Sweden and Denmark: Divided by a bridge and feminism - The Post

Sweden and Denmark: Divided by a bridge and feminism

In many ways, Denmark and Sweden are very similar, but on women’s rights they couldn’t be more split

Bar a few cycling accidents, the effect was negligible in Denmark (photo: Flickr/David Hall)
May 16th, 2019 2:18 pm| by Lauren Beauchamp

The outcry that greeted a woman’s naked bust in an advert for breast enhancement on Copenhagen buses in 2014 sported differing reactions in the Nordic world.

While the Danes continued to sip their tea, the Swedes couldn’t hold back. Many were outraged.

More reaction in Sweden
“I don’t think that the ad would have got through in Sweden,” Pia Lianno, a Swede who lives in Denmark, told CPH POST.

“It feels completely outlandish. But it would definitely spark a debate about sexism and the female body.”

According to Professor Rikke Andreasson at Roskilde University, the reaction in Denmark would have been more varied.

“Some might see naked female breasts on buses as a sign of Danish liberation, others as a sign of capitalism, and others still as an illustration of how Danish culture objectifies women,” she told CPH POST.

Minimally feminist
A recent You Gov and Cambridge Globalism poll revealed that Denmark is one of the least feminist countries in the developed world.

In Sweden, in contrast, 46 of the women profess to be feminists. And this is no surprise to those living there.

“For me feminism is about working actively in order to achieve equal political, economically and social rights between genders,” explained Lianno.

In Denmark, the definition of the word is viewed somewhat differently. As Charlotte Venvike, a Dane interviewed in Copenhagen recently, told the Guardian: “It depends what you mean. I’m not marching on the streets.”

Feminism in the fabric
Sweden has been ratcheting up down on its feminist policies in recent years. Just recently it became the first country to use the word ‘feminist’ in its foreign policy.

“Our gender equality policy aims to achieve gender equality on all levels: from the economy to education, health, and so on,” added Lianno.

“The first step is to acknowledge that we live in an unequal society – both in Denmark and Sweden.”

Negative connotations
Just across the Øresund, Denmark was the last of the Nordic countries to initiate a feminist political party, Feministisk Initiativ, and when it made its debut in the municipal elections in 2017, it received just 0.7 percent of the vote.

Very few Danes back the #MeToo movement – just 4 percent of men and 8 percent of women, according to a recent survey, which was a much lower rate than in Sweden.

In a sense, many Danes view their society as equal already, according to Professor Andreassen.

“Feminism is often associated negatively with angry women or women who hate men,” she said.

“Or feminism is associated with being a victim. Most people don’t want to be victims. Many Danes are in favour of women’s rights and gender equality, but they do not want to label themselves as feminists.”