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“It was entirely his fault”: constructing white masculinities and the Haga man assaults in Umeå, Sweden 1998-2006
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Geography and Economic History, Economic and social geography.
2013 (English)In: Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, ISSN 0966-369X, E-ISSN 1360-0524, Vol. 20, no 2, 178-194 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Several cases of single repeat offenders in urban space have raised public concern in Sweden during recent decades. Few studies have been conducted on the consequences of the hostage situations' that emerge when one individual offender causes fear and affects a large group of people in a specific place. The concern of this article is to examine consequences of the Haga Man phenomenon: the case of a serial rapist operating between 1998 and 2006 in Umea, a medium-sized Swedish city. The article focuses on the construction of white masculinities among male respondents in Umea during the time of the attacks. I examine how men positioned themselves in relation to the public image of the offender as a normal Swede' and how they related to women's increasing fear of violence in urban space. Three prominent constructions of masculinity emerged from the research data: the dangerous stranger, the suspect and the protector. These three constructions of masculinity were not clear-cut and did not belong' to specific men several of the interviewees articulated various forms of masculinities but stressed them in different ways depending on, for instance, age and/or ethnicity/race. I conclude that men largely positioned themselves as protectors as a strategy to distance themselves from the perpetrator (the image of the normal Swedish man' performing the rapes) and to ensure that they would not be perceived as suspects. However, men largely perceived that women's increased fear of crime was one man's fault' and broader issues about gendered power relations in space were not raised.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2013. Vol. 20, no 2, 178-194 p.
Keyword [en]
the geography of fear, gender, masculinity, whiteness, narrative analysis, Sweden
National Category
Gender Studies Human Geography Social Sciences
Research subject
Social and Economic Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-48588DOI: 10.1080/0966369X.2012.674931ISI: 000317268400003OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-48588DiVA: diva2:451305
Note

Ingick som manuskript i avhandlingen "Fear of violence and gendered power relations". 

Available from: 2011-10-25 Created: 2011-10-25 Last updated: 2017-12-08Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Fear of violence and gendered power relations: Responses to threat in public space in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Fear of violence and gendered power relations: Responses to threat in public space in Sweden
2011 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Rädsla för våld och könade maktrelationer : Hantering av hot i det offentliga rummet i Sverige
Abstract [en]

Several cases of single repeat offenders in urban space have raised public concern in Sweden during recent decades. Few studies have been conducted on consequences of the kind of ‘hostage situations’ that emerge when one individual offender causes fear and affects a larger group of people in a specific place. The concern of this thesis is to examine consequences of the Haga Man phenomenon: the case of a serial rapist operating between 1998 and 2006 in Umeå, a medium-sized Swedish city. This thesis explores some of the ways not only women but also men in Umeå responded to this specific situation, the threat from a single repeat offender, and how fear of crime and changing public crime discourses influenced gendered power relations. The thesis examines different aspects of fear and safety in public space, such as the views of those who are fearful; of those who are feared; perceptions of both women’s and men’s bodies; their emotions and experiences in relation to fear of violence in public spaces; and the significance of space and place for our understanding of fear. The empirical data of this thesis consist of in-depth interviews with a total of 47 women and men in Umeå.

The thesis is based on four empirical studies. The first (Paper I) sought to identify similarities and differences across narratives in terms of the major components of young people’s talk about fear.  In their stories women positioned themselves as fearful and in need of protection, while men in their stories positioned themselves as fearless protectors. Men and women reproduced ways of speaking considered appropriate to their gender, thus performing masculinity and femininity through their talk. Paper II, examines consequences of the Haga Man phenomenon on constructions of white masculinities. Three masculine positions; the dangerous stranger, the suspect and the protector were identified. These three constructions of masculinity were not clear-cut or ‘belonging’ to specific men – several of the interviewees articulated various forms of masculinities but stressed them in different ways depending on, for instance, age and/or ethnicity/race. Paper III, focuses on changing perceptions and representations of female and male bodies, and illustrates how a change took place; from a focus on how women should conduct themselves to be safe, towards men’s bodily behaviour in order to present themselves in non-threatening ways. In Paper IV, women’s fear of violence is discussed in relation to Swedish gender equality discourses and contextual constructions of femininity. The results show the difficulties of claiming the official position of a gender-equal femininity. Several female respondents expressed an ambivalent attitude about their own fear; they felt afraid, but also felt that as (equal) women they should be able to do what they wanted, whenever they wanted.  Result from this thesis shows that this situation produced a shared approach to fear for women of different ages, classes and ethnicities in Umeå. The similarity in the women’s responses to the threat from the Haga Man is as an expression of a normative femininity. The male respondents did on the other hand express complex emotional positions as they talked about their own fears, women’s fear of unknown men and how they felt they were under suspicion and compared to the perpetrator. As this thesis provides an understanding of how men and women responded and reacted to the threat from the Haga man, it contributes to a better understanding of how fear of violence affects people in their everyday lives.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Kulturgeografiska Institutionen, Umeå Unversitet, 2011
Series
GERUM, ISSN 1402-5205 ; 2011:3
Keyword
The geography of fear, gender relations, fear of violence, whiteness, gender equality, masculinity, femininity, narrative analysis, Sweden
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
Social and Economic Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-48591 (URN)978-91-978344-7-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2011-11-18, Samhällsvetarhuset, Hörsal C, Umeå Universitet, Umeå, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2011-10-28 Created: 2011-10-25 Last updated: 2014-02-24Bibliographically approved

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