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Cross-border behavior in the culture and media sector is a persistent and urgent problem that cannot be easily solved. The increasing number of reports recently shows only the tip of the iceberg. It’s in the council ‘Across the border, towards a common culture’ as the Cultural Council today presented to State Secretary Gunay Uslu for Culture and Media. Mariëtte Hamer was present as government commissioner for sexually abusive behavior and sexual violence. It is necessary that there is a good discussion about this in all workplaces in the culture and media sector.
According to the council, cross-border behavior is not just about sexual intimidation and abuse. It can also involve bullying, racism, sexism, discrimination and other forms of unwanted behavior that create an unsafe work environment. Victims often develop physical and mental disorders such as stress, burnout and depression.
It also occurs in other sectors, but in the culture and media sector there are specific risk factors that create extra vulnerability, the council says. For example, the sector often selects from a wide range of talents, while there are only a limited number of venues and shows. Casting directors, curators, teachers, and artistic directors necessarily act as gatekeepers, creating an unequal balance of power. Certainly if they act consciously or unconsciously on the basis of prejudices and stereotypes, an uncertain work climate is created.
In addition, permanent employment relationships and job insecurity have often been resolved. The self-employed in particular are particularly vulnerable. The sector is also characterized by a strong performance culture and physical contact is an integral part of the work in many genres.
Out of fear, discomfort, and shame, victims often dare not report unwanted behavior, and spectators look the other way. In this regard, the Council is talking about a culture of silence. Existing structures targeting social security, such as hotlines and confidential counselors, are also often difficult to find for victims, or they lack the confidence to use them.
The Council recommends that the focus be on prevention first and foremost. It starts with a good conversation in the workplace about power relations and security and about what is desirable and undesirable behavior. 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 set them. Against this background, concrete agreements can be made about what may and may not be done in specific situations. This should provide an action perspective for all involved.
But more is needed: A fairer wage and a better legal position for self-employed workers should be a spearhead for cultural and media institutions in particular. Social security must also become a standard part of the curriculum in art education. The council also recommends making a didactic endorsement compulsory for all teachers, including part-time teachers, who often come from the subject area.
More’s hotline has rapidly developed into the central hotline for cross-border behavior in the culture and media sector. Structural support from the state is required to cope with the increasing number of reports. Finally, the Council notes that there is a great need for recurring structural research and monitoring of the nature and extent of the problem. A new knowledge center to be established must take care of this.