‘Men have ruled the world for too long’ – Interview with Swedish feminist politician Veronica Svärd

August 3, 2014 1:00 pm

‘Men’s violence against women causes more death than all military conflicts in the world. It is the worst form of oppression of women, and of course Sweden, like everywhere else, does not stand free from this global insecurity matter’ – says Veronica Svärd, candidate to the Swedish parliament for Feminist Initiative.  Below you can find my interview with her.

Piotr Balkus: When we think Sweden, we think Feminism. Why this “movement” is popular in Sweden more broadly than in any other countries?

Veronica Svard pressbild - Foto Josefin EngbergVeronica Svärd: I think there are several reasons that have led to that feminism has been comparably strong in Sweden. Firstly, we have had some strong role models in history such as Alva Myrdal, who in the beginning of the 20th century had a great part in building up the social welfare model and child health care. In the 1970s there was a powerful women’s movement in Sweden known of as ”Group 8”, who claimed that every second politician should be a woman and who fought for child care and equal pay. During the 1990s an intense debate grown about that the feminist movement were to white, to middle classed, and to heternormative – and the government decided that gender perspective should be an integral part in all university based educations and gender science departments established. Therefore, many people have got basic knowledge about what gender and feminism means. And all political parties, except for the Christian democrats, have adopted feminism into their political programs. However, during the last eight years women’s situation in Sweden have had a backlash because the liberal and conservative politics have worsening women’s situation in several ways. During this period Sweden for the first time have had a fascist party in the national parliament. The frustration amongst feminists and anti-racists have lead to a joint movement, and the political party Feminist Initiative is a strong voice within this movement.

When I read opinions of Swedish women about themselves on blogs and social media, I have a feeling that every female person in Sweden is a feminist…

I wish! But many of us are. I believe this mainly is because we know what feminism is about; equal rights based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity/race, class, (dis)ability, or age. Most feminists see how these power relations co-exist, and that we need to work with them all. The feminist movement try harder than ever to be inclusive, and it is a lively debate about feminism and anti-racism.

– If I meet a Swedish woman and have a chat with her, is there any thing/subject I shouldn’t mention during our conversation to not to offend her? ( Can I talk about war for example or sex or life-after-death or God or gender equality or make-up?)

Well, remember the radical notion that women are people. People are usually interested in different topics.

– Sweden is one of the safest and caring-about-women-rights countries in the European Union, however it has a high rate of reported assault and sex crimes. Can you explain us why is that?

Men’s violence against women causes more death than all military conflicts in the world. It is the worst form of oppression of women, and of course Sweden, like everywhere else, do not stand free from this global insecurity matter. Sweden are far from gender equal. Only 20 % of the sex crimes are reported to the police, and among those, only 5 % are leading to conviction. Thus, Sweden are not a safe country for women. The comparable high reporting is a consequence of wider definitions of sex crimes in law the last years, it does not say anything about if there actually are more sex crimes.

– Swedish family model is something what other countries admire and try to follow. But Sweden also noticed general increase in violent and drug-related crime. Does famous Swedish family model works in practice?

I don’t think it is possible to say that these different tasks are directly related to each other. As mentioned earlier, high levels of reported sex crime rate may be a consequence of feminist movement have managed to widening the definitions a bit. But the family model, meaning that we have subsidized child care and a comparably long parental leave, is not the solution for ending violence or drug-use. The Swedish family model has failed because it has not resulted in gender equality. Men only uses 25 % of the parental leave, women are still doing the most of the work at home, and 30 % of women are working part time compared to 11 % of men. What we do know, however, is that men in heterosexual families living more equal, uses violence in a less degree, and that these families have lower divorcing rates.

– Sweden is in general non-religious country. What is the people’s purpose of life then? Or lets say philosophy of life?

(Laughter) If you ask me, I would say that the purpose of life is to live and love!

– I have to ask about feminist party which recently reached 5,5% of Swedish votes. Do you think the party is going to become the biggest one in the country? Would it be good thing for all Swedish people (including men)?

Sweden is far to patriarchal to let a feminist party being the biggest one, for a couple of decades at least. It takes time to change a society! Most urgent is that the growing fascist movement in Sweden must be stopped and vanished. What we see right now is that women, lgbt-people and ethnic minorities are losing their rights in country after country in Europe, and it’s moving fast – also in the Nordic countries. Let’s face the fact: Men have ruled the world for too long time. What we can see in Feminist Initiative is that more and more men understands this, and are willing to let women and minority groups (which together is a clear majority of the population!) set the political agenda.

Veronica Svärd is a candidate to the Swedish parliament for Feminist Initiative. You can follow her on twitter @veronicasvard and visit her blog www.veronicasvard.wordpress.com

*Editor’s note – we have not edited the questions/answers of this interview so as to maintain the original words/meaning of the interviewee. Both parties are Swedish and as such are conducting the interview in their second language.

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  • Offended Swede

    What the hell is up with that second last question?

    • Rafael Ascaro

      Seems like a fairly reasonable answer to me…

  • Laura Virtanen

    They claim immigrants are criminals, human traffickers.

  • Jesaja

    Either it is a typo or Veronica Svärd got the facts wrong, but Alva Myrdal was a politician and feminist during the – mid – 20th century.

    • AdminCharlie

      Thanks Jesaja, we’ve amended this.

  • Chris Robinson

    Surely, it’s about class outlook rather than gender? I certainly hold with equality and equal opportunities but just being a woman doesn’t automatically mean a politician or a political party is going to benefit the majority – Thatcher was a woman (in case anyone didn’t notice). She put back the cause for gender equality many years. Angela Merkel too, and look at the parlous state Indira Ghandi left India in. Each of these women did their dirty work with the aiding and abetting of many a male politician too but it was their POLITICS that did the damage – on whose behalf were they ruling? When you see that the vast majority of ordinary working and middle class people’s incomes have dipped while, correspondingly, the incomes of the top 10% earners have vastly increased especially since the economic meltdown, it’s easy to see: politics is about class. Gender, class, race, religion, culture, sexual orientation etc are issues used by the ruling class to divide and rule us. While we are squabbling among ourselves down below, the wealthier class are laughing all the way to the bank. So, yes, let’s have more women in politics, framing our laws, but what kind of laws? What kind of politics? None of this comes across in the article enough.

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