- -  Day # 65  + +

EU > Sweden > H?rn?sand

About pink power

H?rn?sand, SE (View on map)

The same jobs and the same salary for men and women: reality in many EU countries is very far away from this. Sweden is leading the dance when it comes to equal rights for both sexes on the work floor. The remaining difference is still the subject of debates, especially so for the widely supported feminist movement in Sweden. I am wondering how young Swedes think about that and how much sympathy the feminists can count on.

Matthias (33):

`We could use more male nurses and female truck drivers`
The feminist political party was founded in 2005 and joined the 2006 national elections with marginal success. They were set for revolutionary results but internal quarrels quickly made people lose appetite for their case. Matthias explains that feminism is broadly accepted, but Alpha-females are not. Everything that fights for equality in Sweden is bound to get broad support, anything that fights for special rights for a specific group will be frowned upon.

`The stereotype for feminists, also in Sweden, is that of red-haired lesbians`, says Henrik (24). `It makes no sense if women don`t earn the same salary as men, even when they have the same job. But some overdo it, and if they want men to do the dishes, then they should also be prepared to repair the car.` He is under the impression that some women take it to far and only claim equality in cases that suit them.

Mixed gender ideals
Mattias (33, photo) thinks that a mixed gender workforce should be considered the ideal, regardless of the company or job: `We could use more female truck drivers, and more male nurses. And of course they should get the same salary for the same job.` He further explains that staying home for the children is fairly easy for both the father and the mother. Fathers are granted one month of paid leave called pappaledig, which can be extended to one year. The leave is covered by the social security system and dads on leave will receive a large percentage of their salary while at home with the kids. Women can use the same trick to get up to 1.5 years off with at least 65% of their salary.

I am wondering whether that doesn`t make many men and women search for a long-term contract and get children straight after. Mattias confirms that, indeed, that is a very common procedure. Companies can do nothing about it but to bring in substitutes for the people on leave. For many foreign companies settling down in Sweden, that was not a merry surprise.

Role divisions
Role divisions between men and women are fairly non-existent. Men are often sent to cook and do vacuum cleaning, but on the other hand, they do not need to expect to pay for two when they take a girl out. In most cases, it would even be seen as slightly inappropriate as it denies the independent role of the woman. Girls are free to pursue a career and to seduce men instead of waiting to be the subject of seduction.

Opinions about sex are, not surprisingly, very liberal as well. Hardly anybody young person will avoid it as a conversation topic. Young people who marry with their first boyfriend or girlfriend are generally thought of as missing out on something. Their friends may think of them as insecure and impatient. Boys who have had a lot of partners are considered macho, while girls who have a lot of partners are quickly said to be easy - an inequality that is considered unfair by most girls.

Homosexuality is widely accepted, especially among friends and almost to the same extent within families. What counts more is that people find their ways of being happy without harming anybody else. Young people feel sufficiently free to experiment with same-sex relations even though they may end up getting married and having a traditional family life. If everybody is equal, then who could see harm in that. In one book I happened to browse in H?rn?sund`s city library, it even said that for successful flirting, you are supposed to look feminine. No matter if you are a woman or a man. Metrosexual men seem to be an ideal rather than the exception.

Apart from the salaries, the fight for gender equality seems to be almost complete. The resulting behaviour seem rather hedonistic to more conservative minds, but the Swedes are perfectly at ease with it.

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