• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

'Feminism is about competition'

Solveig Rundquist · 8 Aug 2014, 08:45

Published: 08 Aug 2014 08:30 GMT+02:00
Updated: 08 Aug 2014 08:45 GMT+02:00

Sweden is the most gender-equal country in the EU - but with elections just five weeks away, feminism and gender equality keep popping up in debates, at political events, and on parties' election posters.

But as a torch-bearer of gender equality, why hasn't feminism become a non-issue in Sweden?

"I think one reason is precisely because Sweden is so equal," Christina Bergqvist, political scientist specializing in gender equality at Uppsala University, told The Local. "There are so many women in powerful positions now that they can raise these issues."

In Sweden 45 percent of parliament members are women - one of the highest numbers in the world - although only about 27 percent of floor leaders are female. 

"Even though Sweden is from a comparative perspective very gender-equal, there are still differences between men and women," Bergqvist explained.

"There are still inequalities when it comes to wages, and women do more unpaid work and take more parental leave... But once women get into politics they can bring these issues up."

Although all of the Nordic nations place highly in the ranks of gender equality, Sweden's neighbours have not seemed as focused on feminism lately. Berqvist said that perfectionist Sweden's preoccupation with the issue may simply be due to a different discourse and cultural traditions.

"Political discourse in the Nordic nations look very different, even though the policies are quite similar," she said.

"I don't think that feminism is more accepted in other nations, but there is a different rhetoric. In Denmark for instance there seems to be some resistance to talking about feminism, although the gender equality is quite similar to that of Sweden."

Sweden's feminist party, the Feminist Initiative (Feministiskt initiativ, Fi), has quickly gained support from young voters, increasing its supporters fivefold over the past few years and winning a place in the European Parliament earlier this summer.

However, as the party has no seats in Swedish parliament, it didn't even get to stand on the stage during Almedalen, Sweden's largest political event. But party leader Gudrun Schyman was there anyway, giving a speech from a tiny basement cafe - and people stood outside on the street waiting to get in. 

Nearly all of the other party leaders brought up feminism and gender equality at their speeches.

"It is clear that equality is needed not just on the agenda, but in everything we do, from the state budget to the kitchen table," Center Party leader Annie Lööf said in her speech. 

Meanwhile, Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) leader Jan Björklund wanted to take back the word feminism from the Fi party, saying that "the liberals have been taking feminist initiatives for over one hundred years."

Indeed, the party's autumn campaign slogan is "Feminism without socialism".

Moderate Party leader Fredrik Reinfeldt did not mention feminism - but the trend continued as his speech was interrupted by bare-breasted Femen protesters. 

Bergqvist said she suspected the sudden flood of feminism was spurred by Schyman and Fi.

"Now that the Fi party is gaining support, the other parties have to bring up feminism as well," Bergqvist told The Local. "It's kind of a competition. They have to compete now because gender equality and feminism is clearly an important issue for many voters."

Story continues below…

But Berqvist said that a gendered agenda may not be enough to get the party into parliament during elections. Winning a spot in the EU parliament doesn't promise success on the home front, she warned.

"It's one matter when a voter decides who to vote for on the national parliament, and another for the European parliament," Berqvist explained.

"It's easier to vote for something a bit more risky when it's not right at home, when it's in the EU. When voting on the national level most voters go for the safe route, not wanting to waste a vote."

If Fi does get into parliament, Berqvist said, the path may be much smoother from there. Once in, it's generally easier to stay in. 

"It is possible that they will get a seat in parliament," Bergqvist speculated after some thought.

"Schyman is quite a popular person and she's very good at explaining things in simple ways, and people appreciate that. And Fi includes men as well. It's not a women's party, it's a feminist party."

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Solveig Rundquist (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Asylum seeker boy stuck in Denmark after train mix-up
ID checks at Kastrup Airport. Photo: Björn Lindgren/TT

His legal guardian described the error as a "catastrophe" for the boy.

Cash alert! Last chance to deposit your old notes
Head to the bank if you've got any of these. Photo: Micke Larsson/TT

Bank it!

The Local List
Six tips for learning Swedish without even being in Sweden
A Swedish Midsummer party in New York. Photo: Johan Brunkvist/TT

The Local's intern, Jack Schofield, taught himself Swedish from his home in the UK. Here's how he did it.

Ikea threatens to shelve Russia growth plans
Everything Moscow. Photo: Maxim Murmur/AP

Will the Swedish furniture goliath retract its rubles?

Swedish police brace for 'unpredictable' pope
Sweden's Queen Silvia and Princess Madeleine meeting Pope Francis in the Vatican last year. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Nobody knows quite what to expect when Pope Francis visits secular Sweden this autumn.

Could this Swedish finding help cure alcoholism?
What causes alcohol dependency? Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Scientists hope their findings will end the stigmatization of alcoholism.

Man jailed for six years for asylum home arson
The district court in Västmanland. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

A court in western Sweden has sentenced a 28-year-old asylum seeker to six years in jail for starting a fire at the asylum centre where he lived.

Volvo on hunt for 400 new engineers in Sweden
Want to help build one of these? Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

Want to work in Sweden?

Swedish hearts fail on Mondays and at Christmas
Tell me why I don't like Mondays. Photo: Marcus Lindblad/SvD/TT

July is Sweden's most heart-warming month.

Woman told she's not Swedish enough for a job
A sun bather wears a Swedish flag hat to celebrate National Day. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Sweden's discrimination watchdog is on the case.

Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
How good is Sweden for expat life?
Sponsored Article
Why you should learn to trade (and just how easy it is)
Gallery
Property of the week: Landskrona, Skåne
Gallery
People-watching: August 26th-28th
Blog updates

23 August

A Summer in Sweden (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"For our first year here in Sweden we decided to have all our holidays in Sweden.…" READ »

 

22 July

After the horror, carry on regardless (Globally Local) »

"This time last week, we were just digesting the horror of the Nice killings, in which…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
What are Sherpas doing on Sweden's highest mountain?
Sponsored Article
Malmö to host global skateboard championship
Gallery
People-watching: August 24th
The Local Voices
'I want to be a businesswoman but I don’t care about money'
National
Experts: Gothenburg grenade blast is 'part of a cycle of violence'
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
Gallery
Property of the week: Karlsborg
Sponsored Article
Five easy ways to travel more often
National
Why Sweden could change its criticised detention laws
National
Watch this dog's reaction when she tries Swedish fermented herring
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Gallery
People-watching: August 19th-21st
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
National
How to find student housing in Sweden
National
VIDEO: Swede films first Northern Lights of the season
Sponsored Article
The mystique of Asia - in the middle of Stockholm
Gallery
People-watching: August 17th
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Society
Swedish population nears ten million
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
The Local Voices
This Syrian artist found love in a Swedish library
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
Sex pigs halt traffic after laser attack on Pokémon teens. Only in Sweden.
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
Gallery
Property of the week: Hammarby Sjöstad, Stockholm
Society
Drunk knight detained in Stockholm
National
Can you solve this Swede's strange Star Wars mystery?
Gallery
People-watching: August 12th-14th
National
Swedes cheer first snow of the season
Gallery
People-watching: August 10th
The Local Voices
Gabriel mastered Swedish and got accepted onto a medicine degree in just 7 months
3,373
jobs available