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Kære Svenskere

Danish anthropologist Dennis Nørmark writes an open letter to Sweden.


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Dear Swedes,

We're surprised at you. As if you're no longer part of our common cultural heritage but rather a people from another planet. You may feel the same about us.

'Danes see themselves as the anarchists of Europe, and great parts of their culture praise their lack of norms', claimed the half-Danish Expressen culture editor Jens Liljestrand when half of Sweden hit the roof with musician Thomas Blachman's latest adventure: a half hour talk show where two men sit and talk before a standing undressed woman.

'Blachman' is a television show which, according to Berlingske Tidende's Tom Jensen, mostly hangs the two men out to dry - and not the woman. Seeing the woman naked makes them fumble, makes them chuckle and stammer, and this makes 'Blachman' into a show which only in its promotion appears to be sexist. 'For when one finally watches it, it's obvious it's the men who are the target, not the woman. The men are the loser: they're under the power of the woman. She has to continually blow them up - otherwise they collapse.'



My dear Swedes. How can that analysis have not taken root in your own orchard? Why is your reaction a furious resistance and a bizarre remake of the show on Swedish TV4 the other way around, with two women commenting on a naked man? Starting with the maxim 'two wrongs make a right', you make the detestable move to attack from the other camp and escalate a bitter feud which shouldn't be a feud at all. For sex wars, which I will discuss below, are the plague of the entire equality debate and are the reason Sweden's superficially progressive 'new feminism' is both unsympathetic and doomed to fail. Denmark's softer version, on the other hand, has a future.

We Danes looking at what's happening in your country and shaking our heads at your strange reactions and hate-drenched comments in the equality debate. The reaction to 'Blachman' is but one example - addressed directly to this kingdom - but when we the following week learn that your state liquor outlets have banned a beer bottle for having a label with a busty woman, then we shake our heads again. Or why not earlier this year when a report in the Danish magazine 'Fish & Free', which isn't even available in Sweden, with half naked women provoked violent reactions including threats to hack the company's website?

But the world appears differently for a great many of you Swedes. According to Jens Liljestrand, the following is the analysis of Danish sexism:

'There's a type of Danish sex and porn liberalism which means there are no limits, this in the name of freedom.'

But there's also another way of looking at things. Namely that you in Sweden have changed from a land with sexual liberty and openness to a land where Julian Assange - polemically but also highly justified - called you 'the feminist counterpart to Saudi Arabia', as his sexual encounters with two Swedish women were suddenly spread around the world as rape, in an affair which to me sounds like the culmination of a persecution complex that an aggressive and man-hating Swedish feminism has imprinted in many of your nation's females - an illusion about themselves and their sexuality characterised by an especially vulnerable 'chastity', in contrast to the male's primitive and destructive instincts.

And in that regard, Assange's comparison to the culturally underdeveloped Saudi Arabia is actually appropriate. There's also something fundamentally conservative about Sweden's new feminism, expressed in Liljestrand's despair at the Danish lack of norms, along with the feminist stubbornness, as if coming from the 1800s, in seeing women as sexual victims.

Many people in Denmark wonder if you really think this is a constructive approach to dealing with a necessary and relevant equality debate.

Gender roles can very well appear to be more traditional in Denmark, and in many ways they are. But maybe this is because Danes are more comfortable with the differences between the sexes and don't have their elimination as a goal. Here we watch lighthearted television comedies about the 'differences' because we enjoy thinking about them and relating them to our own lives. Here in Denmark, your experiments with gender-neutral preschools have been met with riotous laughter and revulsion, often with the comment that differences between the sexes are something we should instead value. We Danes do not attempt to suppress them either in word or deed.

Things might be more relaxed in Denmark, but that's a big advantage for us which, I believe, will result in a much more constructive approach to equality than what you proselytise.

The difference is that most of us don't see there being a war between the sexes, and we don't want to declare such a war either. So most of us don't want a 'zero sum game' where one forfeits one's legally achieved privileges so they can be turned over to someone else. And we don't want to start a competition about which sex should be pitied the most. We know that men are overrepresented in demographics for alcohol and drug abuse and that women are in a minority in high positions. But these are social issues, not issues pertaining to sex.

In Denmark it's OK to think there are fundamental differences between the sexes that benefit both sexes.

To me it appears that most of us here think we should discuss such matters in an abstract fashion - and not a bitter atmosphere conducive of misunderstanding about how the opposite party thinks, but with understanding and sympathy for each other and the diversity we enjoy from having two sexes.

I think we're on the right course in Denmark with our affirmation of the differences between the sexes and our constructive dialog. I think that's why we got a female prime minister before you. We didn't make a big deal of it, it just happened. But in Sweden, where the atmosphere is aggressive, where you're not satisfied using positive discrimination and where you openly harass men for their sexuality, yes - there you are and still have your half-bald prime minister.

I actually want to claim that we're a bit ahead of you in equality because you've gone in the opposite direction and after the fact created a society on women's, not men's or both sexes', premises. All you've done is begun oppressing another sex.

When the Dutch sociologist Geert Hofstede surveyed global differences in values in the 1980s, he discovered that men everywhere in the world showed more extreme behaviour than women and that their behaviour varied more than that of women. He developed a value scale that encompassed extremities in competition and dominance. He called this value 'masculinity', and he found that nations placing high on this scale valued worthiness, honour, the ability to subsist on one's own, and the courage to dominate and accept responsibility.

The country that ranked lowest on this scale was Sweden. Sweden had a rating of 5, Denmark a 16. The scale goes up to Japan which topped the league at 95. Using the studies of Hofstede, one might draw the conclusion that these results only emphasise Sweden's leadership as the most 'equal' country in the world. But one can also draw another conclusion: namely that Sweden has very simply chosen the other extreme and implemented female values as a cultural norm and actively suppressed things men value.

The Scandinavian tradition of consensus, strongest in Sweden, is for example the archenemy of dominance, and from social clubs to daycares, both Danish and Swedish men are smothered by fussing, whining, and leveling. The good boys in preschool are taught that they should sit down and behave like the nice girls - they should climb down from the trees and do something civilised and sensible.

Scandinavian society is also without honour. Public support, pedagogical support programmes, and the victim mentality for the individual: they all devalue one's pride, or they explain away pride as something to be ignored. For there's no reason to be ashamed of failure!

But maybe it's a good thing to be ashamed of failure, for not being able to support oneself or one's family, maybe honour and shame are not only primitive macho concepts but instead a precondition for strong individuals who greet the world with pride and self-respect instead of searching for a category of victim they can snuggle into, a niche yielding them further government benefits?

So the yearning for competition and ambitiousness is more male than female. And so is reason. Fewer men than women believe in astrology or healing or play with Tarot cards. Generally it's fewer men than women who lean towards the metaphysical too because they prefer logical arguments to those born from emotions.

Generally as well there are more men than women oriented towards quantity rather than quality when it comes to sex, and they react more to visual input than women, something corroborated by worldwide anthropological studies and experiments. So the 'chastity' of 'new feminism', the new puritanism, and the embargo on photos is also for the woman's benefit, and not the man's.

One can, using the research of Hofstede, draw the conclusion that the Scandinavian people - and in particular the Swedish people - have learned to devalue things that are typically dominant in the male rather than in the female. Whether these things are biological or cultural in origin is in this context an absurd and pointless discussion which only serves to shift focus from the facts: namely that there are some things that are more masculine than feminine.

I therefore believe that equality in the future will be a matter of accepting our differences between the sexes and understanding how balance can benefit society as a whole. Today we know through research that diversity leads to innovation, progress, and achievements. But this demands we affirm the differences and make room for them.

If men are to deny themselves privilege, status, and position, it must be conditional on them seeing this as to their advantage. They'll otherwise regard it as a conflict of interest and a struggle for resources and power. I think Danes have an advantage here because we, both structurally and judicially, support equality but at the same time recognise the differences and don't deconstruct them.

If you can see the benefit of diversity, you'll refrain from attacking, dismissing, and ridiculing cultures, social groups, and sexes that don't get along with the norms set up by a society's dominant group.

In Sweden you've established a norm. This norm is made for women. And you've started an active oppression of everything that doesn't fit in this norm. You'll never achieve equality like that. What's worse is that you're evidently far from being able to realise this yourselves, and instead of self-insight, you direct your intolerance and narrow-minded logic at Denmark. It's so sad to see. But it's worse for you yourselves. Swedish women, you've won so fucking much, and today you're the oppressors.

You've succeeded in fencing in male sexuality as something dangerous, inferior to, and more primitive than female sexuality. You've done this by reducing the male to a prehistoric Neanderthal, and you've done this so systematically that you're beginning to believe it yourselves. We do this in Denmark too, and 'Blachman' is a prime example: men who follow along in the dominant discourse that men are primitive barbarians play their role to perfection, thereby undermining their own authority.

Even worse, you've lost the ability to correctly understand the show itself, and instead gawk at a pair of naked breasts and forget everything else.

You've begun a war. A war against men. By favouring women and discriminating against men much more than we do in Denmark. Take for example the latest lark to again propose implementation of special 'Swedish man tax'. Of course they'll be mad, as it's nothing but common thievery. It only creates more victims, even if you push the argument that men have such an enormous moral debt that they should be happy if they end up with minimal negative income.

You discriminate and oppress man with a behaviour and a language that, had it been used by men against women, would have been immediately been condemned as sexist.

You've started a bitter, evil, and unjust war against the other sex. Aside from the fact that you stand to gain nothing for your effort, this war will also inevitably lead to a total backlash, because sooner or later the male will not longer want to be part of your 'equality' war where they're condemned beforehand, a war where they're ridiculed and their values and sexuality are desecrated. Gradually they'll turn against you, and everyone will lose. The pendulum swings back again.

We've chosen a slightly different course in Denmark - or at least I believe we're on our way to doing so. We're learning step by step that all of us, men and women, have something to win with equality. For if you start the war and punish men for being men, you'll never achieve the one thing that can engender equality - namely that men too see it's to their own benefit.

My dear Swedes, it's not only women who'll lose this gender war. Nope. ALL Swedes will be losers.

And this is the reason Denmark's passed you by on the road to equality.

No matter what you delude yourselves to think.

Postscript

As announced by Politiken and DN.se, Sweden had a chance for a reply by ultra-feminist Nina Björk who titled her piece 'WE DON'T TOLERATE DANISH SEXISM!' The fact that Danes seem to be living the life whilst Swedes get more and more miserable and now are shown to be sex-starved - that escapes the lovely Björk.

Björk begins her meandering with an own goal:

'Feminism är en politisk rörelse för att göra kön till en ointressant kategori i en människas sociala liv.'

Translated:

'Feminism is a political movement to make gender an uninteresting part of the social life of a human being.'

No more need be said. QED.

See Also
Learning Curve: Six Feminist Myths

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