insecurity. Research from the International Labor Organization (ILO) shows that less than 20 percent of victims of sexually abusive behavior were full-time employees, 60 percent were freelancers, and 35 percent had a temporary contract.

In addition, renunciation and strong criticism are inherent in the sector’s performance culture. “The line between giving strong feedback needed for the artistic process and burning down a dancer, actor or student can be thin.”

Because of all these characteristics, there is a culture of silence in the sector, the council notes. Victims of unwanted behavior often do not report this, and witnesses of unwanted behavior often do not intervene. By themselves, there are all sorts of structures for dealing with unwanted behavior, but they are not sufficient. Not without culture change. Internal confidential advisers are often not trusted enough and hotlines are considered inadequate.

Students in art education also run risks. They are expected to be vulnerable and (also literally) to expose much of themselves, while teachers are not always didactically trained.


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No ‘quick fixes’

Anyone who expected the Council to come up with draconian advice on harsh punishments and clear boundaries will be disappointed. There are no “quick fixes” to the problem of social insecurity – also known as misconduct – precisely because it is so complex. Where the border is is subjective, the gray area is large. The Council’s most important council? Prevention by speaking. It must become a habit in every workplace to talk about power relations, security and what is desirable and undesirable behavior. In the Council’s view, this will not happen by itself because the institutions have to go to work. They must conduct that conversation with their employees themselves, make a risk statement, provide training in social security and guarantee access to a confidential adviser. And it is up to the regulators to ensure that cultural and media institutions actually do this.

In art education, social security must become a permanent part of the education, and a didactic education must be a requirement for the teachers. “Star teachers are not allowed to evade this because of an alleged professional expertise.”

Another council recommendation has been a hot topic in the cultural sector for years; improve the position of freelancers with a fairer salary and a better legal position. In addition to political will, this complex issue, which affects all sectors, also requires a lot of money. On Budget Day, State Secretary Uslu will meet with the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment with detailed plans to improve the labor market, including culture.

The increasingly important Mores hotline must also be expanded – and better funded – so that it can function as the independent hotline for the entire culture and media sector. In addition, structural science research must be carried out by a knowledge center that has not yet been established.

In collaboration with Sofie Bongers.

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