Popular meme takes over sexism debate in Sweden

For the past few years the ‘distracted boyfriend’ meme has been taking over the internet in a number of different interpretations. In Sweden, however, this meme has been inflated into new meanings: this one being sexism.

The photographer of this popularly recognized meme is a man by the name of Antonio Guillem, a 45-year-old photographer originating from Barcelona, Spain, who takes pictures for stock image companies.

Antonio commented on the native idea of the photo as being a risk he took for his stock image career...and wow did that risk pay off. This photo went from stock image to internationally praised meme in under a year–but Guillem does not profit off of it since most of the meme-creators use the image without any licenses.

In Sweden, this meme created a completely different storm of popularity as it took over the sexism debate, being called ‘degrading to both women and to men’. A company called Bahnhof was in search of new employees and posted their version of this meme on both their Instagram and Facebook accounts.

The girl on the left was titled, ‘your current workplace,' the distracted boyfriend was titled, ‘you,' and the girl passing by was titled, ‘Bahnhof.' And just like that, what this company had thought to be a harmless employment advertisement turned into a country-wide conversation on sexism.

Swedish citizens took to social media to call this meme ‘sexist to both men and women,' as well as ‘unprofessional’. Other comments included people calling the meme ‘gender-discriminatory’ because of its indication of women being ‘interchangeable’ and ‘sex objects.'

On the contrary, people have been arguing that the meme is also sexist towards men–inferring that they go through partners the same as they go through jobs.

Jon Karlung, the CEO of Bahnhof, released the following statement regarding the negative storm surrounding the meme their company released: “We are an internet company and are conversant in this, as are those who would look for a job with us, so we turned to that target group. If we should be punished for anything, it’s for using an old and tired meme.”