Our series of interviews with Thursdays in Black ambassadors highlights those who are playing a vital role in increasing the impact of our collective call for a world without rape and violence.
Anders Göranzon is the general secretary of the Swedish Bible Society.
Is there a trajectory in the way in which you have perceived gender inequalities in your life? How has this developed in your mind?
Rev. Dr Göranzon: I grew up in a rather conservative environment. When I look back I can see [that my father] believed that the man should be the head of the family. When I became a father myself - we have five children - I had to take a stand for another kind of engagement. It has changed me in the way I look at what a man is and what a woman is. I felt very comfortable and at ease when I was at home. I can never regard that as a women’s world, that women should be more loving and caring than men. When I was working in South Africa the last time, I was teaching in a university, and we were speaking about these things. I heard many young men telling me about other experiences where they were doing things regarded as “women's work” or “women’s things.” I think maybe we have those stories and we have been exposed to different masculinities but we aren’t telling people about them because we are so exposed to other kinds of more destructive masculinities.
When did you first become involved in the fight for gender justice?
Rev. Dr Göranzon: I think I have to go back to my first encounter with the liberation struggle in South Africa in the 1980s in Cape Town with the Church of Sweden. When I went back to Sweden, I had to reconsider a number of positions I had at the time. I meditated on how we, in Sweden, oppress people based on gender or sexual orientation, or anything, really. That is, for me, where it all started.
Why do you think Thursdays in Black is stronger as an ecumenical effort?
Rev. Dr Göranzon: The struggle against apartheid was very ecumenical. I took part in workshops and breakfasts in Cape Town in which Jews and Muslims and Christians discussed apartheid and prayed together. So, I have always had this sense that we become stronger if we work together throughout my years as a priest in the Church of Sweden as well. Advocacy against gender-based violence and gender inequalities has become stronger in me more and more throughout the years. One crucial event was a conference in 2012 when I listened to somebody who had been very involved with the World Council of Churches, who was asking: “Who is missing at the table,” and saying many women are missing at the table. But at some tables, men are missing, because, in some sense, men exclude themselves.
What happens when you wear black on Thursdays, or don your pin?
Rev. Dr Göranzon: It’s a simple thing to do, to get dressed in black every Thursday, to wear the pin. it starts a lot of conversations. People want to come closer, to read the pin. Many people express gratitude and ask where they can get their own pin. For me, it’s an easy way of doing at least something to show where I stand.
I see Thursdays in Black as one small contribution in the world. There are other movements - like #MeToo for instance - which I think is a very good initiative. I think governments, churches, countries, it has to be done on many different levels. Thursdays in Black can be a part of the broader picture. As a church, we can talk about what we believe, about how we read the Bible but it comes to what we make of that knowledge and insight in every aspect of Christian life.
What motivates you to continue promoting Thursdays in Black?
Rev. Dr Göranzon: Thursdays in Black is a help for anyone who wants to protest against patriarchal structures. Being a privileged man, I felt very offended a number of years ago when I read in a magazine that the most dangerous place for a woman is in her own home. But I had to admit that it was true, statistically. I said to myself: “I don't want to contribute to this inequality.” I realise that I, being male, am part of the problem. But I am also part of the solution. Change is possible. I have friends and relatives who have been sexually assaulted and abused. If making a statement every Thursday can stop one person from becoming a perpetrator, it is worth it. I would like to wake up on a Thursday and think: "I don’t need to wear this pin,” but we aren’t there yet. Most probably we won’t come there during my lifetime. But every person I can influence, maybe it’s another man, if it can stop him from saying something or doing something bad, it’s worthwhile to do it.
To learn more about Thursdays in Black ambassadors, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.