Monday, April 27, 2009

Outrage over Freedom of Expression Award winner Nina Karin Monsen

I am a big advocate of freedom of speech. Even though I am often annoyed and sometimes even outraged by the garbage people say both in private and in public, I still feel that everyone has the right to do so. I might not agree with what they are saying, but who are we – as a society - to decide which opinions are more valuable or more worthy of being expressed.

However, there is a huge difference between giving someone the right to broadcast their ignorant, prejudiced and/or hateful opinions, and awarding someone for it. The latter is exactly what has happened in Norway, the country that up until now I’d only envisioned as this beautiful liberal lesbian utopia, where all women are living in total happiness being awesome and hot.

Time for a reality check. Let me explain to you what I am talking about.

There is an award in Norway called the “Freedom of Expression Award” that is handed out each year to someone who’s made an exceptional contribution to sharing their specific opinions and beliefs with the public.

Apparently, it is one of the most prestigious awards you can receive and if generally thought of in high regard. This year’s winner, however, is a controversial choice to say the least.

Nina Karin Monsen is this year’s winner of the FOE award, which comes with a 400,000 crones (a little over 45,000 Euro) cheque for her “reflective and independent contribution to a freer public debate.”

The jury of the Freedom of Expression Award declared, “She is an example of the costs of participating in public debate with independent opinions in a society that is characterized by self-censorship and anxiety about voicing strong opinions about sensitive issues”.

Nina Karin Monsen [Photo: Rune Berentesn/Bergens Tidende]

You might wonder what could possibly be those ‘sensitive issues’ that the jury feels could use some strong opposition? Well, last year Monsen was very active in the public debate about both the gender neutral marriage law (that Norway has since passed) and artificial fertilization for lesbians, claiming things like, “the law would destroy kids as it would deny them the right to a father.”

She has introduced charming terms like “design children” and has been spreading her negative propaganda for years. In addition, she has claimed that homosexual love is inferirior to heterosexual love, and is in fact hedonistic.

Trust me when I say there are many more horrible and ignorant things this woman has had to say over the years. I will not repeat every bit of nonsense that has come out of her mouth, but suffice to say that this is not really the kind of person you want to see rewarded for their despicable behaviour.

This has also been the general opinion, especially from the LGBT community, saying she is in her right to claim the things that she does, but it’s outrageous that someone should be awarded for spouting such discrimination and hate. Giving Monsen the award has also been described as “making a mockery of gays and lesbians, and an attack on the Freedom of Expression values.”

Even though many from the LGBT community have stood up to voice their outrage and disappointed over Monsen receiving the award, one woman in particular is actually trying to do something about it.

Jazz musician Lisa Dillan has put an open call on the website Opprop.no on which she has started a petition. She hopes to collect as many signatures as possible of people who agree Monsen does not deserve the award. The petition will then be handed to the Freedom of Expression people before the official award ceremony takes place on May 5.

Lisa Dillan [Photo: Geir Dillan]

In an interview with Blikk she explains that she started the petition because she has heard some of Monsen’s statements and opinions. “She not only harasses homosexuals, but also prostitutes and men who donate sperm.” “What is so reflective about calling the LGBT community vulgar and demonic?” Dillan asks. She has a really good point.

Dillan explains that for her it is all about the declaration of human rights that is in the Norwegian constitution. Everyone is supposed to be equal with the same rights, and they should all act towards one another in the spirit of brotherhood. She feels that a Freedom of Expression award should be given to someone who has worked to uphold these principles, not oppose it.

Besides the website with the petition, Dillan has also started a facebook page. Be sure to visit both sites and let your voice be heard. So far, neither initiative has resulted in a huge number of supporters. I am guessing this is mainly due to a lack of publicity about it, as I find it hard to believe there really aren’t more people outraged about this.

It is very unlikely Monsen will not get her award, but it would be nice to at least see some more public outrage or even official disapproval of those people and institutions that matter.

This article was first published on eurOut.

1 comment:

jennifer from pittsburgh said...

Let her have her award. And then let that be a call to those who ever feel complacent in their hard won rights. There are always those who will emerge to take from you what is yours.