Sweden obtains the reputation to be on the forefront of eliminating a societal gender bias. Eleonora Kleibel reflects upon her very personal experience after having lived in Sweden for half a year.
Sweden seems to be a Mecca for feminists and gender-aware folks in general. Looking at the representation of women in politics, in other influential positions within private corporations and the reality of how parental care is structured, this seems more than justified.
Having lived in Austria and Spain, countries that often seem to come from an equality comprehension stemming from Stone Age tradition, moving to Sweden almost naturally occurred like a blessing.
However, what occurs to be a blessing might actually also be a curse. Sweden’s apparently broad consensus of gender equality made me feel very comfortable. Too comfortable maybe. I come from a political tradition where it is more common to scandalize, polarise and provoke, regardless of ideological background. Whilst years and years of activism made me somewhat tired, the possibility not to constantly explain myself, my choices and beliefs took me to a slothful, feminist comfort zone.
But, just as any other place on this planet, Sweden is no patriarchy-free zone. This becomes evident when looking at the syllabus of your lectures and realising that you almost exclusively encounter male scholars but also when observing the usual macho behaviour in a typical Lund student night club.
In comparison to other European countries, Sweden also shows an enormously high rate of gender-based violence. With a rate of 46% of women who have experienced sexual or physical violence since the age of 15, Sweden makes the second place in a European contest not to be proud of.
Thus, just because there is a general acceptance for levelling out male and female speakers and the fact that there is a linguistic option for a third sex, does not consequently mean all issues concerning gender equality become obsolete.
Therefore, I came to ask myself, am I truly encountering certain debates less due to actual equality, broadly shared among all strata of society or is it just the Swedish stereotype of avoiding conflict?
It often rather comes across as a question of good manners that specific issues seemingly do enjoy societal consensus and are hence not argued about. The crux of the matter is whether the approval and appreciation of feminist concepts factually lead to reflected changes on an individual as well as societal level.
It comes down to the question if what is said, or presumably in some cases not, is also what is actually done. It is too easy to get lulled by the apparent agreement. There are still inconsistencies and inadequacies where I feel an honest discourse is often lacking.
It is a fallacy that sexism is less a problem just because it commonly comes across veiled.
There are still reasons to get together, to support each other, to reflect and denounce the status quo.
There are still struggles to fight, maybe less in Sweden compared to elsewhere, but that does not make them any less relevant.