Feminists seize Left Party ground

It is looking increasingly likely that Sweden's fledgling feminist party, the Feminist Initiative (FI), will compete in next year's parliamentary election.

The board of FI is due to make a formal decision at the annual general meeting in September. But a range of “prioritised political demands” put forward to the group’s members has raised the Swedish media’s expectations.

A six hour work day and completely individualised parental benefits are two of the ideas, according to Svenska Dagbladet, which spoke to several of FI’s representatives.

“A six hour work day is an old women’s movement issue,” said FI board member Ebba Witt-Brattström.

“Many women feel that it is one way to keep the working day together, but I think there’s also a hope that it will sort out the high levels of sick leave.”

The concept of individualised parental benefits – as opposed to the two months’ leave which can be taken by either the father or the mother – means that men will be forced to take off as much time as women to care for their children.

“Many see this as a serious question of equality,” said the woman regarded by many as the FI leader, Gudrun Schyman.

“It would strengthen young women’s position in the labour market, and the child’s needs are central to the issue. It’s also a way to invite men, I think, to show that fathers are important,” she added.

Gudrun Schyman is the former leader of the Left Party and the demands put forward by FI, which are being seen as cornerstones for an election campaign, hijack two of her old party’s key policies. That has already raised fears of a split vote on the left.

But the secretary of the Left Party, Pernilla Zethraeus, told SvD that she was unconcerned by the similarity of the policies between the two political groups.

“They are welcome at the barricade,” she said.

“I assume that they have a platform which in other ways is different to ours, otherwise I think they would have joined the Left Party.”

It seems that every time the Feminist Initiative gains political momentum, some internal affair slams on the brakes. A week after the group was launched, it was revealed that one of its founders and most active participants had been claiming sickness benefit for being “burnt out”.

Now, another founder, Tiina Rosenberg, who is professor in gender studies at Stockholm University, says that she is unhappy with the direction FI is taking.

She says that the group’s family and gender policies are too focused on heterosexuals, and that if the rights of homosexuals are not given more consideration she’ll quit.

“The girls are good, but even feminists always work from a heterosexual perpective,” she said.

“That’s really bad. I do my best but when it comes to it, people are so bloody homophobic.”

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, SVT, Corren