Sofia Hultin

Stockholm’s Synchronized Swimming Team for Men apologizes (2013)

Sofia: I will not do a performance. Instead Svante Larsson from Stockholm’s Synchronized Swimming Team for Men will read you a letter that he wrote himself and that he would like to read for you.

Svante: Hello. I’m Svante Larsson and tonight I’m representing Stockholm’s Synchronized Swimming Team for Men which is Sweden’s only synchronized swimming team for men. You probably know  about us because since our start in 2003, we’ve done a lot more than just synchronized swimming.  We’ve performed at Hultsfredsfestivalen, done the show “Between men” with Dansens Hus, we did the show “Wet dreams” at Centralbadet , performed  at Kulturfestivalen in Stockholm, performed at Orionteatern and we’ve participated in numerous art events both in pools but also on regular stages. We’ve participated in fashion shows and done the show “Music by the water” in Kristianstad together with a brass orchestra. We have performed at Västeråsfestivalen, Malmöfestivalen, Eskilstuna stadsfestival and at the music festival  Popaganda.

We have gotten a lot of attention through the years. SVT’s show Kobra did a documentary mini series about our first year as a synchronized swimming team in 2004. Two years later SVT also made the documentary “Us in the meat float” about our trip to Athens where we were forbidden to participate in the Olympics but instead performed a “protest swim”. Several of Sweden’s most influential news papers have made big reportages about us and one of them even got the Best photo of the year award in 2005. In 2008 the feature film “The Swimsuit Issue” by Måns Herngren came out which was based on our story and in 2010 the documentary “Men who swim” was shown on movie theatres in Sweden. After that it was screened on SVT and has since then been screened in 22 other countries and won several awards. We’ve appeared on CNN, EUROsport and in several other foreign media. Soon you will also be able to see us in TV3’s new show “Celebrity diving” were celebrities will train and compete in high diving.

Everything we’ve done has generated a lot of attention in the media in the form of reviews, chronicles and stories. There seams to be no end to the massive interest that has followed us since the start. And this is the thing that I’ve come here to talk to you about tonight. After ten years in the team a feeling in me has grown stronger. It’s about how people in general, but the media in particular has talked about us like we were some kind of heroes. Are we heroes? Do we deserve this attention?

Often when white privileged med from the middleclass does something that has mostly been done by women, people react like it has never been done before. Cooking, baking, performing synchronized swimming. People encourage this. Probably because it’s easy to see these things as some sort of feministic progress. The problem is just that while people are cheering over the sourdough  bread my wife is cleaning the bowls, vacuuming the hallway  while planning this weeks grocery shopping. The things I do are things that give a very clear result and that are easy to get credit for. None of them are about doing some kind of invisible maintenance work like cleaning, washing, picking up the kids from day care or something like that. It’s also important that the things I do are not things that “have to” be done. It’s not like we can’t or can’t afford to buy bread, sausage, jam or beer from the store. It’s the Saturday night dinner party, it’s the sourdough bread, and it’s the classic responsibility over the barbeque.

What we in Stockholm’s Synchronized Swimming Team for Men do is that we train synchronized swimming. We are not very good at it if you compare of the other teams (consisting of women) that also train and compete.  We also all have fulltime jobs that keeps us from training more than a few hours a week. Our lives does not depend on whether we are good or bad synchronized swimmers. Most of us have well-paid jobs in the media industry or in the cultural field. We don’t risk anything by being bad synchronized swimmers. We can afford to be bad at what we do. It’s even considered as empathic that we look a bit silly. We don’t risk anything by showing our selves as “vulnerable” or “feminine” and we have not struggled to get to where we are today. In our middleclass media world we become heroes that are in touch with our soft, feminine side. In the world of synchronized swimming we are giggled at. We become clowns next to the women who give their lives to a sport than nor generates a lot of money, neither have a lot of status. Also this is something we can afford. What makes us stand out is that we are the only male team in Sweden who train.

But that we have gotten this attention in the media is consequently not a surprise. We are white middle-aged men from the middle-class who’s network consists of the same kind of men of which several work with in the media. We do something that is traditional female, which gives us credit and at the same time we seem unthreatening and funny. We get space and we take space.
So is this attention and the acknowledgement legitimate? No. As a representative for Stockholm’s synchronized swimming team for men I’m here today to tell you that, even if we wont stop training synchronized swimming or stop encouraging guys and men to start clubs with the aim to later be able to compete on the same level as the women, we will stop making the sport into a spectacle , that at it’s best show mushy men with middle-age crisis, and at it’s worst ridicules it. I also want , on mine as well on the teams behalf, to say that we’re sorry that it has come to this. I and the others now understand that just because you get space doesn’t mean you have to take it and just because you get power it doesn’t mean that you have to use it.

I’m sorry.

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