Finnish Actors Unions' survey: There is discrimination and racism in the industry
Finnish Actors Union conducted a survey on ethnic and cultural diversity in actors work in Finland. The survey reveals that that there is discrimination and racism in the industry. Actors belonging to a minority report facing problems breaking in and working in the acting industry.
Racism and discrimination are still not recognised nor intervened. Workplaces are not aware of the problems and do not have a strategy to solve discrimination issues. Employers do not recognise their own responsibility.
The industry needs more knowledge, discussion, and general change in attitudes. Clear directions and ways to handle problems are needed.
Intervening inequity should be safe. The precarious position of freelancers makes it difficult for them to address the problems.
Results from the survey:
1. Racism and discrimination is not recognised or (wanted to be) seen
”Nobody knows how to do my hair or plan a make-up for my skin colour.”
67 % of ethnic minorities stated that they feel that it is not clear to everyone in their working community what is condescending and discriminatory language. 83 % of the respondents belonging to ethnic minorities stated that directors and executives do not have norm critical training and/or knowledge.
”People are afraid of offending minorities so for the sake of their own comfort they keep the minorities outside.”
Discrimination occurs as e.g. bullying, exclusion and inappropriate speech such as name calling and racist jokes.
“The n-word is being used in my workplace, also by the executive.”
2. Workplaces lack strategies to handle discrimination
Most of the respondents did not know who to contact when discrimination occurs.
“I have not heard about a diversity plan or safer space guideline in any of my workplaces.”
“I would have liked to feel supported by colleagues. Any action on my behalf, no matter how small, would have been very helpful.”
“Currently there are no sanctions on indirect discrimination, so it is easier to operate in the old ways.”
3. Casting and programming does not pay attention to discriminatory practices
“A producer has said to me that I am not as relatable to Finnish people because of the colour of my skin.”
“Ethnicities and the stories of minorities are not discussed, and they are not pursued to the program.”
83 % of ethnic minorities reported that they have less work opportunities because of their background. 75 % of ethnic minorities expressed that they do not think diversity and norm criticism is considered when making decisions of the program.
”The only norm critical discussion has happened by my own initiative and within a small group. Sometimes the attitude towards it is openly hostile. Even if the attitude is positive there is no larger commitment to it in the production. At worst all the work is left to those members of the crew who do not belong to the norm (that often consists of max. 2 people) whether it is part of their job description.”
People who belong to a language minority felt that there is a large pressure to speak perfect Finnish. Many respondents felt that the industry only values Finnish education.
”Education from abroad is underestimated.”
Finnish Actors Union commits to promote equality and prevent discrimination
The union board is very worried about the survey results and wants to do their part on preventing discrimination.
”The problems are taken seriously. We want to promote discussion that reaches the whole field. All actors have the right to have a safe and equal work life”, says Antti Timonen, the chair of the Finnish Actors Union.
Even one case of discrimination is too many. Finnish Actors Union will start a long-term plan to work towards equality in the acting field. (The field needs more knowledge, discussion, and general change in attitudes.) The union aims to increase knowledge and understanding on racism and discrimination issues. The unions action plan consists of education, events, networking, and communications.
“The sooner the productions and theatres get information and understanding on these issues the sooner the change will happen.”
Finnish Actors Union’s board reminds employers of their responsibility and urges all employers to provide clear directions and strategies for preventing and intervening discrimination and racism. Employers must also guarantee that intervening issues is safe.
We invite employers to prepare a manual for inclusive casting.
The Finnish Actors Union’s board wants to thank everyone who shared their difficult experiences.
“It has not been easy for me to answer this questionnaire as it has made me re-live stressful, humiliating, sad situations, which make me feel rejected and which affect me emotionally.”
Read the report:
Ethnic and cultural diversity in the field of acting in Finland -report (PDF)