Feminism is dead

2008/03/01 § Leave a comment

I do not like the term “feminism”. What does feminism even stand for? Sure if you check a dictionary you may find that feminism is defined as activity to achieve equality. However, terms and expressions change all the time and a new generation in Sweden and Germany (two countries I am rather familiar with) has turned their back on “feminism”. Young women in Sweden and women more generally in Germany do not claim themselves to be feminists. Even though it goes without saying that they are pro-equality.

What has happened?

Personally I believe two mayor things happened.

1) The media, well renowned for their liking of extremes (that gives viewers as we all know) seems to be keen on showing feminists that take extreme stand points. Extreme not really in a fundamentalist-feminist approach but in the ears of the other 98% of the population. Hence these feminists with their proposals alienate the moderate type who has no problem with societies’ values per se, but just with the values that endanger equality.

2) Modern feminism has lost its edge. This is of course the reason why the media picks up extremists’ views of feminism. Modern feminism has so little left to achieve as compared to where feminism started off that it is hard to communicate the importance of it to young women. As a result feminists easily appear to be nagging about seemingly minor issues- a turn off to most young women and certainly young men.

I should give some example for the above statements. I will do so by looking at examples from Sweden, a nation that is considered the most feministic by some and the one with highest degree of equality by many.

Regarding claim 1) there has been a TV documentary [1] (produced by a female) in Sweden that exemplified feminist extremism. In this documentary Evin Rubar interviews the head of the Swedish organization “ROKS”, Ireen von Wachenfeldt. ROKS stands for “organization watching out for women and girls”. Their service is to offer females in trouble (e.g. victims of violence) a place to stay.

Evin points to a magazine that ROKS publishes. She quotes a line in there that says: “to call a men an animal means to flatter him. He is a machine, a walking dildo, a emotional parasite”. Evin wants to know if this is something Ireen would agree on. After attempts of evading the question Ireen, talking about male violence, sex in commercials and a few other things she eventually admits: “Men are animals…don’t you think? Don’t you think?”. It seemed Evin did not. But she got what she needed for a documentary that moved the nation (for more reasons than this one statement of course that I will describe in later blogs I hope).

Well, to say the least it gets pretty difficult to persuade men to think that feminism is a movement striving for equality after such interviews. The feeling I got watching Ireen was that she does not really like men too much. As a speaker and head of a feministic organization she gives me the feeling that this (and maybe other?) feminist organizations are not for men- unless as a man you want to be considered and fit the role of an animal.

But this statement also appalled women. This is one important reason why feminism as ideology is losing ground, I believe.

I mentioned above that it is also the agenda or proposals that feminists raise that can lead to confusion, mildly speaking.

I want to stick to another example from Sweden. While Sweden is considered very well on the way then it comes to equality Sweden’s former “minister for issues of equality” and deputy prime-minister Margareta Winberg claimed in a statement published in 2005 [2] that the increased equality has led to an increase in male violence against women.

This is first of all an interesting hypothesis. However, Margareta’s mistake was to mention numbers that were far off. She claimed that 40% of all Swedish women had become victims, while only 11% of Spanish women had been victims of male violence. Interestingly, the official Swedish numbers state that three percent of women in Sweden have been victims of male violence. Should a former minister for equality questions not be informed better?

The 40% figure comes from an assay by a very controversial feminist academic in Sweden by the name Eva Lundgren. Of course afterwards Margareta Winberg claimed that she was quoted out of context.

However that may be, it leaves a bitter taste of anti-male propaganda in ones mouth and does not do justice or help the women that tragically have been victims of male violence either.

A final example shall be a woman called Gudrun Schyman. Gudrun is one of Swedens most popular feminists and has been tremendously influential in the feministic movement [3].

Gudrun has been an alcoholic during a period of her political career. She has claimed that her former husband Lars Westman was violent towards her and beat her. A claim that Lars rejected strongly and has never been further substantiated by Gudrun. Some suggested that she just needed and wanted publicity for this issue of male violence and she got it that way.

However, she has received attention for her request that all men in Sweden should pay a special “batter”-tax to compensate for the fact that some men are violent towards women. Another example, to alienate the more than 97% of men that have never committed such a crime, nor ever intend to do so, from “feminism”.

Gudrun is said to have taken part in an erotic movie and has written an erotic novel (I don’t know why I mention this- isn’t it a nice factoid?). But in 2003 she announced her intention to “no longer be a torch in the behind of the patriarchy”. Followed by her latest achievement which was to leave the leftists party (where she was having a very successful career, and had been the leader of the party when it was still called “leftist party of communists”) in order to found a feminist party called “Feministisk Initiativ” (short: FI, “feminists initiative”) [4].

It is interesting to note that Gudrun had to resign as leader of the leftist party when it became public that she had employed a private housekeeper illegally, abused federal funding of taxi rides for private purposes and been drunk when appearing in her role as politician in public frequently.

She left saying repeatedly that she had no intention to start a new party. A couple of month later FI was founded. FI had a lot of struggle in the beginning but was impressive in public polls. In some polls 20-30% of people said they could imagine to vote for her new party.

In the beginning however basically all moderate voices were expelled by being bullied out of the party [6]. One of the recent proposals of FI was that children should be able to be given the names of the respective other gender (Fredrik can be a girl and Linda can be a boy- actually even funny I think- not everybody in Sweden thought so).

Furthermore, that the possibility to marry should be terminated (instead a general “relationship” definition should be introduced- I would be ok with that too, but most Swedes were alienated). Also the state’s politics regarding accommodation should be altered to foremost adapt to the needs of women (now there is my personal limit. I would also like to be able to rent accommodation). And so forth…

In total, FI’s ideas did not just alienate men but women alike. It did not help that they had some good ideas, like same wages for same work irrespective of gender (which all parties have as a basis in Sweden anyhow). From great ratings in the beginning FI is almost insignificant politically now. No surprise there and a confirmation that people do not want extremism or proposals that are rather irrelevant to their personal lives but equality.

This bring s us to my second point:

Feminism has lost its edge. I belive this is the reason FI and other feminist organizations go to such length when defining their policies. Women have reached a point in many western societies where they have equal opportunities at least in theory, i.e. by law. The problem is that there are differences in wages and possibilities to achieve higher positions in some institutions and companies. And there are issues with private child care, household tasks etc. but that is for later blog.

However, in this regard it is interesting to see that it largely depends on how you do your stats if the difference in wages is large at all. The numbers used sometimes resemble Margareta Winberg’s claims of 40% of women being victims of male violence; they are far off.

Often it is claimed that differences are such that womens’ wages are around 70% of the wages paid to men. The office for statistics in Sweden admits that such calculations are difficult and based on what and how you want to compare. A recent study in Germany came to the conclusion that women do not earn less than men, when taking position, total time of work experience (time taken off for child care is one “problem” in this respect), education, etc into account.

In Sweden the numbers for the public sector are that women earn 96-98% the wages of men. The private sector offers women 91-94% the wages of men in 2006 [7]. Interestingly, these numbers have roughly been the same since 1996 (before there are no exact statistics for all sectors). This is a far distance from an outrageous 70% of females’ wages of that of men. Nevertheless these made up numbers never seem to die out in private nor some public discussions in Sweden.

It is true that there are still fewer women in higher positions, but the reasons for that are multiple and too complex as that I would like to discuss them right now (in a later blog though- relax). Just that: they are rising and they will continue to do so. Quotas, as they are discussed in Sweden (i.e. to force companies to have 50% women on their boards and in high positions) are not necessarily always in everybody’s interest.

In some situations (just think about engineering) you will simply not find sufficient numbers of highly qualified women without discriminating seriously against men. However, this discrimination is called “positive discrimination” in Sweden. So now feminism did not only define men as animals but some discrimination as positive?

Do we really want and need to force 50% of all nurses to have to be male? And do we want 50% of all kindergarten caretakers to be male? And do we need 50% of all bus drivers to be female? Do we need 50% everywhere, absolutely EVERYWHERE? Really?

The assumption here is that women and men have exactly the same interests and faculties. I will certainly blog about this misconception later on. For now I just like to say: no, it is not only because we are socialized in a certain manor that we have varying interest and faculties. And that should be fine. Another reason why feminism is not accepted as ideology any more is that its assumptions contradict some of peoples’ fundamental life experiences. But as I said: that is for a later blog.

Concluding: feminism is on a downward spiral, alienating people from its ever more extreme propositions. I propose to call the striving for equality “humanism”. Or what would you propose? Let me know! For me almost anything might be better than the tainted term “feminism”.

[1] http://www.svd.se/nyheter/inrikes/artikel_425393.svd
[2] http://www.thelocal.se/article.php?ID=1691&print=true
[3] http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gudrun_Schyman
[4] http://susning.nu/Gudrun_Schyman
[5] http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/article242511.ab
[6] http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feministiskt_initiativ
[7] http://www.scb.se/templates/tableOrChart____149083.asp


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