By Åsa Sjöberg
I’ve been wanting to write about something that I’m very passionate about. Something that I’ve known I’m here to be a part of, moving into a higher place. Something that my own story is a testament to. Ironically I was going to write about this before all the recent stories broke out, but had to prioritize other things. Everything has its time though, and now I know more than ever what to say about all of this….You might’ve guessed it, I’m referring to all the sexual harassment stories in the entertainment industry, which of course isn’t the only place it’s happening in. I’m going to talk briefly about some of my own experiences, in being part of the “Me Too” movement – coming from a Female Empowerment point of view!
Looking back at my almost 21 years in Los Angeles, I can sadly say that there’s been a lot of sexual harassment in various ways. Yes, plenty in the entertaiment industry – and that’s the main reason why I stepped back from it over 7 years ago. Also, sadly, it’s been looked upon by many: that’s just how it goes in this business. Myself included. I accepted it as something that’s been going on for so long, and also something I didn’t want to be a part of – but I never accepted it as being ok. For me personally, it’s been anything from subtle hints of “going there” with directors, producers or photographers, to land certain gigs, to flat out “indecent proposals” with a lot of money attached. One being a million dollars! That story is actually in my book, “The Booty Chronicles“, and to summarize briefly: I looked him in the eye and told him that he could offer me 2 million dollars – and I wouldn’t take it. And believe me – I’m not a millionaire! God knows that this offer, along with many others, could’ve made my life a lot easier in all of the hard times & struggles. But you know what would’ve been more of a struggle? Dealing with the emotional pain of having sacrificed my own values and integrity.
We’ve lived in a culture where women have been supressed, objecitifed and even owned by men. This is still the case, and sadly the latter still happens in some parts of the world. The equality factor, in places where it’s more possible to change it, has been fought for, hard – and we have made great strides. I’m referring to the right to vote, and hold positions in the work place, just like men, as a couple of examples. There’s still work to be done, no doubt, but we have moved forward. This has been part of women’s empowerment – and now we are in a new era to take it to the next phase. We live in the time of the Aquarian Age, female energy and power coming through from within, having moved from the Piscean Age, a male dominated power over mindset. It’s time for the feminine energy to balance out toxic masculinity, and this is why all of this is happening: breaking the silence of what’s been going on for so long, stepping into more strength and power, over-riding fears, honing in on the truth about who we really are and allowing that to shine – resulting in a higher consciousness and awareness. Saying NO to what needs to go, what has never really served the planet, or humans as a whole, but had a time and a place for the growth of humanity. NOW is the time to change this culture we’ve been living in for so long, where supression and objectification become a thing of the past, just like they did with different groups and different ethnicities. No one is above anybody else.
It’s time for both males and females to take responisbility in moving this along. Here’s what I mean by that. I hear quite a bit now, with all of these stories coming into light, from men (and even from some women): “Not all men do this and shouldn’t be scrutinized.” Of course not all men are included in the sexual harassment category! Here’s the thing though, it’s literally a cultural issue – something that’s been saturated into many people’s existance on different levels. A dear friend of mine, who’s male, and has never done anything of that nature (and someone actively involved in the “Me Too” movement on the women’s side), had something to say about this. (which I’ve also heard from a couple other guys). “I may not have been a part of any direct sexual harassment, but back in the day when I was younger – I knew what was going on, I saw and heard things from friends (and others). I didn’t speak up and things that might’ve appeared as innocent, really weren’t. So going along and accepting it for something that just was, makes me part of that culture, and I take full responibility for that.” I applaud men like these, and we need more of them! Some guys now say: “I don’t know if I can flirt anymore, or hug someone when I see them, as that might be considered harassment.” I think it’s very important not to blur the lines here, as we’re going through this transformation. I believe that most men know the difference between what IS sexual harassment and what ISN’T sexual harassment, don’t you think? At least any man with some sort of awareness. And haven’t the men, particulary certain groups of men, been the most privileged members of society, in all ways? Are we really going to take their word, in defense of this issue now? Another thing that killed me when I read it earlier this week, was a woman (a gynecologist) taking the side of men, by stating things like: ‘men have a different operating system, and as primates – they have instincts, they can’t control their sexual urges (while also stating that rape is not okay, nor are sexual favors in the work place), and that women have brought a lot of sexual attention upon themselves, by wearing short skirts, etc. It’s a “witch hunt” now’, she says. Okay, I’m going to keep the response to this as brief as possible; so should we excuse the men with this sort of behavior and think of them as predators that just can’t control themselves – and would you men want to be looked opon in this simplistic and childish way?! Aren’t there plenty of men who don’t act out on these “primal instincts”? I know quite a few.
On the other side, the 3% who would take advantage of this “letting things come into light” wave, falsely accusing men of harassment, for the sake of 15 mins, money or some other agenda – I don’t support that either. Truth on both sides, is the only way. And this is what I’ve been urging women to do, and continue to do: when there is a proposal, suggestion or anything similar to exchanging sexual favors for advancement in career, get/keep a job, or for money – say NO. It may sound clear cut, and everybody has a different story/different reasons for doing something (along with the “culture” being so ingrained that many women think this is what they have to do). I understand and empathize with that very much. I want to cry for any woman who believes this to be true. I am a woman and I’ve gone through much of this. I’m here to offer help and encouragement, by empowering women to say no, and assist those who have not come into those tools yet. Saying no, is about walking away from what doesn’t honor who we truly are. We are offering this world so much, to this life – where would anybody be without us?! Women are the bringers and nurturers of life – and need to be treated as such – not as objects. Women need to stand together, to strengthen and support one another! And we need men to step in to change this cycle as well, to understand the pain women have been going through. In order to affect change – change must be affected, on every side. With that said, I’m in no way putting blame on women for this, like that gynecologist was doing, simply suggesting that we must all work together to truly change the pattern. There will always be some men who will try, or flat out use their “power”, and what I’m saying is – if some women continue to accept it and say yes to that – it will continue. Now is the time to step up! For women to take back their power – and oh do women possess so much more power than we collectively have been taught. It’s time for men to grow into more of their emotional beings and allow women to flourish in their strengths. Not one over the other! We all have a function, with both strengths and weaknesses. It’s about balance and making it work symbiotically, in harmony, as intended. Anything else has been brought forth by greed, power over and ego. Both genders must take responsibility where it’s needed – with respect for self and others, to change this culture of disbelief into one of empowerment!
To be very clear, I’m talking about saying no when there is a choice. I have, thankfully, never been a victim of rape myself. It’s challenging to imagine what it’s like being a victim of such a horrific act and violation. Unfortunately I know quite a few girls and women who have gone through it. Being a woman and an empath, I can understand and feel the deep psychological pain it inflicts, but I don’t claim to truly know what it’s like. I have done my best by being there with support, compassion and empowerment, and it’s heart-breaking to see what a devastating impact on someone’s life it has, in so many different ways. My prayer is for all the victims to find a sense of peace and empowerment of self, at some point. I’m also in no way comparing my experiences of sexual harassment to sexual assault at all, I’m merely here to voice my part, and hopefully help empower some women along the way – and raise awareness on both sides. This is such a broad issue that is now finally being brought into the light on a major scale – and actions are being taken to start to come onto a different path. In “The Booty Chronicles” I use humor, mainly to describe the attention my derriere has gotten, and I end each one of my chapters with a deeper thread reflecting back on life, lessons and empowerment. When offers of money or situations for sexual favors come, it can feel like a little part of me dies inside. A common thought, and question that has run through my mind: “Is this the only way I can really make my way, to get to where I want to go and really share what I have to offer?!” And the same answer I always come back to is: “HELL NO, IT ISN’T!” I refuse to believe that. Though at times it’s been hard to believe in something else, I’m talking mainly about being in Los Angeles (and in this “culture” that has spilled over in so many other professions and areas) – I’ve had faith deep down, that it is absolutley possible and must be fought for. As sad as it is that it must be fought for, this is part of why I’m here – in this time and in this place. Not long ago I almost left L.A. to go back to Sweden. One of the main reasons was this specific issue. And now I’m excited about some up-coming opportunites presented to me, back in the film business, with some good integrous people! Perhaps the perfect time to come back!
It comes down to truth and honoring everybody – living authentically and in freedom. And everyone has the right to freedom! We are also not being true to ourselves when accepting less than we deserve. We must not distort what isn’t so, and we mustn’t defend that which is. And to defend such acts in the political scene, those who hold power positions and leaders of countries that are supposed to be role models – they need to go immediatley. I’m going to say it again: no one is above anybody else. To be clear, the film and modeling industries aren’t the only areas where this has happened to me personally, it’s also happened privately and in the fitness business. I’ve had guys contact me for training with other agendas in mind – either in subtle ways or more blunt ways. One example from a few years ago, a guy asked me if I would train him wearing lingerie only to make it more fun, and he’d pay me more. I did not train him. I think it’s very important now as well, to be very clear on what’s what. Simply put, sexual harassment and advancements of that kind, have no place in ANY work space, nor in the private sector. When there’s any unwanted advancement, forced or co-erced – it simply is not okay and it needs to stop. This is not to be confused with flirting and dating. We are all sexual beings and wanting companionship, along with so much more, with similar needs. When I have heard from many people, particularly guys: you shouldn’t put out sexy modeling pictures etc, if you don’t want that kind of attention. Another suppressive idea. I am a multi-faceted woman, and to be expressively sexy and sensual in art forms, and in some private situations, is not a sign saying that I’m “free for all”. This is only one small part of who I am. Would you guys who think that way, rather have women always covered up and not expressing that part of themselves, ever? I don’t think so. I expect to get some less than wanted comments and questions about that, it’s just how it goes and how some people are going to be. I have always had a very hard line of what I will and will not do. I can appreciate beautiful nude art, for example, in pictures, sculpures and so on, but I decided very early on that I would not do that. Two reasons are: then it would be even more swimming up the stream against the stereotypes I’ve fought hard to not be put under. And I’d like to save that for private times when I’m with someone to share that with. I have said no to more “opportunities” in the entertainement world than I have said yes to, for these reasons as well. I may be a Swedish blonde small town country girl, who could’ve easily been swept up in things here, going against my truth and sacrificing my values, coming here as a young woman. But those lines have never been blurry for me. I’m grateful for having had the strength to say no, and for how I was raised. Though I never really saw it as strength, as it was just something in me that would not say yes if it’s something that would compromise myself and self-worth. The story of the $1 million question, happened when I was 28. I did not think twice about it. I don’t judge women who choose to pose full nude and things of that nature, that’s their choice and what’s right for them. I come from my perspective and also want to come forth with other things, more important in my opinion – for me and others too I believe, of deeper value and other traits. I’m saying to women and young girls growing up to embrace it all, not to hide some sides of you in fear of being abused, critized and misunderstood. Let it all out: your intelligence, your nurturing, your love, your goofy, your funny, your serious, your sexy, your darkness, your light, your deep soul – it’s all good and needed! Whatever it is, without harm to others of course! And isn’t that the meaning behind all of this? Men too. Be your kick-ass self – and empower others to do the same!
I don’t have children of my own, but I have always felt a strong pull to be an example and help empower those to come. To help cultivate how we look at ourselves and others into a kind and loving society, one of self-fullness (caring about others and our own needs, not one or the other). Not a surprise that I feel that even stronger now that I have a little niece, currently a few months old. I don’t know about you, but I want to see a world where she and everybody else can grow up honoring and respecting ourselves and each other, despite gender, nationality and sexual preference. A place where we are safe to express who we are in truth, and to really tear down oppression, supression and over-powering others (whether from a physical or figurative advantage), once and for all. It’s high time, don’t you think?! To come from power within and not force anybody to do anything that’s taking away their values and rights. It’s all about autonomy and oneness. When I talk about power over versus power within, I include both genders, and it’s not about physical power. Men have an overall physcial advantage, we know this. But true power comes from standing in one’s truth, even when it’s tough, honoring one’s own values and integrity – and doing the same with others. We are going through a lot of chaos now, and through chaos can bloom something higher – a higher state of thought, living, inclusion and overall consciousness. A seed transforms into a flower, after having been covered in dirt – and fighting through it to see the sunlight. We have a lot of work to do, on both sides of the gender aisle, when it comes to the issues at hand, and a healthier earth in general. It’s been proven that it won’t be over-night, but by accepting what has been and deciding to change into a higher vibrational space, we can move faster than we have previously! Now is the time to turn a culture of disbelief, into one of empowerment for all! To stand up, speak up and BE the change.”
With love and light, remember: DARE to be different. Be YOU. Be TRUE. Be the LIGHT and BE the change!
For those women and men willing to do the work, let’s inspire each other to do so! You can find me on Instagram @OsaSjoberg and I’m happy to help with support, tools and empowerment.