Danish Women’s Bodies

One of those news stories that makes scandy-philes scratch their heads made it out of Denmark a while back.

On DR2 (the state broadcaster), there is a show where some bloke comments on the bodies of some nude women. A bit like X-Factor but where the only talent the woman is judged on, is having secondary sexual characteristics? I am not going to pretend I have seen it.

So, the left-wing international press asked “People of the world! We thought Denmark was a Scandinavian feminist paradise!” and Danish feminists tried to explain the situation to them in ways they might understand.

What no one is saying is that feminism has not won in Denmark. What has happened is that the Danish people have realised you cannot run a welfare state with this number of dependents, without full-employment of those able to work.

Women work outside of the home because the country would be royally bolloxed if they did not. Not because of sisterhood or the sincere belief that women are equal to men.

Women are not equal to men in Danish society.

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. (Photo credit: ЯAFIK ♋ BERLIN)

For example. The rape laws only just got changed this month, where being the husband of the woman you raped got you a smaller sentence (and a lighter charge).

The role of “mother” has been abolished and converted into the role of “parental guardian”, in the same way the role of “father” was in the last hundred years or so. This isn’t to free the people from domestic drudgery, this is the work of capitalism. Paid work is the only thing that counts. Both parents are expected to outsource the raising of their children to “professionals”. Human relationships not based on exchange of monies and services are not valued.

Danish women’s bodies are a thorny issue. Danish girls wear very revealing clothing, which goes unremarked in schools but at some point in their twenties a switch is thrown and they cover up. Most Danish women wear layers out of necessity (the weather turns around so much, that you need to be able to remove or add clothing to keep up), but they cover their cleavage with massive scarves. Uncovered cleavage is a grave faux pas. They might wear skin tight leggings but bare legs are greeted with “aren’t you cold?” by every Dane in a 2-km radius. Meanwhile, women who cover their hair or their bodies more loosely, are also subject to the reverse pressure. They are told they are being oppressed by their men and must uncover their bodies immediately because we said so.

The naked female body is everywhere. There is an advert for breast augmentation which features a pair of nude “new breasts” on most buses in the towns and cities. Hardcore pornography is sold in newsagents and petrol stations, the covers are not obscured and the titles are not always on the top shelf.

Let me break this down for you: I have entered a newsagents and been confronted with a row of images of naked (except for sex toys, restraints or other accoutrements), females stood next to clothed men. Given the more violent trends in porn these days, many of these women looked unhappy, in pain or distressed. This was on the middle shelf, so in full view of any one over 1m high.

Some men (and women), like to view pornographic images and films and the law of the land says that they can. But showing pornography to children is sexual abuse. Having these images visible is sexually abusive. We are not talking about a happy lady (or lad), with their tuppenny bits hanging out joyously, these images are confusing and worrying for children and adolescents.

And wouldn’t you know, it is all so that someone can make money.

Advertisements in general show women in a particular way, they are often objectified or associated with sex, even if they are selling something unrelated to sexuality. Men are not often put in this position. When it is, it is to be ironic or to make a point. The female body is used to sell things and it is only valuable so long as it makes men think about sex.

Given that Danish beaches are often clothing-optional and single-sex changing rooms rarely have cubicles, you might get the impression that non-sexual nudity is acceptable in this culture. Every year at Roskilde, for example, there is a nude race, which is just happy-good-times for young people with bouncy ballsacks and boobs.

However, the government of Denmark has ruled that women who are breastfeeding in public may be asked to stop or leave the premises because this behaviour might offend others.

This may seem at odds with the happy-go-lucky attitude to human-female flesh in Denmark but it seems perfectly consistent to me.

For as long as a woman’s body can be used to make money or arouse sexual interest, it is valuable in Denmark. The show about a couple of fat old nobcheeses commenting on how attractive they found a nude woman showcases the attitude. Women’s bodies can be used to sell pornography, they can be airbrushed and used to make women want to pay for cosmetic surgery, they can be used to sell non-sexual products, they can be decoration but they cannot be used for other purposes.

Danish women’s bodies are for public consumption, they are to be displayed when they are young and firm and covered up when adolescence ends. The use of a breast to feed an infant makes people feel intensely uncomfortable. The advice to breastfeed for six months has been taken on board by many but to breastfeed for any longer is seen as an aberration, dangerous even. Breastfeeding must take place in secret, in toilets or designated rooms, but airbrushed sexualised imagery may be displayed anywhere at all.

For feminists to think that Denmark has made greater strides against sexism because so many mothers have full-time jobs is to entirely misunderstand how the patriarchy oppresses us all.

15 thoughts on “Danish Women’s Bodies

  1. I had to hide the fact that I was breastfeeding from my Danish in-laws and friends once we hit the 9 month mark. I couldn’t deal with the unremitting commentary about how wrong or unnecessary it was that I was still choosing to breastfeed my baby.

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    1. Yeah, I had to get pretty militant on the whole breastfeeding thing. “The World Health Organization recommends children be breastfeed for *at least* two years,” became my constant refrain. People kept saying, “but she should be eating real food,” as if I was ONLY allowing her to breast feed. I had to point out that she did eat real food AND got supplemental breast milk. And when they’d say “oh, she’s *still* breastfeeding” and give me the raised eyebrows and pursed lips of disapproval, I’d respond with a “yes” and a calm, but challenging expression. A “should I put this child down and we can take you and your attitude outside, motherf_cker? Because I can do that. I WILL END YOU!!”

      I have perfected that face. Thanks, Denmark, for all the practice.

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  2. For a bunch of people that subscribe to the 60’s hippie go back to nature, knit your own yogurt, collective, mother nature thing, this anti boobfood thing doesn’t quite fit in, it’s the epitome of natural, we’re mammals after all!

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  3. Thank you…great post! It’s great to get such powerful response to the terrible programme on DR2, to the ridiculous breast feeding issue and the hypocritical view on women in general

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  4. Strange. I had no problem breast-feeding in public in Denmark in the 70’s – but we didn’t wear pink either. That was when women were just beginning to make a major entrance on the job market – but in roles they already had – day care, teacher, nurse, cleaner (called home aide) etc. When I (an American) tried for more “male” jobs, I was considered pushy, and twice (at least) I was fired because a boss was afraid I was competing with him.

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    1. It feels like everyone took a couple of steps backwards.
      When I was a teen I did not imagine I would have to fight running battles against matters that were settled before I was born.
      Immigrants to Denmark are filtered according to sex. Females to care assistant roles, males to driving. Whatever their expertise before they came.
      I find it astonishing they don’t even realise the problem.

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