When Finnish Masculinity Shows its Teeth

Sometimes I am amazed by the virulence of masculinist heteronormativity in Finland. I am well familiar with the impregnable steadfastness of the Finnish man, or the way media feeds people with this myth. Or is it like they say: patriarchy feeds insecurity so that to born more patriarchy?

In this case, the CEO of the Alma Media trust, Mr Kai Telanne, had a sudden change of mind. As such, he decided to cancel Mrs Johanna Korhonen’s appointment as the editor-in-chief for the Rovaniemi-based Lapin Kansa even before she started her job. Mrs Korhonen previously worked as the editor-in chief for Journalisti, the newspaper of the Finnish Union of Journalists.

Her sins allegedly are first that she lives in a registered partnership with another woman. And second, that her partner is politically involved. It appears that Alma Media suddenly discovered irregularities and dishonest remarks made by Korhonen during her job interview and thus decided it could not allow her to be at the helm of the news paper in northern Finland. According to Korhonen, the CEO offered to the already-dismissed-future-editor-in-chief a severance contract worth some EUR 100,000.

The English version of Helsingin Sanomat has a very different take on the issue- here- and reveals that political engagement cannot be a reason, since the spouse of another editor-in-chief of an Alma Media-owned newspaper is politically active at local level. This despite that Mr Telanne underlined the requirement of neutrality on behalf of the editors’ spouses. In a later article in Hufvudstadsbladet- här- Alma Media’s leadership evasively argues that there will be no consequences for the editor-in-chief (a man in this case) whose spouse (a woman) is involved in local politics. So then, why a woman who is in a registered partnership with another woman is punished for her partner’s involvement in politics? Is male-dominated business deciding who is allowed to be politically active in Finland? Will it allow lesbians, and other lgbt persons to do that?

A second comment comes from the acting editor-in-chief of Lapin Kansa, Heikki Tuomi-Nikula, in an interview given to YLE (see web article in Swedish här; Finnish link disabled). While being very critical to Mr Telanne arguing even for his resignation, he perplexed with another remark. Concerning Mrs Korhonen’s official coming out, he manifested his skepticism arguing that a lesbian editor-in-chief of a newspaper like Lapin Kansa will have a hard time to prove that she is not only representing the newspaper, but the whole Finnish Lapland.

Now I must confess I am very confused. So a middle-aged Finnish man can claim that during his work at the helm of a newspaper in Lapland- and he has been there since 1984- he has represented the whole region. A region with quite a diverse population, with both men and women, and most probably both heterosexuals and lgbt persons, to keep the dichotomy at a very simplistic level. So I am wondering how a middle-aged straight Finnish man can represent the whole (!!!) Finnish Lapland? And then what does a lesbian woman – otherwise a successful journalist and former editor-in-chief at some other newspaper- lack so that she cannot represent the aforementioned region? To my mind the notions of hyper-inflated masculinist pride are tightly connected to some sort of national northern messianism and give room to comments like the one above. Otherwise why would be a straight middle-aged man more representative than a lesbian woman?

I wonder what would happen if all lgbt people and their families and friends in Lapland would decided that Lapin Kansa’s present editor-in-chief no longer represents them and decide to stop buying the newspaper. How would Mr Tuomi-Nikkula solve this issue?

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Friday, October 3rd, 2008 Miscellaneous