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Swedish feminists push for Midsummer 'mayhole' revolution

The Local · 22 Jun 2011, 14:10

Published: 22 Jun 2011 14:10 GMT+02:00

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With the cherished Midsummer holiday just around the corner, Swedes across the country are busy planning how they'll spend this most traditional of holidays.

Among the most important parts of a traditional Midsummer celebration is the decoration and erection of a flower-adorned maypole, around which joyous Swedes, young and old, dance and sing merry tunes like "Små grodorna" ('Little frogs') in a rapturous celebration of the summer's warmth and sunshine.

But this year, a growing chorus of voices rising up against Sweden's traditional Midsummer celebrations, implore Swedes to break with tradition and dance around a vagina instead.

“In the future I want coming generations to say on their trips abroad that ‘In Sweden we celebrate midsummer by dancing around a vagina’,” says Alexander Alvina Chamberland, co-founder of the group Midsommarfitta ('Midsummer Cunt').

Chamberland, a self-proclaimed 'femme genderqueer' who launched the group on Facebook in 2008, believes the traditional Midsummer maypole is a sexist phallic symbol that should be replaced by something of a more feminine flavour.

Rather than erecting a maypole, he and other members in the group want Swedes to spend time fashioning 'mayholes' by digging a hole in the ground or arranging tree branches in the shape of a vagina.

“It could be all different sizes, laid on the ground, or erected into the sky. It could be built from flowers, fabric, leafs, stones or glass," says Chamberland, who believes Sweden's current Midsummer tradition is too "heteronormative".

“It’s not just the pole," he explains.

"The tradition of girls picking seven different flowers to put under their pillow to dream about their future man is also very heteronormative and patriarchal."

As a femme genderqueer who feels neither like a man nor woman, but nevertheless chooses to act in a feminine manner, Chamberland says the goal of the Midsommarfitta initiative is to bring down the phallic symbols everywhere in society but also to get people to look at other holidays with a critical eye.

“Everything is politics,” says Alexander.

“Just look at Santa Claus. He’s working while Mrs Claus sits at home. And he has little slaves that make everything for him."

However, some experts dispute Chamberland's assertion that the Midsummer maypole is in fact a phallic symbol.

“The short answer is that the maypole is not really a phallic symbol. A person’s interpretation of the maypole is of course very individual but generally you could say that the pole symbolises party, summer and time off work,“ says Katarina Ek-Nilson, of Sweden's Institute for Language and folklore (Institutet för språk och folkminnen).

“The maypole is in fact a German custom that came to Sweden around the 16th century, so it’s not an ancient tradition."

Ek-Nilson adds that the shape of maypoles can vary, with some also being shaped like a cross.

"There are also indications that they used to look more like smaller poles or sceptres,” she explains.

Others suggest that the pole indeed represents a penis but that the earth symbolises the woman being fertilised by the pole, meaning that both sexes are actually being represented in the traditional symbol.

But such explanations fail to convince Chamberland, who has just finished his master degree in gender studies, that Midsummer celebrations don’t need changing.

“That still reflects the different gender roles and the view that there are only two genders and that sex should only be vaginal and between a man and a woman when in fact there are lots of different ways to have sex,” he argues.

Stina Svensson, a spokesperson for the feminist political party Feminist Initiative (Feministiskt Initiativ - FI), welcomes Chamberland's efforts.

“I think it seems like a creative new way to celebrate Midsummer and I think it’s good when people celebrate the way they want to instead of how they should,” she says.

Chamberland hopes to utilise the Midsommarfitta Facebook group, which now boasts more than 3,000 members, to help spread awareness about how to create a Midsummer vagina by encouraging people to share pictures of their ‘mayholes’ with one another ahead of this year's holiday.

Story continues below…

So far, the response has been encouraging.

“I’m very surprised over the positive feedback and that so many people like this fun and political way of celebrating,” says Chamberland.

Although thousands have embraced the 'Midsummer Cunt' movement, the group has received its share of criticism, especially from anti-feminists.

But Chamberland shrugs off the negative reactions, arguing that detractors are simply taking the group too seriously.

“Feminists are often accused of not having any humour and then when we do, people complain that we’re ridiculous. I’d like to say though that most people have been positive,” he says.

Either way, Chamberland plans on spending his Midsummer holiday in Berlin this year.

And while he won't be dancing around a vagina, he plans keep a close eye on the group's Facebook page to monitor the expected flood of Midsummer 'mayholes' he expects to turn up.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

16:56 June 22, 2011 by luke123
All those nasty poles are scary phallic symbols, and they remind me of what I lack between my legs and make me feel so inadequate. It's too confronting.
22:32 June 22, 2011 by cornpone
Lost Boys Lost in the Shadows.
00:09 June 23, 2011 by graphixperson
Feminist groups want to be taken seriously, but then they go and do this.
00:34 June 23, 2011 by bira
Do you really not have anything better to do with your lives? Friggin' idiots.
00:48 June 23, 2011 by billstewart3
Midsummer? In the US and England, maypoles are usually for May Day (though my town does it a few weeks later when the rainy season is over and it fits the school schedule better.) In some places this does cause a conflict about who gets to run the May Day parade - hippies with maypoles, or socialists celebrating Labor Day - but it usually works out ok.
02:35 June 23, 2011 by MichiganLady
Sorry, I always understood the maypole to encompass symbolism of both genders, and when it comes down to the activity that engendered ALL of us, you can't really consider it gay-averse, either.

Silly. Back to the serious business of earless, tailless frogs...
07:00 June 23, 2011 by Da Goat
the whole thing is a weird tradition!

most men I know will gladly dance around a vagina as long as it is not attached to a queer person who does not share!
11:30 June 23, 2011 by Åskar
@billstewart3, the reason we have May poles at midsummer is because it's too cold in Sweden to celebrate the start of summer in early May.
15:41 June 23, 2011 by Streja
16:02 June 23, 2011 by Marc the Texan
I thought we buried the everything is a phallic symbol in the twentieth century. I have no problem with the mayhole, but I don't think there is anyone on the other side of their protest. Just curious where they go down on the symbolism of the clitoris. Phallic?
16:18 June 23, 2011 by IWP
Madness, as usual. Sounds good, though. But only if some nice, neighbourly Sweedle turns up to help as a model, say!
16:24 June 23, 2011 by dratman
How big must the mayhole be? I have a deep fear of falling in. Also, please check the time of the monyj
16:51 June 23, 2011 by tadchem
How about a return to the pagan rituals of spring in which the first full moon of the season was celebrated by young men ploughing young women in the freshly ploughed fields?
16:57 June 23, 2011 by Iron E
"'That still reflects the different gender roles and the view that there are only two genders and that sex should only be vaginal and between a man and a woman when in fact there are lots of different ways to have sex,' he argues."

Seriously?! Could he GET any more whiny and childish? It's a FERTILITY symbol, and no matter which way you swing the only sex that's gonna make a baby is vaginal sex. Facts of life, deal with 'em.
18:01 June 23, 2011 by TheOneWhoTravels
Oh my god this is hilarious. Is this for real?

This looks like a serious story, but it could be a great gag article for The Onion too. What a great joke! :)

(If you don't know what The Onion is, it's a news satire newspaper, and website too.)
22:17 June 23, 2011 by dizzymoe33
Really!! Now the Maypoles have to be Politically correct now also? Why have one at all then why not do a bonfire and dance around it with flowers on your head? I am all for equality but come on really dancing around a Vagina, I think not. Good luck Sweden.
01:35 June 24, 2011 by wei dong
"As a femme genderqueer who feels neither like a man nor woman, but nevertheless chooses to act in a feminine manner,"

quote of the century
01:47 June 24, 2011 by drasaid
Um, I think I'll let someone else play Body Crab (What else dances around a vagina? Gotta be sort of small)
01:49 June 24, 2011 by MichiganLady
Uh...am I the only one who finds the traditional maypole the far more visually appealing of the 2 choices? Just saying...
05:09 June 24, 2011 by SayNoToUS
Why not? Could the Gateway Arch monument in St. Louis, Missouri, USA represent an inverted female V-shaped pubis?
07:19 June 24, 2011 by Luke R D
Yes, the Maypole is phallic, but does it not also encompass everything female too? It's "entered" into the ground, THE most potent symbol of the feminine aspect. Is it not this symbolism that was first adored, this union of the two symbols? Seriously, these guys need to pull their heads out of their vaginas and look at things in a little more....how should we say "complete" way. Oh well, as long as we got something out of this article (a chuckle). Thanks guys!
10:26 June 24, 2011 by jacquelinee
Give us a break! Worry about something important, like poverty,hunger, global warming. Really! A branch ot a pothole. I am embarassed for you.
11:10 June 25, 2011 by calebian22
Oh yeah, digging a deep hole in the ground around a group of drunk Swedes. What could possibly go wrong?

As for Chamberland, what a freaky killjoy. No doubt, he is the life of the party.
12:00 June 25, 2011 by rise
TL please don't give these militant feminist groups the attention they so desperately are crying for. The article is among the most stupid things I've ever read!

And like others already have pointed out the pole is a fertility symbol. Another thing to point out for these weirdos is that it is the earth whom is the mother for crying out loud (ever heard of the expression "mother earth?)! But oh well, try to get babies with the pole stuck up in your behind!
18:46 June 25, 2011 by shiraz
After reading this people are likely to dislike feminist and modern ideals. This is likely to encourage misogyny and that is the entire intent of the enemies of your people : to give you such poor (and extreme) examples that you turn away from what is right and virtuous. What is right is that women should be allowed to work and they should be treated well and equally but put this in the mouth of an outlier/outcast and none will want to embrace the notion. What is right is that all should support the causes of ALL humankind (irrespective of gender). What is correct is that sex can be had in more than one way but put it in the mouth of a poor representative and people will run the other way. The zealot is the greatest enemy of a cause. Such pieces will encourage your people to go backwards (by reaction from an extreme and noisome example). It is rather sad and ensures that a society remains somehow stuck in the past (in one social, legal aspect) or the other.
19:58 June 25, 2011 by old git
how come you use the c word in your article but we can't use it in the comments? talk about double standards....
13:49 June 26, 2011 by conboy
Long live the Clitteratti!
19:36 June 27, 2011 by Kaethar
Lol. No, thanks, I'll stick to dancing around the penis.
20:58 June 27, 2011 by charubun pananon
To be fair, I would suggest to to put the pole in the hole shaped as vagina and dance around for all genders.
07:58 June 28, 2011 by farnoxo
How silly....the supporters of mayholes are complete a-holes :-)
10:51 June 28, 2011 by rise
I can't believe why some people have to read in sex between humans in every tiny bit of thing they see. The ceremony with the pole was to please mother earth; give her seed so she in return would give good harvest. Otherwise it would mean starving.
00:05 June 29, 2011 by patto007
Ha ha ha. Oh those stupid feminists!
20:02 July 12, 2011 by Philscbx
The Freak Is Retarded.

The Pole is nothing more than a Support Device for the Ribbons & decorations you fkd retard.

Why do these Fkd people even get attention.
16:31 August 5, 2011 by conboy
The whole thing is a wind up it is merely yet another cunning feminist plot!!!!!!!
15:54 August 6, 2011 by SockRayBlue
Men have been "dancing 'round the vagina" since the beginning of time and look at the silly things they have done to get closer.
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