International Women’s Day

Everyone thinks Scandinavia has equality taped. Everyone thinks that because women are not excluded from the job market in Denmark, then feminism must have achieved all its aims and everyone can stand down.

We could talk about pay and violence, and the progress still to be made in Denmark. There is plenty of mileage in those topics, believe.

But I’d like to concentrate on this news story:- Parents looking to shrink their ‘tall’ daughters.

When healthy human beings need to be operated on or medicated in childhood to keep them from displaying traits from the ‘wrong’ set of humans there is something badly wrong and equality has not been achieved.

Healthy boys who are made to be taller and healthy girls who are made to be shorter, in order to fit in with society’s ideals around masculinity and femininity, are being betrayed by their community.

International Women’s Day

Seems like the women’s movement is still in need of shoulders to the wheel.

Here’s are some ways you can take action in the local community:-

Support LOKK network and Danner crisis centres with money or time

Do some background reading at KVINFO

 

Support Reden International with money or time

Find out about human trafficking in Denmark

Volunteer for a Girls’ Club

Support Danish Women’s Society with time or money

Protest lower wages for women

Share your story and read the stories of others of Everyday Sexism

 

 

 

 

Violence against women

The European Agency for Fundamental Rights has run a survey about sexual violence in European countries.

Denmark is top of the poll with 52% of women surveyed experiencing physical or sexual violence from a partner or a non-partner since the age of 15. The average in the EU is 33%.

If you look at the reports in the UK press, where the UK’s stats are also higher than the average at 44%, it is a straight report of the press release. They report: there is a major problem with violence against women and true figures may be much higher because women may not have considered some of their experiences to have been assault.

The Danish press spin this line in another way. There is no way that backwards bloody European countries treat their women better than Denmark, they say. The women in Denmark are empowered to report, so the figures are skewed.

Ok, let’s just say that is right. Then the European average proportion of women who have been attacked is much higher than 50%, surely? Because the average women being attacked in Denmark IS 52%. That is fucking shocking, even if another country has a bigger problem. This is the problem with ranking countries like this. If Denmark came at the bottom of the table at 52%, they would be able to be complacent about being better than Greece (or wherever) and if Denmark comes at the top of the table at 52%, they are able to be complacent because the survey did not get the real answer because women in other countries are so much more oppressed.

No action needed? Come on guys, we can’t just ‘other countries are worse’ our way out of everything!

The Equality Minister of Denmark and the author of the report have suggested that Danish women are experiencing these high levels of violence because Danish men are jealous of women’s success in the workplace.

My understanding is that greater independence of women leads to less violence, not more. Abusers like their victims isolated and dependent.

The issue with blaming the women’s movement on greater levels of violence against women is that the women’s movement was conceived as a method of reducing violence against women.

Without a women’s movement: women are attacked (with no recourse to help or justice) because they are vulnerable. With a women’s movement: women are attacked (with some recourse to help and justice), because they have recourse to help and justice.

Really? Sounds incredibly weak, sorry. What I am left with is that men feel like they can attack women. It is a structural problem not a problem with what women are or are not doing. 

Men feel like they can do it. So they do it.*

Other countries with high levels of reported violence also have bigger drinking cultures. Maybe it could be that Danish men are getting more sexually aggressive because they are drunk? Except, a recent study has gone some way to debunking that.

The study is an interesting read. 90% of sexual violence in bars is male on female. This is worth repeating because I find that whenever someone talks about violence against women, someone will say that women attack men sexually too. They may even have a personal experience. And it is bad, I’m not denying it. It’s really bad. But we’re going to talk about the 90% of cases right now. This isn’t a case of ‘both as bad as each other’, it really is not. (Similarly, the FRA study suggests that in 80% of physical or sexual attacks on women by non-partners, men are involved.)

The rest of the report about behaviour in bars found no correlation between level of inebriation and level of instigation. Alcohol does not make men more sexually aggressive. What they found was that men are going to bars to target inebriated women because they are more vulnerable to attack. These men are predators. They are not confused or led on, they are deliberately going to places where their marks are less able to prevent them from attacking.

So, if greater alcohol culture is to blame for the high levels of sexual violence in Denmark, that says something quite disturbing about Danish men. They are not helpless victims of the demon drink, they are going after incapacitated women because they are easier to attack.

Only quite recently did the Danish government change the law that it was not ‘rape’ to rape your drunk wife. It was only sexual assault. With that sort of prevailing cultural attitude, you can see how that might translate into behaviour.

I looked in more detail at the figures from the FRA.

Physical and/or sexual violence at the hand of a partner or non-partner since age 15: 52%

Physical and/or sexual violence from a partner since age 15: 32%

Physical and/or sexual violence from a non-partner since age 15: 40%

Suggesting that it is not domestic violence at the heart of this matter (although, that is obviously a big problem).

Physical violence from a partner or non-partner since age 15: 48%

Physical violence from a partner since age 15: 29%

Physical violence from a non-partner since age 15: 36%

Women are being more often attacked by men who are not their partners. (Remember, the stats say that 80% of the non-partners involved in these attacks were male)

Sexual violence from a partner or non-partner since age 15: 19%

Sexual violence from a partner since age 15: 11%

Sexual violence from a non-partner since age 15: 11%

Suggesting Denmark has a much bigger problem with physical violence than sexual violence. 

Looking at the stats of where these assaults are taking place:-

20% at school or workplace, 18% in someone else’s home, 18% in a cafe or bar, 17% outside in a public place and 15% in own home.

Those 20% of attacks at school or work will not have been alcohol fuelled, presumably. (Unless of course, they only interviewed women who work with drunks like police officers and emergency room doctors.)

My take on it is that our culture says that women should be and act a certain way and men should have certain privileges and violence is used to enforce this. No amount of saying women’s rights have won is going to change the essential truth that they really have not.

When Danes get up on their high horse about how Muslims treat ‘their’ women, it is irritating. These Danes do not have any Muslim friends, male or female. They are going on prejudice and ignorance. But when you realise that whatever the problems ‘The Other’ have, Danish women do not have it that much better,  it makes the prejudice so much harder to bear.

Women in Denmark are attacked, mostly by men, in large numbers. It is mostly regular violence but sexual violence is also an issue. It is mostly non-partners but abuse from partners is also a major problem.

Complacency is rife, along with trying to find out what these women were doing that gets them into harm’s way.

Let’s look at it another way. What is making men think that they can attack others? What is making men feel like a woman is fair game for sexual violence? Why aren’t the courts full to bursting with these cases of violence?

* Obviously not all men. If it’s not about you, it’s not about you.

High Heels in DK

Last night, I went out with my colleagues who come from all over the world. There was only one person wearing heels. One of the group remarked on it and I looked around and I couldn’t see any heels around me in the streets.

Århus Festuge, stiletto warning sign
© Karin Holt

This would have been highly unusual back home in London. The number of times I have seen women tottering and stumbling behind their male colleagues in the tunnels of the tube was extraordinary. (Admittedly, I didn’t notice the ones who are keeping up). Many of my colleagues wore heels to work. On a night out, a woman looks out of place without heels on.

Meanwhile, in London, women are shouted and beeped at daily by men. Sexual harassment occurs if you are too sexy, not sexy enough or anything in between. Very few human females are invisible: those under the age of around 10 and those over the age of 35, the visibly disabled etc. Though if some men, the sort of men who are into this, find women from outside those ranges especially sexually attractive/disgusting, they will make that clear.

I think there is a link. Where a society requires a certain level of femininity, females are openly harassed to enforce these requirements. Women who are too sexy are harassed to make it clear that they are still beneath those who ride around in unmarked vans feeling shit about their lives, even if they look good enough to fuck. Women who are not sexy enough are harassed to make it clear that they need to look attractive enough to fuck. That is all we are in the minds of those men. Potential fucktoys.

Where on earth would they get that idea?

Look at countries that go the opposite way, where femininity includes covering up, doing what you are told and staying silent. Women are harassed for not being ‘modest’ enough (and forcing men to want to fuck them), whatever they do. Because all we are measured on are the boners we generate.

In Denmark, the markers of femininity are different and the pressure to be the right amount of sexy is more subtle. There is still plenty of sexual objectification but less harassment. There are enforced standards of dress but they are different depending on age.

At my age, there are a set of clear standards. Heels are optional, very high heels are commented upon to put social pressure on the woman to stop wearing them. Make up is optional. Revealing clothing is frowned upon but tight clothing is fine whatever your body shape.

I do not miss heels. I have some but I do not do well on them. I trip, I get blisters, I get knee and back pain. Every now and then, I get a kick out of wearing a nice pair but I must be able to walk in them. I must be able to run in them. Women are more at risk from people they know but the risk from strangers is still there. Along with the very small risk of disasters that necessitate running. Along with the reasonably significant risk of needing to suddenly get out of the way of a vehicle when crossing the road.

I will only wear heels to things where I will mostly be sitting and I actually cannot remember the last time I wore any. Well over a year ago. The thing about heels is that they infantilise you. Your movement is restricted and you need a lot of help and support to go about your daily business. A lot of people like the way they make their body feel and look and a lot of people like seeing them on others. Who am I to criticise?

The lovely Emily McClean likes being taken care of. She likes being damselled and rescued. Each to their own.

But she goes further in her column to say that Danish women are rejecting men by acting as full adults, that they swarm, that they wear grey androgynous sacks and suggests that they have a duty to wear shoes they cannot walk in so that men have a chance to shepherd their dates.

She describes these swarms of people ‘feminists’ as if that says it all. As if ‘feminist’ means a shapeless grey woman who wants to kill every boner.

Let’s all take a moment to listen to Caitlin Moran

“We need to reclaim the word ‘feminism’. We need the word ‘feminism’ back real bad. When statistics come in saying only 29% of American women would describe themselves as feminist – and only 42% of Brisbane women – I used to think, what do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? ‘Vogue’ by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit get on your nerves? Or were you drunk at the time of the survey?”

As far as I know, Caitlin Moran wears colourful clothes and heels. Lots of feminists, even in Denmark, do. Feminism isn’t about killing boners, it is about being more than simply sexually alluring at all times.

If you are having a deep and loving relationship with someone who likes that in a partner, why not indulge them once in a while? Or if you like that sort of thing, find someone who will indulge you. Even better, get together with someone who shares your interest and go nuts.

But to suggest that all women should offer this kink to every single man? Jesus. Let alone that many people would find it massively offputting and ridiculous that their date has deliberately reduced their mobility to appear more attractive. Can’t we all just agree to do things we are into (and negotiate with loving partners, the sorts of things they like)? Can’t we all just do that from now on?

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.

.
. (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.

One from the Vaults: Subscribing to Feminism

I wrote this four years ago and I still believe it! I guess that means I’m a grown up now, that I’m not overwhelmed with embarrassment at the shit I wrote in the past.

Some of the trouble with feminism is what it is called.
It sounds a lot like “hey, we’re the women and we’ve come here to install a matriarchal society! pip pip!”
The first women’s movement in my culture was called “Universal Suffrage” if my history lessons serve. The name is a lot more “equal ops” because it does not promote women over men, just says “hey, equal rights!”
But when universal suffrage was ticked off the “how women are worse off than men” score card, there was still more to do.

Feminists could be called anything and maybe it would be better if they were called something more inclusive but they aren’t and I don’t think a rebrand at this stage is a good idea.

If they changed it to “humanist” even though that’s, like, already taken… people would say “hey, what makes you different from feminists” and they would be like “nothing, we just rebranded because we like men”
(or more accurately “we just rebranded because we were sick of men saying ‘but what about the men!'”)

Even though feminism is about human rights, it is about how females have fewer human rights and would like some more. It is not really about the human rights of men because usually they have them unless they are really unlucky, disabled, old, poor or dark skinned. And then we’re onto different equality movements.
Sexism against men does happen and the movement against that is called feminism. Or it is when I do it.

Essentially, I don’t like semantics. I think it is a waste of time. I would quite like people to quit killing women for wanting to choose a husband and also I would like to have hairy legs and to feel comfortable within myself at the same time. If we are going to call these aims “feminism” or “nazism” or “capitalism” I am on board. I am not really thinking about the headline.

Maybe instead of having Privilege Olympics when people try to work out who is the most disenfranchised out of black people, women, disabled people, poor people, fat people and the gays; someone (me?) should suggest a movement called Equalitists. Where crack teams of the middle classes go around enforcing equality by running badly attended marches, forming committees which fall out within three meetings and making buttons/signs/tshirts.
Oh and blogging about it.

Once the Women’s Group at my uni released balloons to remember important women. You got to take a balloon and write the name of your heroine onto the label.
They made a big thing of women writing “MY MUM”. But what they should have made a big thing out of was how essentially crap that gesture was.
Great, so we have polluted South Wales, used up irreplaceable helium and made women feel guilty for not knowing any famous women heroes.
Meanwhile, where the fuck is the rest of my pay?

I am so getting kicked out of feminism.