wiikkis ⎮ Riikka Wallin

Cultural management and concepts

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Thoughts about Conchita Wurst winning the ESC

Saturday I was out watching the Eurovision Song Contest at DTM, the biggest gay bar in Helsinki. There is something magical about the ESC. I’ve watched it since I was little and living in Sweden I remember watching the national competition while on holidays with my family up in the North in a small and cosy cabin after skiing all day. It was something we did together as a family. For me, at almost 30, there is still something magical about ESC even though I recognize that most of the music isn’t very good.

And last weekend, Conchita Wurst won. And that was a magical moment. Each and every time she got 8, 10 or 12 points from someone the cheers took over the bar. I even had tears in my eyes as we realized that she will win.

And of course, right when we found out about her winning the discussion started.

“She won because of politics, just as a protest against Putin”.
“Putin can flush himself down the toilet – freedom and tolerance won tonight”
“We all knew that the Phoenix is unbeatable”
“Usually, especially the mid-left wing, tolerance is, that the right wing has to tolerate for instance same-sex marriage, but the left-mid wing cannot tolerate countries where it is not legal.”

For me this win was a victory! It was a victory for understanding, freedom of expression and shows there is a lot of empathy in Europe!
(I hate the word “tolerance” since it means that there is something that is totally wrong that someone should tolerate. I don’t want to be tolerated. I want to be understood and l want people to let me live my life as I prefer with whomever I chose to share my life with, and I’ll show others the same courtesy.)

Bringing up the card that left-wing people don’t tolerate the right wing opinions is a low blow in this case. I think no one was against people starting and signing a petition to ban the Eurovision from TV in certain countries. It’s everyone’s right to express their opinions as long as it’s not attacking a group of people and encouraging violence. Just as it was everyone’s right to vote for Conchita Wurst as a political statement. Although I don’t think Conchita and the song won just because she is a drag artist, I think the song won because it’s a good song in Eurovision standards and had a theme which has always been popular in the ESC and despite her being in drag. And yes, I’m also sure that many voted for her just to show support.

The problem when using the the-lefties/liberals-don’t-tolerate-right-wing-opinions card in this case, and insinuating or saying out loud that they are against freedom of speech is totally ridiculous in this case. The problem with Russia is that it’s not an open discussion where both sides are able to express their opinions right now. Laws and regulations are forbidding anyone to talk about LGBT people in a positive light, and lgbt people are not allowed to show who they really are or live in peace as they are in their own home country. People will always have differing opinions because we are brought up differently, live in different environments and have different values, and that’s totally okay as long as everyone can express those opinions and feelings peacefully. And I think it’s important to have these discussions between people of differing opinions. That way we can learn to understand each other even if we don’t agree, and maybe never will.

And this restriction to the right of freedom of speech is now not only concerning LGBT people and issues, it’s just the most visible part of the whole thing. Last week (if I remember correctly) Putin signed a law that forbids usage of curse words in any media or artworks, including books and theatre pieces (read the BBC article here). Those already created must have warning signs on them if they do contain any curse words, but new content created can’t have curse words at all. Also several officials from the Russian cultural ministry favoured censoring certain children’s literature including Astrid Lindgren’s Karlsson On-The-Roof and Donald Duck because they don’t support Russian traditional family values enough (original article in Swedish). So again, this is then not anymore about an open discussion and voicing opinions, but about censorship.

And worst of all; all of this leads to a lot of violence in Russia at the moment. LGBT people, especially gay men are attacked, physically violated and persecuted. An open discussion is always good! Voicing one’s opinion should always be permitted unless it’s attacking groups of people and urges towards violence. Violence is never okay! Censorship isn’t either!