March 8 is International Women’s Day
Feminism is a lot of things, and some of it isn’t especially helpful, but if you define it as a belief that men and all women should have equal rights and opportunities, I’m a believer myself.
I’ve written something ahead of International Women’s Day the last two years, and as I have a tendency to focus very much on one single theme for a period, I have covered a lot of ground. I told myself a year ago I probably wasn’t going to write on the topic this year because I was starting to repeat myself, and some of the issues I’ve been writing about can be covered by my posts on religion. March 8 was somewhere at the back of my head, but I was surprised when I realized yesterday that it was already that day of the year. It feels like we just had Valentine’s Day, and now we are already a week into March.
I was reminded of the day when another blogger invited her readers to share what they thought were important March 8-issues. I guess this is my response. I don’t have a problem with feminism. There is clearly inequality, but I hope most feminists focus on the main issues. I have to take into account that I hardly ever read/listen/watch mainstream media anymore, so it’s possible I’ve missed important information, but if I view March 8 based on what I have picked up from media and bloggers, it seems that little or nothing has changed. It’s for the most part about less important issues.
We are often inspired or influenced by the United States. Things that happen there have an impact on Europe, and I suppose that applies to the feminists too. The feminist movement started when the abolitionists movement in the 1800s inspired the female suffrage movement. The same thing happened in the 1960s when the civil rights movement won major victories after both houses in Congress passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964. These were important victories to feminists in general as well. They all benefitted from less discrimination among minorities. This also opened up for increased equality among other groups in society, including women.
I don’t know if we can say that white feminists in the United States deliberately turned their backs on the black feminists after this early progress toward equality in general. That would be too blunt, and possibly a lie, but they did seem to forget where it all started. I do believe, however, that both sides committed errors, because neither the civil rights movement or the feminist movement seem to adequately take into account the fact that minority women experience double discrimination. Immigrant women are discriminated against because they are women and because they belong to a minority. This leaves them with little or no advocacy and legal protection.
In Norway both feminist and civil rights organizations are in danger of making the same mistake.There are many examples of highly educated immigrants (as well as 2nd and 3rd generation) not getting relevant jobs. They have to work in another profession, also unskilled jobs, and of course work for a lower salary. There are also many Norwegians that don’t want minorities moving into their little mono culture. I have read several news stories where a minority family won the bid for a house, but the owner chose to sell to someone else at a much lower price because this family didn’t “fit in.” In other words, they were not white. Still Norwegians maintain that there is no racism in Norway, and as it doesn’t exist, there’s no point in talking about it.
Not that it’s not important with equal pay in general, which is usually the main issue feminists address, but the fact is that the people we call minorities are becoming an increasingly larger part of the population. This is because the fertility rate (average birth per woman) is low throughout Europe, including Norway. In a country completely without immigration the fertility rate needs to be 2,1 to keep a stable population. Many European countries are in the area around 1,5 and Norway is among the highest with 1,9. In other words, we need people. We can say what we want about other cultures, but they are the people that will ensure Norway’s future.
There are some among us that seem to want a low birth rate, but also low immigration. I’m sure you can do the math. It’s important to fight for “the others” as well. If we don’t the rights women have today, could vanish. If minority women don’t have rights, what will happen as they become a larger percentage of the overall female population of Norway? We clearly need immigration, and I think we need to encourage immigration. It’s not a question of whether we should have immigration or not, but about where these people come from, their religions, what education they have or that I think we should give them for free, what political traditions they come from etc.
Still, I don’t think we should do as Sweden has done. They have too much immigration and although the official view is that tolerance is the only accepted attitude, they are experiencing “white flight” in major cities and increased hostility. No one thought about how to make these immigrants a part of the community. Incidentally, we are starting to see “white flight” in Oslo as well. This could have been a feminist issue, but it isn’t.
One of the reasons I wrote about feminism last year was a blogger named Susanne Kaluza. There is an accepted tradition in Norway, more than a law, called the reservation right. It means that you could refuse to do something you are obligated to do in your job. It’s a general principle that can emerge in any profession, but it has been mostly connected to GP’s. A Catholic GP in Telemark for example didn’t want to refer women to abortion. It wasn’t a problem because he just let another doctor at the same office handle those patients. There was a lot of outcry and many said that any doctor that didn’t refer women for an abortion shouldn’t never be allowed to work as a doctor. This was portrayed as a brave woman fighting oppressive men, and these men were trying to attack the abortion law, but the whole situation was just bizarre to me.
The truth is that women in Norway don’t need to be referred for an abortion. They can contact the hospital directly, and the strange thing is that the doctors and nurses performing the abortion do have this right to refuse. No one seems to think they shouldn’t. This was some of the background for my posts last year.
It surprised me that the books and the film Fifty Shades of Grey was such a huge success. I must admit that I had ignored it, so I didnt know what it was really all about. Media frequently refers to it as housewife-pornography, but that was about all I knew.
So I was quite shocked when I read a movie review where the writer described the plot as a man who demanded that the woman in this story sign a contract in which he defined the sexual relationship. I think he also tried to control her actions while they were apart. I must admit that this is a sexual liberation I don’t understand, and it surprises me that this is what women like.
It’s often said that men and women don’t understand each other because they communicate very differently, and this is certainly a success I didn’t see coming. This sounds more like a male abuser’s fantasy to me. Maybe this is controversial and criticized by feminists, but it’s not that obvious to me. I read somewhere that the sales of the books had passed 100 million copies, and I believe it replaced the Bible as the most sold book in Norway. I would argue that the missing solidarity after the victories in the 1960’s is still a problem. When it comes to minorities in Norway the main issue seems to be circumcision of girls. The feminists seemed to be think that the fight was over after Parliament passed a law.
As for equal rights in general might it not be a little harder to help minority women because that means more competition for jobs and houses? There are in fact some feminists that accuse women in power of making things worse for other women. Internationally there are many opportunities for expression of solidarity and for protesting. Saudi Arabia is one of our allies for example. This is a list of things women in Saudi Arabia can’t do, and this is actually a quite moderate Muslim country. It’s a lot worse in Iran and Iraq.
I didn’t hear any protests when Iraq considered adopting a law that made it possible for men to marry 9 year old girls. Read about it in Huff Post There are many battles to choose between, and I don’t think Susanne Kaluza picked the most important one. I have written extensively myself about the Child Welfare Service. They seem to be going after single and immigrant mothers, and there have even been multiple cases where employees in the CWS have stated in the case journal that the child’s mother had mental problems. This is frequently done without any health care workers being involved. Isn’t that important enough?
Still many seem to think there is nothing to protest. Incidentally, I have come across the attitude among several feminist bloggers that men are not entitled to an opinion. We can’t have one as we represent the oppressors. I understand that I can’t have the same perspective as a woman, but I believe I can recognize evil, injustice and inequality.