The failure of the MeToo campaign in Estonia

"It's important for women to now raise their voices, stand up and take back what belongs to them," claims Johann Urb, one of the most famous Estonian actors. Sadly, it still sounds like a very novel idea here.

Marian Männi
Marian Männi Eesti Ekspress, Estonia
Source: Eesti Ekspress
The failure of the MeToo campaign
in Estonia - NewsMavens
MeToo. Wikimedia commons

Why this story matters:

When the hashtag MeToo appeared on Estonian social media, I thought that it would be a breakthrough. I hoped Women would openly share their stories of abuse and discrimination, so we could heal together. 

Estonia is still a male-dominated society. It has the biggest gender pay gap in the European Union. Yet, most Estonians don’t seem to notice the problem. We're occupied by other issues.

I like to think that chauvinism is often unintentional or even unconscious here. We just haven't reached the point where the majority of people acknowledge that gender inequalities exist and are holding us all back.

Sadly, the campaign that started with the allegations of sexual harassment against Hollywood's producer Harvey Weinstein, hasn’t brought about change in Estonia. Except for a few opinion pieces that encouraged victims to share their stories of abuse, most comments focused on the fact that the allegations appeared after many years.

Others tried to analyze the campaign, rationalizing it as an online phenomenon. Who is behind this and why is it necessary -- popular (and mostly male) opinion makers wondered.

That's why it was refreshing to read the recommended interview with the Los Angeles-based actor Johann Urb. 40-year-old Urb left Estonia with his family at the age of 10 and made his name as a model and an actor in the US. Thus he has lived most of his life in a Western country, removed from the Eastern European mentality.

"The harmony and the balance in the world have been off for a very long time," he told Estonian daily Päevaleht during a visit to his homeland. “Women are raising their voice and men have to respect that and support this process,” Urb continued.

Empowering women is an important topic to him, especially as he has witnessed power abuse in show business. “For years, everyone in Hollywood knew the stories about Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey,” Urb claims. It was a public secret.

Estonia may be the world leader when it comes to e-governance and e-voting, excelling in innovation and IT, and building a strong education system. But the mentality is catching up very slowly. Urb's interview reminds us of the gap between the West and the East in this regard.

I guess you can't fix everything with hard work. Some things just take time.

Details from the story:

  • Johann Urb has starred in the series CSI:NY, the movie "The Hottie & the Nottie" (2008) with Paris Hilton and many more.
  • Urb is currently taking part in an Estonian movie "Fire Lily".
  • Urb's girlfriend, Rachel Emma Pringle, is an actress, producer and a women’s empowerment coach.
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