The History of Nordic Emancipation
Caution! Further text is full of words like feminism, emancipation, gender equality, etc. But this time you may rediscover them. Sadly many people don’t understand what stands behind the mass culture mask of these words.
If you are still reading, congrats, you are a brave bastard! Let’s start from the most commonly used word, yet so often misunderstood. The word is Feminism. Frankly, before the research for this article, I thought feminism was only for women, who hate men and love showing their tits in the name of equality. Don’t ask why.
Thankfully, now I know what actually feminism is. As Mary Sher once said, feminism is the radical opinion that women are people too. Or as Wikipedia says “a range of social movements, political movements, and ideologies that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes.”.
The first “official” feminist was born in Stockholm, her name is Sophie Sager (1825 – 1902). At the age of 23, she had the courage to accuse a man, who tried to attack and rape her. The girl not only went to the police but also stood up in court – and won, despite the social disapproval with all the accusations of her being mad. It is Sager who is credited with saying that although in her time emancipation could not yet be a popular idea in Sweden, one day it would definitely become one.
In the Nordic countries, people started solving this global social problem at the beginning of the 20th century. And as the main role in making things happen has the social-democratic government, there are many things other countries could learn from the Nordic experience. There the idea that women are less politically active than men is gradually becoming a thing of the past. Women’s activeness in elections became equal to that of men or came close to it. Only a small number of women are currently limited exclusively to individual women’s organizations. They extend their activity to all kinds of political activities. The “double strategy” of modern feminists implies both integrations into institutions and organizations, where men still dominate, and support for specific women’s groups in political parties, parliaments, state institutions, and trade unions. Moreover, the field of the struggle for equality, despite the achievements, remains wide, especially in those organizations where real economic power is located.
Scandinavian women were among the first in the world not only in politic achievements but also in a number of other areas of social life. Thus, women were admitted to the position of priests in Norway in 1952, in Sweden – in 1958, in Finland – in 1988. For comparison, in Britain, a similar decision was made by the Anglican church only in 1992.
Sweden and Finland earlier than other countries expanded women’s rights in the areas of sex, contraceptives, family planning, and abortion, which increased the ability of women to control their own destiny. Sweden liberalized abortion legislation in the interwar period, Finland in 1951. Somewhat later, in 1965, Norway followed their example. Earlier than in other countries in Sweden, Norway, and Finland, legislation was also enacted establishing equal pay for equal work.
So basically, the whole emancipation process carries the goal of a better life for everybody. Yet, many people think that in the 21st-century women are more man-ish than men. Especially, with all the gender propaganda, which started with Conchita (Eurovision 2014). But let’s try to see the wider picture. In all countries of the world, men gets paid more than women. The higher you go, the fewer women you see. At the end of the day, we as a civilization have a huge amount of women, who have all the chances of being poor after retirement. Not because they were bad professionals, it’s just the way society makes it.
How do we change that? For example, paid childcare leave in Sweden is up to 480 days, and it is divided between both parents according to their wishes – this was once an innovation that was unheard of in 1974. Of these, 90 days are firmly fixed for each: if father or mother does not use them, they “burn out”. In 2018, Swedish fathers used 29.3% of the total vacation. And although now only 15% of couples divide it in half exactly, by 2035 the situation can be equalized completely. While foreign journalists, according to rumors, still ask passers-by, where so many “nannies” in Sweden come from, even the funny hipster stereotype lattepappa, “latte-father” – a young father who spends his days on “decree” walking with his child in the company of other fathers somewhere over a cup of coffee.
Another well-known story from the Swedish gender policy is the so-called Swedish model of combating prostitution.
Since 1999, it has been illegal to buy sex in the country. Prostitution is considered to be exploitation and form of gender-based violence, which must be dealt with at its source – where demand creates a supply. That is, the client is to blame for this model. In 2014, 72% of Swedes supported this approach, and here’s the result: according to official data, during the law, street prostitution in Sweden was halved, the proportion of men who bought sex services fell by almost a third, to 8%. And yet not everything works flawlessly – because, although the actions of the prostitutes themselves are not criminal, they still have to face stigmatization. But the alternative, that is, the legalization of prostitution, as it is done in the Netherlands or Germany, apparently inevitably leads to an increase in trafficking – so, in fact, it is no alternative. Therefore, since 2009, similar legislation has been in force in Iceland and Norway, and in 2016, the French parliament voted for the transition to the Swedish model.
Finally, Sweden is also affected by the so-called Nordic paradox: in it, as in Denmark and Finland, there is an unexpectedly high level of violence against women, higher than the average European one.
In part, this can also be explained by the fact that in a more equal society, women more often state that they have experienced violence to the police. It is quite possible that the reason is in the way statistics are kept in different countries. But this is only a partial explanation, while this issue is studied rather poorly. The Swedish government recognizes the problem and is trying to deal with it: in November 2016, it presented a new ten-year strategy supported by 900 million crowns of financing.
The gender problem is a global problem. And I want to ask today that we begin to dream and plan for another world. A more fair one. A world of happier men and happier women who are honest with themselves? Those are the words of the Nigerian feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her Ted talks «We Should All Be Feminists» was released in the form of a small essay-book.
And since the end of 2015, the Swedish government, along with several public organizations, has distributed free of charge its translation into Swedish to all 16-year-old schoolchildren and schoolgirls in the country.
“Culture doesn’t make people, people make culture”