Thursday, December 12, 2013

Gender Neutrality in Sweden

During the last month, I've been debating with myself whether to renew my subscription to Time magazine or not.  I need to tighten the financial belt.  I thought I could live without it.  But then, week after week, I found articles that I wanted to respond to on this blog.  How could I stop reading a rich source of blog post ideas?  At the end of November, I wrote "What Boys Want" based on a feature story in Time.  Not even a month later, they published another gender-related story in their December 16, 2013 issue about Sweden's movement toward gender neutrality, "Boys Won't be Boys."  Now, how could I pass that up?


Christine Ingebritsen, professor of Scandinavian and women's studies at the University of Washington declares in the article, Sweden is "laying the groundwork.  They're sort of postgender now and are focusing more on humanism, on what -- as humans -- is going to bring us all closer to equal rights.  Sweden is our future."  My kind of country, I think.  Postgender, focusing more on humanism.  But isn't gender and sexuality a part of being human? 

By focusing so forcefully and purposefully on feminist concerns in the past, how has Sweden been treating its men?  Turns out, some men are feeling downright oppressed by the push for equal rights and gender neutrality, according to the article.  The cynic in me thinks, "Oh yeah, they're just missing all that patriarchal power that's gradually disappearing."  But I also believe that it's not good to emphasize one gender over another, male or female.  Even in a patriarchy, the men suffered for their ignorance about women when the women knew just about everything about men in order to survive the social system.

Is it idyllic to believe in 100% equal rights and gender neutrality?  For years, I'd called myself a humanist, not a feminist.  I believed that men needed just as much support in any kind of social transition as women.  I believe, however, that someone forgot about men, at least in America.  We've made great strides for women, but how do we help the men understand, accept and catch up with the changes?  Some men have changed along with women and are fine.  But I suspect the vast majority of American males are mighty confused about how to treat women, how to speak to them, and what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

Sweden may very well be on the right track...and light years ahead of everyone else on the planet.  To live in a world where gender was not a priority consideration in social and professional situations would be a relief to both men and women.  Getting there will take a lot of hard work and major changes in the Western belief system regarding the two sexes.  Changes in language.  Learning how to accept and respect one another.  By both men and women.  We have a long way to go still in America...witness this ad.

As for renewing my subscription to Time, I'm still thinking about it....

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