Thee Ultra Bimbos Rocks On
It has been five years since the all-girl rock band Thee Ultra Bimbos burst upon the Finnish music scene. Right from the start, the band got attention, but not just for its music. The Bimbos became known for their suggestive, revealing clothing, sometimes even dressing as nurses for their concerts.
Whatever the reason, they became an overnight cult sensation.The band’s bass player, Salla is a baker, waking up every morning at five. Guitarist Maria sells clothes at an Indian Bazaar and drummer Milla is a copywriter in an advertising firm. Lead singer and guitarist Suffeli graduated from the University of Helsinki three years ago and teaches philosophy and literature to high schoolers.
Regular tours of Central Europe have kept the band busy, but motivated. “I think that without the chance to tour abroad, we would have broken up already. If we would only play in Finland, there wouldn’t be enough gigs,”says Suffeli.
The band has received plenty of flack from both sides of the gender fenceabout their clothes and make-up. When the group played at an all women musicfestival in Berlin, the reception from the feminist contingent was less thanwarm. “I had one woman come up and ask if I colored my hair just to attractguys,” says Maria. “We wondered what we were doing there. We’d rather playfor ugly, heavy metal guys than those kind of women.”
Drummer Milla points out that the other sex can be just as bad sometimes:”Some music critics in Finland have underrated us, saying that they are notinterested in our band, because they have already got girlfriends.”
Salla agrees: “It seems that women have to wear baggy dresses to be takenseriously as a musician in Finland. You don’t see anyone criticizing MickJagger for his tight pants.” Look for Thee Ultra Bimbos’ new album, FourFans Can’t Be Wrong.
Pragmatic Practitioner of Drug Policy
Tapani Sarvanti is worried about two things: the rapid increase in heroineuse in Finland and a drug policy that is turning against itself. Sarvantibecame a doctor of political science three years ago. His dissertation wasentitled Drug Policy and Justice. It studied the repressive drug policies ofwestern countries today and concluded that the whole effort was a na´vemistake, “the tragic results of which are starting to show.”During the 70s Sarvanti worked in a drug home for young people. Hisexperiences there eventually led him to his current job, working for theMinistry of Social Affairs and Health, monitoring and coordinating nationaland international drug policy.
In 1995 one person in Finland died from a heroine overdose. Last year, therewere at least 43. 140 people were infected with the HIV virus, up by 50 fromthe previous year. 70% of HIV infections were caused by injecting drugsdirectly into veins with previously used needles. Sarvanti feels the deathtoll has risen because heroine has moved from a small group of users tovirgin ground, where no one has had any experience with the drug.
Withoutknowledge of the risks and rules, they are playing with their lives.”Official policy hasn’t been able to give realistic advice like: Don’t usedrugs, but if you do, don’t do this or that. The moral majority is stillsadly working from the principle that because drugs are bad and shouldn’t beused, they shouldn’t be talked about at all. This kind of moral roadblockhas made the distribution of even the minimal amount of informationimpossible,” Sarvanti explains.
In order to tackle the growing heroine problem in Finland, Sarvanti believesthat “pragmatic, humble” solutions, like a drop-in center and needleexchange centers, are necessary.”Strict punishment requirements traditionally come from the conservativecamps when they are fishing for votes. The problem is that carefulargumentation of the issues is less likely to get press and succeed. I’vebeen active in the drug discussion since the 70s and very little has beenaccomplished,” he points out.
Despite the growing number of users and deaths, Sarvanti is positive aboutFinland’s ability to address the problem. First, however, some facts have tobe laid out on the table. 1. Drugs have come to Finland to stay. 2.Internationalism will continue 3. Living in the city requires more toleranceof differences 4. Best is the enemy of good.
What does that mean? “Unrealistic goals like a drug-free Finland are stupidand hinder good things from happening.”
Pharmacy and Psychology Want Faculty Status
Two departments of the University of Helsinki have left petitions for the University Senate (konsistori) to consider, asking for independent faculty status. The departments of pharmacy and psychology are large and successful, but members feel they are linked to faculties that are poor matches.
Students of psychology earn more study credits, produce more PhDs and contribute to more international publications than any other students in the Humanities Faculty, to which it belongs. The pharmacy department produces as many graduates and publications as its sister department in Kuopio, in central Finland, with five million FIM less funding here in Helsinki.
What it all comes down to is money. A result-oriented funding equation has been in place for a couple of years at the University of Helsinki. Star departments like psychology and pharmacy bring in good money to the faculty under the new plan, but don’t necessarily get to use it, as faculty administration divides it among departments with worse track records.
Liisa Keltikangas-Järvinen, Head of the Psychology Department, explains, “Psychology is the largest net payer in the faculty at this time. We lose 1.5 million Finnish marks each year when money that we have brought in goes to other places.”
Pertti Hiltunen of the Pharmacy Department points out that his department still does not meet funding standards laid out by the Ministry of Education. “Mathematically, we bring in more money than we get paid,” he states.
Both departments have independent degree requirements that set them apart from other departments in their faculty. They hope to make operations more efficient by branching out, claiming that the large faculties are slow.Dean of the Humanities Faculty, Fred Karlsson, questions the ability
of psychology to make it on its own. He would rather see it become a part of the Medicine or Education Faculty.
Math and Natural Sciences Dean Mauno Kosonen says, “We trust that the pharmacy department has well examined the feasibility of a split.”
The faculties in question are not challenging the petition of the psychology and pharmacy departments, but they are worried about the trend that it may generate. Karlsson explains, “It is natural that those departments that feel that they are getting the short end of the stick in this new funding system should try to better their lot. But, whether (becoming independent faculties) is a good idea in terms of the future of the entire university, is another question.”
Reassessing Finnish Family Values
How do you quiet the biological clock that ticks inside of you, reminding you that your child-bearing years are coming to a close? With work, of course.
In the fast and furious workplace of today, only losers have kids, everyone else is at the beck and call of their employer. Working parents with young children are rarely there for their kids, work takes precedent and kids get second shift.
Why are young people working so hard? The standard explanation in Finland is the scare brought on by the recession that hit the country hard in the early 90s. Professor of Sociology Riitta Jallinoja studies family values and was surprised in her research to see just how many Finns are ready to make sacrifices for their workplace. “Today the biggest challenge in life is work. Children, and even partners, can seem like distractions in that effort.”
The average Finnish woman is now 28 or 29 years old before she has her first child, compared to 22 in 1960. First-time dads are 29 or 30. Jallinoja comments: “These days you are expected to work really hard when you are starting out and retire at 55. Free time only comes when you are old, not when you are still young and your children are little and you have so many other things that interest you.”
She continues: “I certainly don’t believe that this is just a woman’s obligation, both partners need to take the time to be with their family. Three years at home may be too much for some, but it can be split between the mother and father. Most important here is that less work is done when the children are little.”
The solution for young working parents today is daycare and preschool. Most facilities in Helsinki have long waiting lines. Parents hope that jam-packed day cares and children’s sporadic social contacts there will prepare the children well for the postmodern, interconnected world that awaits them.
Juha Siltala, professor of history and pyscho-historian, believes that children suffer when their parents work too much. “Children are missing out on experiences in a supportive environment, with no expectations and no one budding in. The reason children are unhappy is because parents are shouldering unbearable pressures just when the children need them most.”
Jallinoja adds: “We like to think that by making our children independent, they will do well. Telling ourselves that children do not really need that much loving and looking after allows us to explain things away.”
by Pamela Kaskinen