tisdag 7 juli 2015

The railway station as the hub of patriarchy

Earlier this year I ran into a compilation of Swedish PhD theses in Gender Studies from 2014. One of them was particularly remarkable; number 19 on the list. It was the PhD thesis "Spaces, rhytm and travelling" ("Rum, rytm och resande") from Linköping University (pdf). The compilation summarises it:
"The thesis investigates railway stations as physical sites and social spaces in a gender perspective. Kimstad Station, Norrköping Station and Stockholm Central Station are included in the study. Results show that the railway stations reproduce patriarchy and that this affects both male and female visitors".
Thus, a PhD student has spent at least 4-5 years and several hundred thousand dollars/euro on visiting railway stations and conclude that "railway stations reproduce patriarchy". The supervisor of the PhD student has planned this work and the supervisor's bosses have approved it. In addition, a grading committee with external reviewers have assessed and signed that the thesis has a high enough standard.

It gets worse.

The PhD thesis has an English abstract, starting with:
"Results from the study show that individuals in different ways are affected by gendered power relations that dwell in rhythms of collective believes and in shape of materialized objects that encounter the commuters when visiting the railway station. While the rhythms of masculine seriality contains believes of males as potentially violent, as defenders and as bread winners, the rhythms of female seriality contains believes of women as primary mothers and housewives, of women as primary victim of sexual violence and of objectification of women’s bodies as either decent or as sexually available to heterosexual men". 
Rhythms of patriarchy. Poetic. Note the spelling and grammar.

Other exerpts from the thesis (translated):
"During the interviews the passengers were also asked to draw mental maps covering the railway stations that they were referring to. A mental map is an individual's subjective description of a certain geographical area".
"5.8.5 My body as a loaded tool
During the observations performed before August, 2011 I was a passenger myself. I took influence from the railway station with my own body, determined to do the trip with the attention directed towards catching my own departure (...)".
Is this science?
"6.2.1 Delays and the exoticising, obstructing white gaze
In the theory chapter I developed how Ahmed (2011) argues that society is shaped after a white hostile gaze that racifies, exoticises and sees bodies that are not percieved as white as 'strangers' or 'newly arrived', even if they have been present in the room during their whole lives. In the event mentioned above, it is obvious that I also use this collective gaze that I lay on the woman. By describing her as 'black' and letting myself be enchanted by her scarf I can be said to exoticise as well as racify her and look at her like at a colourful exotic plant in relation to the others present at Norrköping Station".
Hold on, was this a PhD thesis or was it embarrassing confessions in an unusually dopey autobiography?
"When the man laid his 'white gaze' on the woman and understood that she was in my company it seemed as if I in his view also 'took colour' and lost status".
Very important observation. Nobel laureate class.
"The distancing emerged as a refusal by him mentioning that he needed to go to the 'loo'. The message is interpreted to contain a distance in both class seriality and gender seriality. By referring to a toilet visit he signaled a border towards us as women which in principle entailed that it was impossible for a woman to follow him. By using 'loo', a term with a lower value, the expression seems like a classwise derogatory addressal".
Amazing! Both class and gender analysis fit in here. Beautiful!

I'll stop right here to not raise my readers' blood pressure too much.

After my original blog post about this in Swedish, the PhD thesis has been mentioned in several newspapers; Göteborgsposten (Sweden), Berlingske (Denmark) and Dagbladet (Norway).

lördag 20 juni 2015

School teacher told to avoid trigger warnings

Translation of an editorial in the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. Letter from a teacher:

"Last week (June 14), Janerik Larsson wrote about the feminist concept trigger warning. I couldn't refrain from smiling to myself when I read the article.

About three weeks ago I was at a job interview at a secondary school (high school) with about 600 pupils in central Stockholm. The temporary position concerned teaching Swedish and French. The principal and teacher who interviewed me told me that there are strong pupil groups who are very active within feminism and ecologism. The principal asked me what I think about that type of pupils. I responded that I enjoy pupils who are concerned, pupils who want to change the world. The principal seemed content with my answer.

She continued to ask about my stance to a pupil who didn't want to read texts with the words he/she, because the pupil in question got offended by texts that divide people by sex. At first, I thought for a while and wondered if I had got the question right. I found the response in the principal's somewhat embarrassed facial expression and responded that I thought that the pupil should nevertheless be urged to read the text, that the pupil can have any opinion about the text but should still be able to take in texts with he/she; anything else would be unthinkable.

Then I got the question whether I knew about the concept trigger warning. I tried to recall whether I had heard about the concept during my ten years at the university but finally responded that I didn't have a clue. The principal informed me that many pupils at the school are very "conscious" and expect that teachers are as well. She told me that they normally let pupils attend during job interviews since pupil influence is an important part of the school's working manner.

The interview continued and my environmental consciousness was tested. I felt, however, that I had already lost the job opportunity; my answers hadn't been satisfactory enough. At the same time I realised that I don't want to work at a school where pupil influence, in my view, has gone too far. This is a question where the school's leadership and staff have to put their foot down instead of anxiously give in to the students by removing teachers who don't have the exact same viewpoints as the pupils. In addition, it is wrong to let pupils of age 16, 17 have any kind of say when it comes to recruiting new teachers. In this case, the principal and the leadership must dare to take their responsibility.

I don't mind if the job goes to a more qualified colleague. I'm sure there are plenty. But if the thing is that you are removed as a teacher if you don't know the latest feminist concepts or try to satisfy all students, then you are on a dangerous path.

SEBASTIAN MARQUEZ VON HAGE Certified secondary school teacher"

torsdag 11 juni 2015

Fighting the Silence Norm at Swedish libraries

Many libraries in Sweden are becoming less attractive for book readers. This is particularly true in suburbs with many social problems. There are reports on drunk people, violence, loud youth gangs harassing visitors and staff, and robberies. Guards are being called in frequently.

The Swedish post-modern left has responded by criticising the "silence norm" at libraries. Strangely enough they are defending the bad behaviour of predominantly men this time, despite the alleged influence of Patriarchy.

Public Service Radio (Swedish Radio) posted the article "The library - a silent place or our common living room?". Weirder yet was a recent article in Litteraturmagazinet by librarian Sebastian Lönnlöv using a postmodern vocabulary.

He defends the loud people at the "people's library" where he works, calls it a "meeting place", and writes that it's even ok to be drunk there, as long as you don't disturb people or vomit (!). The article ends:
"You can smell bad at the library. You can be sad, you can be ill, you can be young and wild. There are limits, but those limits should not be dictated by a fine-literary middle class who want premises that they can be nostalgic about. Because we don't only exist for the literature-obsessed and well-behaved intelligentia".
Well, my comment is that public libraries don't exist for free. They are paid for by the public, and my modest estimate is that more than 90% of the general public want the library to be a quiet and safe place where people mainly go for reading. If this librarian and his friends wants to make his workplace a Social Justice project, people, including politicians, will react.

We are living in the information age and we can't take for granted that all libraries will exist in ten years. If libraries will still be libraries, many people will defend their existence. However, if libraries will continue to turn into "meeting places" for grownup babies who don't know how to behave, there won't be much sense for most people in wasting taxpayers' money on them.

Healthier parents with traditional gender roles

The Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan) released a report on June 1 with the title "Gender equality and sickness absence"*. It shows that fathers as well as mothers run an approximately 10 percent** lower risk than otherwise to be on sick leave for more than 14 days - if they live in a traditional relationship regarding gender roles where the man takes the main responsibility at work while the woman takes the main responsibility for domestic work.

The author of the report writes in the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet:
"The report shows that family situations which entail a traditional division of labour with the man as the main breadwinner and the woman as the main responsible person for the unpaid domestic work have the lowest sickness absence rates. Other family situations entail a higher sickness absence rate both for women and men.
The report also shows that the effect of gender equality in the family on the sickness absence rate may have been strengthened during the latter half of the 2000s".
Nevertheless, the author continues to claim (in the same article) that Sweden might as well continue its social engineering regarding labour division and concurrently work on changing attitudes on gender roles at home and at work, because it could allegedly strengthen Sweden's competitiveness. This reasoning is somewhat too much wishful thinking for my taste. An unhealthier population can hardly be more competitive.

*The Swedish Social Insurance Agency has changed URLs several times for the report. If the link doesn't work, try a Google search for "Jämställdhet och sjukfrånvaro" (the report title in Swedish).

**Tables 3 and 4 in the report provide more exact numbers. Mothers in traditional (labour divided) families had a 12% lower sickness absence rate than average mothers while mothers in families with equal division of labour at home and at work had a 15% higher rate than average. Fathers in traditional families had a 10% lower rate than average, while fathers in so-called "gender equal" families had a 7% higher sickness absence rate than average. Thus, interestingly, women seem to be more strongly negatively affected by gender related social engineering than men.

Feminist Saudi Arabia

I have noticed that about 1/6 of my visitors are foreign, so I will dedicate this post to you. You might have heard that Julian Assange has called Sweden "the Saudi Arabia of Feminism", or that the Danish daily paper Ekstra Bladet has dubbed Sweden "the Nordic North Korea".

It is possible to disagree with these two sources about multiple issues, but these two labels still reveal some essence of truth about this country.

Sweden has a self-proclaimed "feminist government" pursuing a "feminist foreign policy", "gender budgeting" and so on. The opposition leader is also a feminist. Thus, our political choice between governments and prime ministers is basically like a refreshment store offering their customers two options only: a choice between Coke and Pepsi.

All Swedish kindergartens and schools are obliged to "counteract traditional gender patterns" or to abide by similar wordings. Most of them do not seem to care. However, some have taken serious action and try to repress the gender of our young ones by not talking about sex differences and by calling the children by the newly invented gender neutral pronoun "hen", which has a different connotation in English.

Although the most vitriolic kinds of feminism have been invented in the United States by thinkers like Andrea Dworkin and Valerie Solanas, Sweden is the country in the world where feminism is applied in practice to the greatest extent.

Christmas is a particularly shameful holiday for feminists, because Christmas is believed to sustain patriarchal and other harmful traditional norms. Feminists have therefore taken action, which has been accounted for at this satirical blog.

Anyone speaking out in public against the feminist ideology is likely to face severe repercussions. This story tells about a female Swedish teacher committing this type of ideological blasphemy under her real name. Although it is generally accepted not to be a feminist in Sweden, most of us who are outspoken non-feminists or anti-feminists have chosen to conceal our real names.

Three of all the gender equality issues affecting men and boys in Sweden are 1) lower grades for boys in school resulting in 2/3 of the college graduates being female, 2) gender discriminating laws concerning child custody and other issues - and of course since the 1980s, there is no law that discriminates against women, and 3) rampant anti-male reporting in the media. It is common and acceptable to demonise men in media but not to demonise women. One example can be seen here.

The non-feminist movement is small, but has grown during the past year. Moreover, during the last parliamentary elections in November, the feminist political parties in Sweden did not increase their proportions of votes. The political situation is, perhaps partly therefore, unusually chaotic in Sweden. Here is a crash-course from The Economist on Swedish politics.

Thus, we are alive and well here in Feminist Saudi Arabia. There are many things to change, and political change occurs slowly and because of cunning and relentless political efforts.