I started this post as a comment to a Norwegian blogger that wrote a post called Women’s empowerment – a threat to men? I changed my mind because my comment was starting to get too long and because I also crossed over to US politics. We have both been writing about the feminist and editor Susanne Kaluza. She is one of many feminists that have a tendency to choose the wrong battles.
Last time I heard about Kaluza was when she fought a proposal from the Norwegian government called “the reservation right.” The government wanted to bring back a former practice where general practitioners could choose not to refer women for abortion, and Kaluza celebrated it as a victory for feminism when the government decided to withdraw this proposal. I thought it was a pointless battle because this has never been a problem. Most medical centers have more than one doctor, so there hasn’t been a situation where women were turned away. Besides, women in Norway don’t really need this referral, they can contact the hospital directly. What amazed me the most about that debate was that no one ever bothered talking about the surgeons in the hospitals doing the abortion. They have the right to say that they don’t want to do the procedure, provided they give the county governor a valid reason. and if necessary the county will refer the woman to another hospital. Susanne Kaluza made the whole country go nuts and everybody seemed to think this was the most important battle, one that really couldn’t be put off.
This time Kaluza has suggested that we put a cross next to female candidates in the municipal election in September. A Norwegian ballot has many candidates and we can change the order by putting a cross next to the candidate we want to give a personal vote. If we don’t the order on the ballot stands. The Christian People’s Party got 5,6 % in the election in my hometown four years ago. That gave them 3 of the 49 representatives. If the three top candidates were men, the idea is that if enough people move women up on the ballot, they will replace men in the city council.
So Susanne Kaluza wants to increase the proportion of women in politics. I don’t have a lot of faith in my local politicians. They have some strange priorities, but this protest might make the election a little more interesting because the parties could get representatives they don’t really want. It’s almost like a reality show where you can never anticipate who is voted out.
I am paying some attention to US politics too as many of our politicians are dreaming of a United States of Europe (even though that dream is very dead) and there is an interesting paralell between the Norwegian and US election. I got the impression, when Hillary Clinton was trying to become the presidential candidate 7 years ago, that many women supported her because she was a woman. I remember several interviews on Norwegian TV at the time where women gave answers indicating that gender was the main qualification. It remains to be seen how far Clinton can go this time, but she seems to be a strong candidate at the moment.
What I find particularly interesting this time is that Bernie Sanders seems to be Clinton’s main challenger. He is often called a socialist, and I believe he likes this label himself. He is talking about some issues that I would assume are important to feminists, such as 12 week of paid family leave, health services and subsidised college studies. Bernie Sanders reminds me of Jimmy Carter, which I think moved into the White House with the best intentions, and I think his life after he left office confirms that. I believe Bernie Sanders is more than words too, but I am quite cynical about politics. I am not sure how much elbow room someone like Jimmy Carter really had, and it probably wouldn’t be much different for Bernie Sanders.
But I think everything will change if Joe Biden enters the race. I don’t know much about him, but have a feeling he isn’t the feminsts first choice. As for the Norwegian locals it will be interesting to see if anything changes this time. There is a tendency to vote out of habit. Many first time voters choose the same party their parents have been loyal to. They might change later, but I am not sure that most people really know why they choose a certain party. It only takes one televised debate for many to change their minds, but at the same time election results tend to be stable.
In my hometown Haugesund 19 of the 49 representatives are women. I wouldn’t feel threatened if they picked up a few more seats, as long as they did a better job. I hope people vote for quality whether the best candidate is a man or a woman.