Is Kevin Backstrom sexist? Does he deserve his punishment? Let us know your thoughts and we’ll give a Whitelines mug to the best comment.
UPDATE (04/03/2013): Since we published this article, a couple of Swedish readers have called our attention to a (pretty telling) detail of the controversy that we missed – a photo that Kevin Backstrom supposedly uploaded to his instagram feed briefly before taking it down, as well as an (also now-deleted) blog slagging off journalists.
The photo in question definitely sounds more incriminating than anything else he posted. According to commenter ‘Ems’ below, it was “a cartoon of a blonde girl saying “what is the difference between me and a mosquito? The mosquito will stop sucking if you hit it”.
Even if (as we’re guessing) it was intended as a ‘joke’ by Kevin, it’s in pretty hideously bad taste.
And while we believe that posting it was probably a misguided (rather than a deliberately misogynistic) move, this certainly goes some way to explaining the Swedish team’s decision to kick him out.
Whether that decision is fair or not is of course still open to debate.
Kevin Backstrom is in trouble again. Back in October last year, he was censured by the Swedish snowboard team and jumped on by the press in his home country for visiting a strip club. And now he finds himself at the centre of a renewed media shit storm, again because of his perceived attitude to women.
Three days ago the homepage of the Swedish tabloid Expressen splashed with the headline above, which translates as: “Kicked [off the team] For His Attitude to Women”.
Apparently his well-publicised fondness for posting pictures of semi-naked women on his instagram feed and his blog has so outraged sections of Swedish society that the national snowboard team took the decision to boot him out.
In an interview on Swedish Radio 2 and on his blog, Kevin tried to explain that far from hating women “I love them more than anything” and pointed out that all of the photos he posts (many of which are of his girlfriend, who’s a model) are posted with the women’s consent. He said:
These ass photos I post are photos I get sent to me from girls who want me to post em. Do you think it’s wrong that I post all these photos?
As he sees it, “an extreme group started to send the national team emails about that I was a woman hater and they got scared of that and kicked me out”.
But while his Facebook page and instagram feed have been showered with messages of support, the team is clearly not budging. His team-mate and best friend Tor Lundstrom even quit in solidarity with Kevin, but to no avail – for now it looks like neither will be going anywhere near Sochi next winter.
Which is – at least for these two uber-talented young shreds – a massive shame. Whether its a shame for Swedish snowboarding (and snowboarding as a whole) too is an interesting question.
Sweden is a country that’s rightfully proud of its record on women’s rights and gender equality. Their culture is noticeably different to ours in the UK. Expressen may be the Swedish equivalent of the Sun, but there’s no way you’d find Page 3 girls posing in there.
In fact, the official Swedish government website dedicates a whole section to explaining their admirable equality laws. It reads:
Gender equality is one of the cornerstones of Swedish society [and the country] has one of the highest levels of gender equality in the world.
So we can see why some Swedes may feel uncomfortable with Kevin representing their country at the Olympics. Of course, some would argue that this is precisely why snowboarding shouldn’t be in the Olympics at all. Because expecting riders to act like squeaky-clean athletes rather than punky little kids changes the fundamental character of the sport.
But even leaving aside all that, doesn’t kicking him off the team seem like a bit of an over-reaction?
We at Whitelines wouldn’t post pictures of girls’ asses all over our instagram feed, it’s true. That’s not really our style, and we’d feel a bit uncomfortable doing it.
But is there anything really wrong with a young dude posting pictures of consenting adults when they aren’t pornography, they don’t contravene instagram’s own terms of service and they aren’t anything worse than what you’d see on the front cover of FHM or the Daily Sport in any newsagent?
Certainly, when DJ Diplo fills his instagram feed with pictures of girls asses that they send to him to post, no-one bats an eyelid.
But then he’s a superstar DJ, not an athlete. Do the rules different for snowboarders because around the Olympics they suddenly become representatives of their countries? If so, is that right?
Basically, is this the kind of behaviour professional snowboarders, as role-models, shouldn’t indulge in? Or are the Swedish team just massively over-reacting to an artificial controversy whipped up by the media? Has Kevin just been set-up by a bunch of unscrupulous hacks who smelt a scurrilous story?
What do you think? Is Kevin Backstrom sexist? Is his instagram feed exploitative? Does he deserve to be punished? Let us know your opinions in the comments section below and the best one will win a Whitelines mug.