When I study the society and the world around me and also participate in the different debates I see (in my eyes), a very tragic dichotomization in the discussions about the society, changes and not changes, life-styles, do’s and dont’s. The debates today are in my eyes too often black or white, creating us and them. This kind of dichotomy often loses the many nuances in the big picture of things. Now it’s often divided in left or right, missing the nuances, or religious vs non-religious, missing the nuances in between, or city vs country-side, missing the nuances. There are also debates about what’s Swedish or not, about racism and what racism is, but too often divided in very distinct camps in two corners which hate each other, instead of trying to listen in the other side’s perspective and admit that “they too” might have more than one point in their views which might be reasonable. When I participate in the debates on Twitter, follow its flow sometimes I see this division very clearly and it’s very tragic in my eyes. As I see it both sides in a fierce debate often are both slightly right and slightly wrong, but there’s so much hate and prestige from both the left side and the right side, (if we take that as an example), that hinders a sensible development. Instead it fires even more hate, even more fear, even more opposing conflicts in an often unnecessary way. We will always have conflicts about values, solutions and different “camps”, but too often these visions in black and white, “Either you’re with us or with them”, create a more or less huge gap of hate and power-prestige – unnecessarily. This dichotomized thinking of hate, prestige and fear of “the other side” who think or live more or less different than yourself make these multi-coloured perspectives which might nuance the picture and easen the problems drown in an abyss of spite, folly and power-games.
Today I intend to write about a subject which is very up-to-date and very important for the development of our societies, both here in Sweden and on other places on Earth. I will write about gender hate and love between the sexes. Recently here in Sweden there have been new cases of hatred against women. This time from Swedish sport journalists who mocked Swedish female football players, which I mentioned a few weeks ago in one of my texts, and there are many examples of misogyni/hatred of women in our different societies around the globe, sometimes expressed in the same way, sometimes in different ones. Apart from misogyni/hatred of women there is also something called misandry/hatred of men, which sometimes exists mainly among certain women. I will here describe different aspects of feminisms and the struggle for female empowerment, the many priveleges through history for us men, but also various aspects of gender equality from both female and male perspectives. My aim is to pinpoint the various aspects in order to easen the conflicts between the sexes, and also create a better understanding between men and women. After all… We are not meant to hate each other, but instead try to love each other as much as possible. We will never get a perfect situation, and conflicts will continue to exist, and also both expressions of misogyni and misandry respectively. However I will try to come with some form of enlightenment to, hopefully, easen this polarization.
Through history there is no doubt whatsoever that we men have had most of the power to decide things. We have used our often superior physical strength, our brawns so to speak to fight other men, fight about the right to mate with the females, hunt games and participate in wars. We see a similar behaviour-pattern in the animal world, so it’s partly genetical. However, we are also creatures slightly different from the great apes and other animals. We have created our societies a little differently, and in the last two hundred years the wheels of change have spinned faster and faster, and that also concerns the attitudes between the sexes,and different aspects of human rights. Through the millennia the women haven’t had many of these rights, but often been treated as merchandise, as objects to be looked at, forced to be home, give birth, foster the children, been sold into marriages, and being raped both by strangers and men close to them. There is also a long “tradition” of male hate and spite of women, and female “characteristics”, also in men. Homosexuality and trans-sexuality has often been sneered at and despised both among men and women, even though the homosexuals and lesbians now fight harshly for their rights, but often in hard opposition in many countries. Often the women haven’t had the right to work outside the home or inherit as much as men, or even anything. Still there have been variations of this too, and there have been societies where women have had the right to divorce, where they have had right to own things and run businesses, and where some kind of equlitarian thinking has existed. Most societies through history have been patriarch-ruled, but a few examples of matriarchates have also existed, such as the Iroqouis society in North America. There the Iroqouis Indians were ruled by a clan-mother who had the top position in society. The gender-roles were the most common, men hunted, built things and fought neighbouring tribes, while women picked berries, made clothes of skin and fostered the children, but the men moved in to the woman’s family after marriage and the clan-mother had the last word.
As a distinct movement feminism began more or less in the 18th century, ca 250 years ago, but there had been feminists and embryos to today’s feminist movements earlier than that. In 1405 a woman named Christine de Pizans wrote “The Woman City” and William Page (1590-1663) wrote “Woman’s Worth”. In 17th century Paris, France the so-called “blue-stockings”/”les bas bleus” or “les précieuses” organised themselves, writing about society from women’s perspectives, about love-stories and female empowerment. It was a clear movement in the French 1600’s, but often now missed and forgotten. In 1792 Mary Wollestonecraft wrote “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”, an important work for the early feminists. Here in Sweden the most important names in early feminism have been Carin Sophie Adlersparre, (1823-1895) who among other things started the magazine “Tidskrift för hemmet/The Domestic Magazine”, but also schools for working-class-girls and reading rooms for women. She was also editor of the magazine “Dagny”. Another important person in these days was Fredrika Bremer, (1801-1865) who wrote the novel “Hertha” and with it influenced the Swedish legal system. I wrote a bit more about her in my February text “Feminisms”, and I’ve also mentioned other Swedish influential early names in my piece “Highlighting the development of Swedish democracy”, also from February this year. Also Elin Wägner (1882-1949) was an important feminist. In 1919 the then new coalition-government of The People’s Party the Liberals and The Swedish Social Democratic Party in unison passed the law for women’s right to vote, and Sweden’s women went to the election hall for the first time in 1921. In Great Britain the suffragettes struggled for the British women’s rights to vote a hundred years ago, led by the sufragettes Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst. In 1913 a woman belonging to the suffragettes threw herself infront of the kings’ horse at a horse race and was killed. Both peaceful and violent methods were used in the struggle for female emancipation. The first female doctor in the West was Elizabeth Blackwell who got her medical exam in 1849 and then worked as an influential medical doctor in New York. To illustrate female empowerment in the early 1900’s I here include a drawing I’ve made taken from the British TV-series “House of Elliot”.
But this movement of female emancipation has not been specific only for the West. Around 1850 the Bahai-movement was founded in Iran. This religious movement started by Báb and Bahá ullah pinpointed the importance of equal rights for men and women. The founder of the Bahai religion interpreted God’s will in such a way that the possibilities for progress and prosperity in a society only is delayed or stopped if not the women are treated as equal to men. The female poet Tahareh joined the Bahai-movement and started showing herself in public without a veil/hijab in 1848. She was then killed as a martyr in Iran in 1852, two years after Báb also was killed. The Bahai-movement still exists today though.
Today there’s a great variety of feminist directions or sub-groups, derived from mainly the Liberal feminism and the Socialist feminism. There are today sub-groups such as Marxist feminists, radical feminists, anarchy feminists, queer feminists, Amazon feminists, trans-national feminists, the original Liberal feminists and Socalist feminists and religious feminists within different religious systems. This variety pinpoint different aspects depending on what political ideology that particular woman has, what she or that group puts most focus on and the surrounding values. As a man I believe that I and other men ought to learn how to treat the women in a way that is acceptable and love them in a good and fair way, but also the other way round. No one is perfect, we all fail occassionally, we all, irrespective of gender, age, social, political or religious belonging, have character flaws, we make mistakes sometimes all of us, but we can at least try to understand each other and create a better foundation for the future. This in order to improve both as individuals and also make our societies at least slightly better.
As it is now I see bad attitudes from men versavi women, but also bad attitudes among women versavi men. There’s a stereotyped hate and mockery of both men and women, but both those expressions of misogyni and misandry respectively only increases a hatred between the sexes, instead of solving the situations in a good way. That is a great tragedy and a serious problem as I see it. Now, I don’t call myself a feminist, and I see both the good and bad characteristics in both us men and in women, and both sexes as equally “brilliant/wise/constructive and evil/stupid/destructive”. However I try to be fair and just as much as I can, and I DO want to see improvements in the attitudes both among men and women.
Here in Sweden there are at least two male organizations working for gender equality, but from different angles and with different perspectives. Those are Män för Jämställdhet, MfJ, (Men for Gender Equality), which was founded in 1993 by men active in the Board for the Swedish branch of Save the Children. They were influenced by the Canadian organization The White Ribbon Campaign. Män för Jämställdhet led from Stockholm work in different local groups for a masculinity which is more caring, less macho and more attentive to women, and often co-operating with feminist organizations for gender equality. In 2006 MfJ was included in the global network Men Engage which work in different parts of the world for better attitudes among men towards women. You find information at http://www.mfj.se and http://www.menengage.org.
The other organization is called Mansnätverket/The Male Network, http://www.mansnatverket.nu. They started as organization to oppose the feminists, since they don’t buy the feminist description of reality. Two main characters there have been Per Billing and Per Ström. They have called themselves Jämställdister/Equalitists. They have for example said that total 50/50 equality isn’t preferable, and that men and women are different from each other mostly in what choices they make, and what careers they have. They also lifted other aspects of “unfairness” between men and women from a male perspective. They pinpointed e.g. men’s obligation to go to war, men’s “expected” demand to pay for the family, that men not seldom have or have had dangerous jobs, and an expected self-sacrifice. They also said that women make bad choices sometimes and also have a tendency to accuse men for being heterosexual. Women often want men to “take it as a man”, to behave in a masculine way, but also want men who are wealthy and hard. From my perspective as a man myself I agree that both these organizations, MfJ and Mansnätverket put light on important aspects that shouldn’t be neglected, and both are again both right and wrong. The annoying thing is that those two organizations have been in collision and especially Mansnätverket have hacked down hard on MfJ and feminists. On November 8th 2012 Per Ström from Mansnätverket wrote that he now resigns from the gender debate. In the Spring of 2012 he had been harshly attacked during a pub meeting by ca 50 feminist activists, among them the writer Maria Sveland, who started shouting, taking photos and gave him a picture with a cut-off dick. He has also been hated and ridiculed in media and many in the establishment who have harrassed Per Ström and publically bullied him for his views.
In the beginning of July there was a debate about gender equality during the Elm Valley Week/Almedalsveckan on the island of Gotland. The participants were Gudrun Schymann, former leader of the Left Party the Communists, and now leader of Feministiskt Initiativ and Birgitta Ohlsson, EU Minister in the present government and Liberal Feminist. It was nice to see that they didn’t seriously attack each other, but instead showed and admitted that they sometimes co-operate over the ideological borders. Afterwards I congratulated Birgitta Ohlsson on Twitter about this, which she seemed to appreciate. When I briefly met Gudrun Schymann during a seminar here in Malmoe in January 2012 I congratulated her too for her good work, even though I don’t share her left-wing ideology but am a social liberal myself.
As I see it we all carry life-stories, experiences, up-bringings and values with us. Values which we sometimes test and challenge, other times preserve. We are both alike and unalike. There are different ways of being a man, there are different ways of being a woman. There are heterosexuals, lesbians, homosexuals and trans-sexuals. The important thing though is to see the common value for us all, and respect both our similarities and our differences. We live in an already harsh world, why then make it even more harsh? As a heterosexual man I love the opposite sex and am like most heterosexual men attracted to women, or at least some of them. To finally illustrate the love between man and woman I have chosen an early teen-age picture I once made showing the characters Papageno and Pamina from the opera The Magic Flute /Die Zauberflöte from 1791 by Emmanuel Schikaneder and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In that scene the bird-catcher Papageno and the princess Pamina sing the duett “Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen” about the love between the sexes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCrSIuj-giA&index=6&list=PL0E4C07C7BA5D48C7 Something to work for?
Anders Moberg, August 9th 2013
Well written! We share very similar views on this issue. I too feel that there through a pretty aggressive gender equality debate has become a social climate that often makes both genders judge and disrespect each other rather than creating more love and respect between the genders. These issues are, if anyone look into it, more complex than we think, even though most of us tend to have pinpointed a few issues/values we find important (which we often are pretty stuck on). Therefore we need to also work with ourselves whenever we’re handling this (and any kind of) debate, because all humans have flaws. How can we create more love, respect and understanding with each other and where do we draw the lines? I feel like we have many relevant clues, both within feminism and outside of feminism, but most of us handle it a bit wrong.
Thank you very much, Caroline. 🙂