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Organisers press on with Turku men's equality event after university pulls out

An organiser of a planned debate on equality from a male perspective said news outlets falsely characterised the event as critical of the #metoo movement.

Johan Nyman arrangerar i Åbo en debatt om jämställdhet ur mansperspektiv.

A controversial event looking at "equality from men's perspective" will go ahead in Turku despite a local university banning the panel discussion from its premises after a media outcry, say organisers.

Johan Nyman, a board member of the group Intresseföreningen för jämställdhet vid Åbo Akademi (roughly Interest association for equality at Åbo Akademi), said its planned discussion forum event on equality will still be held in Turku, despite Åbo Akademi University's announcement on Monday that it would not permit it to take place on school property. Svenska Yle, Finland's public broadcaster's Swedish-language unit, is also planning to continue its participation in organising the discussion.

"It's good that the matter was discussed at the highest level [of the university], it was important to [test the waters] and now the decision has been made. We have been prepared for this. [The cancellation] does not affect the event itself, but it won't take place on Åbo Akademi's premises," Nyman said.

He said the event "Equality from a man's perspective - a provocative truism?" (roughly translated) is intended to draw attention to gender equality from a man's perspective.

"It is not the intention of the event, or of the group arranging it, to offend in any way. I can imagine that part of the criticism is [related to] the local press advertising it as a #metoo-critical event," he said.

News about outrage over the event, which was planned to be held at an Åbo Akademi auditorium later this month, was published by Turku's Swedish-language local paper Åbo Underrättelser on Monday morning.

The story received a good deal of discussion on social media - both for and against - with many urging the educational institution not to quell discussion on the sensitive topic of gender equality.

Those upset about the event were concerned about the debate topic itself as well as its participants, which includes the Swedish TV personality and controversial #metoo sceptic Alexander Bard.

Later on Monday, the university announced it had cancelled plans to host the event.

Story continues after photo.

Alexander Bard
Swedish media personality and #metoo sceptic Alexander Bard.

Svenska Yle to continue as event co-arranger

Hasse Sundqvist, who produces the Svenska Yle radio show covering the event, said he was surprised by the university's decision to pull out.

"I'm a little surprised. No one has said a word in this debate yet. But maybe people are offended over Alexander Bard who is controversial. Bard represents a large portion of today's younger men," Sundqvist said, saying that the debate will be held, but its intention is not to offend anyone.

"The decision that the event can't be held at the university is an unpleasant one, but we will continue to look into the possibilities of finding a new location and getting more guests," Sundqvist said, adding that Bard is still scheduled to participate.

"We think that the debate is important and that it is part of a larger phenomenon. Many young men feel lost in today's society and need to be heard. These are the problems that we want to open up and discuss," Sundqvist said.

The Yle producer said that the event is not a debate on #metoo but rather one about equality from a male perspective held on International Men's Day, 19 November.

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