Investigating transgressive behavior in the cultural sector

  • policy & politics

On June 21, the Council for Culture offered its advice on transgressive behavior in the cultural and creative sector. Transgressive behavior in the sector is a persistent and urgent problem that cannot be solved easily.


The mounting number of reports recently shows only the tip of the iceberg. That's according to the advisory Across the border, moving toward a shared culture. 

Transgressive behavior, according to the opinion, is not just about sexual harassment and abuse. It can also include bullying, racism, sexism, discrimination and other forms of undesirable behavior that create an unsafe work environment. Victims often develop physical and mental symptoms such as stress, burnout and depression. 

In doing so, curators, teachers, and artistic directors necessarily act as gatekeepers, creating unequal power relations

It occurs in other sectors as well, but in the culture and media sector there are specific risk factors that create additional vulnerability, the council states. For example, the sector often selects from a large supply of talent, while there are only a limited number of places to play and show. Curators, teachers and artistic directors necessarily act as gatekeepers, which creates unequal power relations. Especially if they act, consciously or unconsciously, on the basis of prejudice and stereotyping, an unsafe working environment is created. In addition, there are often loose labour relations and job insecurity. Self-employed workers are particularly vulnerable. The sector is also characterized by a strong performance culture and in many genres physical contact is an inseparable part of the work. 

Out of fear, discomfort and shame, victims often do not dare to report unwanted behavior and bystanders look the other way. In this respect, the council refers to a culture of silence. Existing structures focused on social safety, such as hotlines and confidants, moreover, are often not well found, or they lack the confidence to use it. 

Recommendations to institutions

Talk about it 

The council advocates a culture change within the entire culture and media sector. Employees in all segments of the sector must become more aware of their own and each other's boundaries. This starts with having a good conversation about safety and desired and undesired behavior. This creates an open culture in which employees feel free to call each other to account for their behavior. Managers must create a culture of participation and dissent. Employees should have to undergo training to teach such interviewing techniques to learning.

Broaden the canon 

Cross-border behavior in the form of discrimination and racism is facilitated because training programs and institutions still too often use a limited, Western frame of reference. If there is a greater appreciation of other perspectives and traditions, then make the culture and media sector as a whole a safer place for all creators. 

Improve the employment status of workers in the sector 

Many employees in the culture and media sector have flexible employment. A self-employed person is vulnerable and therefore extra susceptible to transgressive behavior. Therefore, make fair pay spearhead the policy and ensure the rights to a safe work environment, including for self-employed individuals. 

Recommendations to arts education

Require a didactic endorsement 

Teachers at art schools should not only have professional experience, but also didactic knowledge. A didactic endorsement for all those working in art education, including teachers with small appointments, should therefore be made mandatory. 

Recommendations to the State

Provide structural support for hotline Mores 

Mores has developed in a short time into the central reporting point for undesirable behavior. Further professionalization is now needed. To further increase the visibility of the hotline and to guarantee its independence, structural support of Mores is required. 

Do research 

Little data is available regarding transgressive behavior in the culture and media sector. The need to structural and recurrent research is great. To this end, a knowledge center should be established to monitor developments in the field of transgressive behavior, and ensures the provision of information on this topic inside and outside the industry.

National Action Plan 

On June 27, Ministers Dijkgraaf (OCW) and Van Gennip (SZW) presented proposals for the culture change necessary to address the issue of sexual transgression and sexual violence throughout society. With a National Action Plan, they want to strengthen laws and regulations, targeted actions, and a social conversation about standards how we interact with each other in a pleasant and respectful way deal. Both ministers, on behalf of the cabinet, are making outlines of the National Action Plan. This summer, the cabinet will, in consultation with the government commissioner, in conversation with as many possible stakeholders to move the action plan forward. It will be presented in the fall. 

Download the advice here Across the border, on the way to a shared culture

More about the National Action Plan

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