Cross-border behavior in the cultural sector is less often covered


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“A stinging indictment of the industry,” said actress Maryam Hassouni. In the BNNVARA program Khalid and Sophie she condemned cross-border behavior in the world of theater and film on Tuesday night: she has experience with both racism and sexism.

She said, for example, that an instructor grabbed her bottom after a test and pressed his genitals against her. Hassouni, 19 at the time, froze. When she rang the bell with her agent, she was fired.

The Cultural Council already published a report on the cultural and creative sector in June, shortly after the scandal Holland’s voice. Several (former) candidates did so at the beginning of this year in a broadcast of ANGRY their story of sexual abuse by prominent figures such as coaches Marco Borsato and Ali B and band leader Jeroen Rietbergen.

After the rise of the #MeToo movement in 2017, cross-border behavior has been high on the agenda, also in the cultural and creative sector. But what steps have been taken now? According to confidential adviser Seema Ouweneel, many cultural institutions are struggling unwanted behavior. She is not only a confidential advisor to various cultural institutions, such as the Dutch Film Festival, but also provides training and advice to organizations and institutions on cross-border behaviour.

There is more and more attention because there is more attention to it. The subject is now up for negotiation.

Seema Ouweneel, Confidential Advisor

In recent years, she has experienced a turnaround in the sector. “There is more and more attention, by paying more attention to it. The topic can now be discussed.” With her training courses, she tries to change the culture in an organization so that a socially safe climate is created. “You cannot survive without a culture change.”

She also sees that it is getting more difficult action is taken. “This behavior is no longer covered by the cloak of love.” For example, she saw dismissal several times as a result of transgressive behavior.

Intimate scenes

Toneelgroep Internationaal Theater Amsterdam (ITA) has appointed an intimacy coordinator to support employees. “This person will talk to the director, actors and crew and, if necessary, go through the intimate scenes, after which an approach and working method will be agreed upon in order to work in safety and trust,” says spokesman Maurits Musch. He declined to answer the question about the number of incidents of undesirable behavior in the theater company.

In its report, the Cultural Council has put art education under the microscope. For example, the Western frame of reference is dominant there, the council believes, and art schools should pay more attention to different perspectives and traditions.

‘Dismantle and build’

The council is also critical of the “degrading and reconstructive” way of teaching students, which has long been common practice in some art schools. In this approach, students were regularly put in a vulnerable position, with the idea that they would subsequently ‘develop’ themselves artistically. The council calls this “obsolete”.

Hassouni’s story makes it clear once again that change is needed, says spokesman Karlijn Verschoor from Codarts University of Applied Sciences in Rotterdam. “We want to educate a new generation of artists with an increased awareness around this theme.” Codarts offers lessons in music, dance and circus.

Just as confidential adviser Ouweneel sees a turning point in the cultural sector, it also seems that the art colleges to have changed something. In June, they responded jointly to the Cultural Council’s advisory report. “Dismantling and rebuilding art students, as has happened in some colleges, is now unacceptable to everyone; it should no longer have a place in modern art education.”

Social security

Codarts already started a program in 2012 to ensure students’ well-being and physical and mental health. With a team of professionals, such as a psychologist and a dietician, they try to guide the students as best as possible.

Amsterdam University of the Arts (AHK) organizes discussion afternoons where social security is an important theme, says spokesperson Fokke Uiterwaal. “The subject is also part of the didactic training courses for teachers at AHK.”

In recent years, both schools have seen a mixed picture in terms of reports of transgressive behaviour. For example, Codarts counted 11 reports in 2019 and 2020 and 20 in 2021. AHK saw the numbers fluctuate from 4 reports in 2019, 14 in 2020 and 10 in 2021.

Widely picked up

The polytechnics’ joint response to the council took two days, while it took almost five months from the State Secretary for Culture Uslu.

Yesterday she wrote in a letter to parliament: “The events in the sector are not isolated; they are part of a problem that can be found in all sectors, in society as a whole. The subject is therefore widely addressed by the cabinet.”

The theater company Nationale Theater Amsterdam and ArTEZ University of Applied Sciences in Arnhem were also contacted for this article, but they did not respond.

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