Your weekly recap of Danish politics and society – Week 10

Curious about what is going on in Danish society? Worry no more! Each week we will bring you the main political events, debates, decisions and issues in a neat package of short news stories.

by Anders Bo Andersen and Mie Olsen

On March 8th, women and men marched together to celebrate International Women’s Day. The idea was born at a socialistic women’s congress in Copenhagen in 1910 with the purpose of securing suffrage for women. In 1975, the UN encouraged all nations to celebrate the day. Even today, more than 100 years after the beginning of the fight for equal gender rights, women all over the world still suffer from social, political and economic inequality. Here, we take the temperature on women’s rights in Denmark by looking at a few prevailing issues that have been discussed during the week.

Political moves:
Danish political system still dominated by men:
Throughout the Danish political system, men still represent a dominant part of the electorate; from the parliament, to the regions, to the municipalities. So shows statistics on women in the Danish political system, published by Dansk Statistik on the International Women’s Day. In the municipalities, less than three out of 10 politicians are women – a number that has remained static since 2005. As of today, women only outnumber men in two Danish city councils, namely Gentofte and Hillerød. In terms of candidates for the municipal elections, only 30% are female, and in the regional councils, less than 40% of the politicians are women. The worst case is the region of Southern Denmark, where 31 out of 41 local politicians are male. On the other hand, in Northern Jutland the women are in majority with 22 out of 41 representatives. The Danish parliament has always been male-dominated. Since 2000, the proportion of women in the Danish parliament has been less than 40%. The same goes for Danish government constellations, which have always been incumbent by a majority of men.

Legal issues:
Doctor: egg freezing laws are chauvinist: Retrieved female eggs must only be frozen for five years. So states the Danish law. Freezing of eggs is a way for women to preserve their fertility for the future – an option many who suffers from a disease choose. Svend Lindenberg from Copenhagen Fertility Centre does not retrieve many eggs from healthy women and does not see the point in a five-year limit on freezing of eggs. “To me, it is incredibly unfair that a man can put his seamen in a freezer as an 18-19-year-old, then go out, do whatever he wants with his body, come back 25 years later and still have maintained his fertility. A woman only has that opportunity, if she is about to undergo chemotherapy. If she is a healthy 28-year old woman, who wants to preserve her fertility for the future, she is not allowed. That is wildly chauvinist,” he explained to Politiken. However, Gorm Greisen, chairman of the Ethical Council, an organisation that proposes recommendations on bio- and genetic issues, argues that the law is necessary. According to him, “social freezing” poses a risk to society, if it goes mainstream. He considers it a problem that many women postpone having kids until after settling down with a career, house and husband. “Freezing eggs from healthy women is the wrong solution to a social problem. I think we need to be careful about such practices,” he said to Politiken. According to Griesen, the maximum duration of frozen eggs does not necessarily have to be five years, but he maintains that some kind of time limit must be preserved.

Cultural clashes:
Social control of immigrant women poses biggest threat to gender equality: According to the two Danish parties, Dansk Folkeparti and Det Konservative Folkeparti, the Danish women’s liberation movement should focus more on ethnic women in ghetto environments than gender quotas in the labour market. This Wedensday, Dansk Folkeparti launced an ad consisting of two pictures; one of a woman wearing a niqab with the caption “trapped” and another one of a smiling woman lifting her arms towards the sky with the caption “free”. Peter Skaarup, chairman of the party, emphasizes how the biggest gender inequality problem in Denmark is the suppression of Muslim immigrant women, who are being forced to live in a male dominated culture. A recent report, conducted under the Minister for Gender Equality Karen Elleman, shows how 21% of young immigrant women in Denmark feel that the family limits their choice of a boyfriend or husband. In a blog post to the news channel TV2, chairman for the Parliament Pia Kjærsgaard encouraged Danish feminists to show moral support to their Muslim sisters, who live in parallel societies of social control and a lack of freedom. “What is the status on their (ed. Muslim women’s) liberation? Do the Danish feminists talk with them, or is the battle exclusively reserved to women with a Danish background?”, Kjærsgaard asks rhetorically.

In the media:
Controversial “girl squad” poses for sexual liberation: While feminism is popular these days, different feminist groupings also fight about defining both the purpose and the means of the gender equality battle. This week, psychologist and twerk-queen Louise Kjølsen, artist and theologian Ekaterina Krarup Andersen and the conservative/liberal politician Nikita Klæstrup created heavy debate, when they posed in thongs and pink t-shirts with the writing “Grab them by the patriarchy”. As Nikita Klæstrup said to the newspaper BT, the three women wish to draw attention to the social structure that suppresses women. In a longer opinion piece in Berlingske, the women argue that feminism is still important in 2017, as current language use, the traditional Christian view of women and the public attitude towards rape all witness of a cultural stigmatization of the female sexuality. However, the women has also been criticized for merely making superficial statements. Journalist and feminist Mette Fugl has thus commented how “bare boobs does not make a feminist”.  

Denmark in the world:
Danish ”pussyhats” are part of international fight against Trump’s populism: This year, the sight of feminists marching through the cold Danish spring air on March 8th had a new twist to it: namely the pink pussyhats, which refer to one of President Donald Trump’s most chauvinistic remarks. While it is a sad thing, that the United States has chosen a President, who represents an oppressive view of woman, vice chairman of the LO (Danish central organisation of trade unions) Nanna Højlund also emphasizes, how the misery has paved the way for a collective, international force. A force of vigilant and progressive women in particular, who oppose Trump’s newly installed regime. As a longer article in Information describes, women are always the first losers, when democratic rights are compromised. And it is not the first time that reactionary powers in the US attack women’s contract work, bodily self-determination and independent economy. According to the International Women’s Strike on March 8th, 2017, the day must be the “beginning of a new, international feministic movement, which not only organizes resistance towards Trump and his misogynistic politics, but also against the circumstances, who created Trump: namely, decades of economic inequality, racial and sexual violence and imperialistic wars outside of the states.” The fact that Danish women carried pussyhats during local protests witness of a moral willingness to engage in this international movement.

mannnThink about it:

An article in Information this week warns that historically, the women’s movement, consisting of privileged and highly educated women, has had a tendency to ignore working class women in their struggle for gender equality. This challenge must be overcome, or else today’s women’s movement actually risks contributing to inequality by becoming a part of the problematic societal ‘elite’, whose power to decide for the working class through organisations, institutions and public discursive dominance is one of the main explanatory factors behind rising populism.


Meet the team that brings you the best Danish news digest: 

Anders Bo Andersen holds a bachelor’s degree in International and European Studies and runs a blog on Danish politics. He is currently enrolled in International Journalism studies at Aarhus University.

Mie Olsen is Jutland Station’s Society Editor. She is currently studying a master’s degree in International Journalism with a specialism in Business and Finance.

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