by Nima Sanandaji
During the past few years, gender feminism has been on the march in Sweden. Radical leftwing feminist ideas are today more or less a state ideology, incorporated in all facets of education and also promoted by various government agencies.
So when the feminist party Feminist Initiative announced that they would run for election it looked as if they might become a force to be reckoned with. The party was headed by Gudrun Schyman, who recently had lost her job as the leader of the former communist party.
Since Schyman is a charismatic and popular politician many people believed that Feminist Initiative might at least come close to gaining the 4 percent of votes necessary to attain seats in the Swedish parliament. But in the election on 17th of September the party gained less than 0.7 percent of the votes.
So what happened? As it turns out, the radical and odd views that the party's representatives hold scared away many voters.
Gender feminism is an ideology that grew as socialist sought new ways to promote their ideas following the fall of communism. This leftwing branch of feminism is closely related to a Marxist way of thinking and assumes that men as a group have constructed "hidden barriers" in society through which they can oppress women.
In Sweden this branch of feminism has gained popularity among politicians. The former social democratic government not only included the ideas of gender feminism in public education but also created opportunities for feminist researchers to promote their ideas in state financed universities (it should be noted that gender feminism is far from scientific – the ideas are seldom tested against reality).
Especially among journalists and young students there is a lot of support for leftwing feminism. However, there was a great deal of internal tension among the feminist party and its front figures made numerous radical remarks that scared away the voters.
For example, queer-feminist professor Tiina Rosenberg scared away fellow feminist Ebba Witt Brattström from the party by remarking that women who sleep with men are to be regarded as traitors to their gender. The party leader Gudrun Schyman has herself not only proposed a "man tax" but also compared Swedish men with the Talibans in Afghanistan.
Feminist Initiative failed to attract voters, but it is still a party worth keeping an eye on. It is one of the most ambitious attempts of creating a feminist party and has drawn attention from feminist movements abroad. Recently American leftwing icon Jane Fonda visited one of the party's activities to give them her support.
What the experience in Sweden has shown us is that policy makers, even among the center-right, are easily seduced by the idea that government should act to restrict individual and economic freedom in order to promote gender equality. The strongly ideological view of the world that gender feminists promote is often simply assumed to be factual by policymakers.
Feminism, like environmentalism, becomes yet another issue where all political parties want to show voters that they are "doing something to solve the problem." And the problem is often simply the free choice of parents to decide who spends most time with the children, or of employers to decide who should be promoted to a new position. Every time feminism is on the political agenda the result is less freedom.
Most likely not only the feminist ideology but also feminist parties are with time going to rise as a new enemy of those who wish to live in a free society. Like the environmentalist movement, the feminists will spend a few years learning how to not appear too radical to the common voter, but ultimately keep their resolve to increase the power of central government in order to reach their goals.
As Ludwig von Mises wrote in Socialism, feminism becomes a spiritual child of socialism once it attacks institutions of social life: "For it is a characteristic of socialism to discover in social institutions the origin of unalterable facts of nature, and to endeavor, by reforming these institutions, to reform nature."
Modern leftwing feminism is a new and growing enemy towards liberty. We shouldn’t be surprised to see feminist parties gaining momentum in other countries or even rising up to power as time passes. It is therefore important for advocates of a free society to take up the debate with feminists and explain that both women and men benefit from living free of state coercion.
September 30, 2006
Nima Sanandaji [send him mail] is president of the Swedish think tank Captus and the editor of Captus Journal. He is a graduate student in biochemistry at the University of Cambridge.
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