Yesterday the Gender Equality Minister and Vice Education Minister Nyamko Sabuni left her position and was replaced by Maria Arnholm. They both belong to the People’s Party, Folkpartiet, a party based on liberal foundation. Maria Arnholm said that her main question will be to even out the salary gap between men and women. When she got the question if she’s a feminist she said “yes”. Nyamko Sabuni has been working with questions like gender equality, men’s violence against women and honour-related violence, and has had that as a passion since the start of her political career. After the bourgios fraction’s gain of power in 2006 Nyamko Sabuni was asked to become the new Gender Equality Minister. She has had a tough time since then. She’s been called names and some said that she was taken for her African origin. The gender based structures aren’t easy to deal with, and within the ministry Nyamko Sabuni hasn’t always been listened to and sometimes harshly opposed by different enemies. Among the dominant conservative party gender equality is no big question and often sneered at, mainly because that issue has been dominated through the years by liberals and socialists. This shift of equality ministers is maybe a shift back within the People’s Party back to its social liberal roots. Nyamko Sabuni has been seen mainly as a neo liberal politician, and within both the People’s Party (Folkpartiet) and the Centre Party (Centern) there have been two different main ideology fractions, the social liberal and the neo liberal.
The Centre Party now has had great problems since the draft for their new party program leaked out to the press: flat taxation, free immigration in the future, acceptance of polygamy, and no ordinary school duty, but instead a free choice for the families to chose the education form that suits themselves. The neo liberal core within the Centre Party led by the leader Annie Lööf has lost many voters, and protesting voices from within the party argue for another draft with a more social liberal tone. Annie Lööf herself didn’t like the suggestion about polygamy for instance, she told us on TV last week. In difficult times neo liberalism most likely isn’t the way forward if we want a better future for more people. Still I can’t avoid the feeling that some of the arguments aimed at Lööf and the Centre Party as such in media is meant to harm them and her. The foul game of politics. Last week Maria Wetterstrand, former spokes person for the Environment Party wrote an article in which she defended Lööf’s right to make drafts and attacked her attackers, “Stop bullying Annie Lööf”. I guess this also was an expression from a female leader to another who have seen how hard it is for women in the corridors of power. I understand them. When we men say something people see to our background, our titles, our dignity and so and so. When women say something the audience and especially media often focus upon their hair style, ear rings, clothes, if they’re beautiful or not. Their message isn’t always paid attention to. If a female politician makes a mistake, even a slight one, she’s attacked and bullied for years on end, a form of discouraging collective on-going abuse from the surrounding media and society. If a man makes a mistake, he’s too bullied, but often less so. What I personally react against is this tendency within humanity to attack, attack, attack, bully, bully, bully, instead of trying to see what kind of inner improvements we might do ourselves. Also the negligence of the fact that none of us is perfect and that we all make mistakes. The one that says that she or he is perfect is a liar. We all have our flaws, less good personality traits or bad days and periods in life.
Maria Arnholm who now become the new Gender Equality Minister belongs to the social liberal fraction within the People’s Party (Folkpartiet). In the early 1990’s she was working for Bengt Westerberg, who then was Social Minister and party leader for the People’s Party. He had a very distinct social liberal approach and did a lot to promote gender equality work. Maria Arnholm had quite an influence on those efforts and now at the age of 55 she’s back in politics as the new Gender Equality Minister. Whether or not she will be able to swing the conservatives into taking these issues seriously is an open question.
Gender equality issues and other equality questions has by tradition not been important for conservatives mainly, but for liberals and socialists, but with different political approaches and ideas involved depending on what kind of society we want to see. I hope that these so called “soft questions” will be taken to heart by more and more people and also that we might accept our different values without bullying or destroying each other’s lifes.
Anders Moberg, January the 22d 2013