• Sweden edition
 
Opinion
'The Danish narrative on Sweden is based on a lie'
File photo: Shutterstock

'The Danish narrative on Sweden is based on a lie'

Published: 22 Jul 2014 13:23 GMT+02:00
Updated: 22 Jul 2014 13:23 GMT+02:00

In Sweden, the public debate is defined by niceties and self-censorship, while in Denmark it is free and without taboos. 
 
That is the story we love to tell each other. So much so that part of the Danish media licence money is currently funding a program on Radio 24syv that is broadcasting ‘free speech’ to the Swedes. Denmark’s Voice (Danmarks Röst) is the name of the program in question and the right-wing commentator Mikael Jalving is the man behind the microphone. 
 
 
The irony is that this popular Danish narrative says more about Denmark than it does about Sweden. That was also pointed out recently by Lars Dencik, a professor at Roskilde University, who said in Information: “It is a defensive position which uses the theory that a good offence is the best defence… In reality, it is an attempt to defend Denmark’s ills.”
 
One example that disproves the myth that Swedes are hampered by taboos while Danes are not is that Sweden has dared to criticise the United States, Nato and other international actors while Denmark just falls in line without debate. That explains why we see Helle Thorning-Schmidt being considered for a top EU post and not, for example, the more outspoken Swede Carl Bildt.
 
You could also add that for the same (centre-left orientated) Thorning-Schmidt, it is a complete no-go to send warm wishes to Denmark’s Muslim residents celebrating Ramadan, while the British (and conservative!) David Cameron did it as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. 
 
A few weeks ago, a story circulated in the Danish press about a whole school class in Sweden in which all the girls were of non-Swedish background and had all undergone genital mutilation. This was right up the alley of the columnists who write for Berlingske and other conservative media. Here was yet more proof of the real-life consequences of the Swedes’ oppressed pubic debate. Except, of course, that the story turned out to not be true
 
That they were so wrong and built their conclusions on incorrect information funnily enough did not lead to any debate or self-examination, which is strange given their professed fondness of free speech. 
 
The truth of course is that the debate is extremely small and narrow-minded in Denmark and they only thing we are ‘free’ to do is to criticise others and above all to take aim at one type of minority or another. 
 
The Danish narrative is based upon a lie, which is most clearly seen when it comes to the refugee and immigrant debate. We love to tell each other that we dare to speak freely, while the Swedes stay silent. 
 
We act as if we are discussing difficult topics like women’s rights, distorted gender and beauty ideals, personal freedom and the fight against social control and exclusion, but in reality we expose our glaring ignorance while remaining completely silent on other issues.
 
Okay, you want to talk about social control? In the Danish context that’s synonymous with taking yet another trip on the headscarf and/or honour killing merry-go-round. These are important issues, but why do we never discuss the fatal consequences of distorted gender and beauty ideals amongst the majority population? 
 
That some Muslim women feel obligated to wear a headscarf is a record that is played on repeat in Denmark, but that tens of thousands of Danish girls feel so badly that they contemplate suicide and/or practise deliberate self-harm never leads to a heated debate.
 
But it is a fact: More than one in five young (ethnic Danish) girls struggle with the above-named problems. Every doctor, psychiatrist and psychologist knows that, but because it’s about ‘us’, it is therefore taboo. 
 
“It’s become a part of our culture,” psychiatry professor Bo Møhl told Politken earlier this year. “I call it a new pathology because it isn’t just about individual high school students, but rather a whole graduating class who harm themselves.”
 
Note the term ‘our culture’. It is precisely that which we fail to reflect upon when a large portion of our youth cut or burn themselves. 
 
This is just one example, but it illustrates a dynamic that exists in many areas in Denmark. We run around in circles having pseudo debates while constantly avoiding difficult self reflection. 
 
When that is not the case in, for example, Sweden, we need an explanation. But we never once seem to consider that maybe they have the answer over there on the other side of the Øresund. 
 
 
Dear Swedes, and the rest of our nearest neighbours, we need you. 
 
There are so many taboos that we should address but we just aren’t able to do it. It is not the Swedes who need Denmark’s (Smug) Voice. We are the ones who need to hear others’ voices, so we can broaden the narrow and predictable Danish debate. 
 
Brian Esbensen is a journalist, debater and political commentator. This op-ed wasoriginally published in Politiken and has been translated and republished with the author's permission.

For more stories about Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
National
Teens in intensive care after school 'initiation'
Photo: Peder Skrivares school

Teens in intensive care after school 'initiation'

School inspectors are investigating after an initiation ceremony at a high school in Varberg in south west Sweden left four girls in hospital. READ  

National
Pirate Bay Swede 'mistreated' in jail
Peter Sunde. Photo: TT

Pirate Bay Swede 'mistreated' in jail

The brother of Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde has questioned the conditions of his brother's Swedish jail, slamming both the institution and the guards. READ  

Elections 2014
Fresh election fears in divided Sweden
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson may not support a Social Democrat budget. Photo: TT

Fresh election fears in divided Sweden

UPDATED: The leaders of Sweden's main political parties have been called to parliament as speculation grows that the Sweden Democrats could hold the key to new elections. READ  

Presented by Stockholm Business Region
Introducing... the Stockholm collection
Photo: Imagebank Sweden

Introducing... the Stockholm collection

Moving to Stockholm, or just dreaming about it? Either way, this is your ultimate guide: for housing, finances, insurance, business, and so much more. READ  

In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån

In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week

Time for some luxury this week - we're heading to a sprawling Eskilstuna property with a location and view to die for. READ  

National
Row over viral 'Nazi receipt' in Swedish shop
A cashier in a Coop supermarket: Photo: TT

Row over viral 'Nazi receipt' in Swedish shop

A photo of a till receipt with the Nazi slogan "Sieg Heil" printed on it has gone viral in Sweden, with supermarket chain Coop launching an internal investigation. READ  

Society
Sweden tops 'financial well-being' rankings
Sweden's family-friendly policies contribute to well-being. Photo: TT

Sweden tops 'financial well-being' rankings

Swedes have fewer money concerns than people from any other European country, according to the latest major report on global well-being. READ  

National
King Carl XVI Gustaf 'unhurt' after crash
The King of Sweden. Photo: TT

King Carl XVI Gustaf 'unhurt' after crash

UPDATED: Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf has been involved in a car accident but is unhurt, the Royal family's press office has confirmed to The Local. READ  

Elections 2014
Migration minister calls Feminists 'a dark force'

Migration minister calls Feminists 'a dark force'

Sweden's Migration Minister has said in a Facebook post that both the Sweden Democrats and the Feminist Initiative parties were "dark, gloomy, and destructive forces". READ  

The Local List
Ten Swedish designs that made life better
Playsam

Ten Swedish designs that made life better

Sweden has produced an indecent number of design classics. We take a look at some of the best - from toys to furniture, fabric designs to telephones, packaging to super-safe headwear. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Property of the week - Eskilstuna
Sponsored Article
How to start a business in Stockholm
Society
How I became a surf blogger when I moved to Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 13th
Society
Why is Stockholm's Södermalm so cool?
Blog updates

17 September

Deep election analysis (Blogweiser) »

"You think you’re bad? Well I’m American. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFbomLID0vU Deep deep analysis on Swedish election results. Vlog post: https://t.co/tjQgfa5Yie #svpol #val2014 #politics pic.twitter.com/oEK5ADFT8L — Joel Sherwood (@joeldsherwood) September 17, 2014 " READ »

 

15 September

Liten, litet, små & lilla (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej igen! Have you ever been confused about when to use “liten”, “litet”, “små” and “lilla”? Today I’m going to sort out how use the adjective “liten” (small) and the different forms of it. Liten or litet? “Liten” is the form we will use when referring to a noun with the gender “en”. For example: Min pappa har en..." READ »

 
 
 
Gallery
People-watching: September 11th
Gallery
People-watching: September 13th
Politics
Five possible election outcomes
Politics
Sweden elections: How do they work?
Politics
Sweden elections: Who's who?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week - Hornstull, Stockholm
Analysis
Five differences between the UK and Sweden
Welshman Jonny Luck is now a chef in Sweden
Society
How I opened my own restaurant in Sweden's Malmö
Sponsored Article
Stockholm tech fest: relive the magic
Gallery
People-watching September 8th
Photo: TT
Politics
Feminists fight for first seats
Politics
Immigration cut push from Sweden Democrats
Sheryl Sandberg says women have "low expectations"
Tech
Facebook exec talks women's limits in Swedish business
Politics
Left Party calls for justice and equality
Politics
Green Party wants 'better world' for kids
Lifestyle
The five best Swedish songs of the month
Sponsored Article
Introducing… Insurance in Stockholm
National
Huge clear up underway after Skåne floods
Politics
Sweden's Alliance reveals full manifesto
Tech
Sweden's highest peak to lose title next year
Sponsored Article
Graduates: Insure your income in Sweden with AEA
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

856
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN