Spare a thought for Swedish feminists whose newly formed party is disintegrating after hardliners presented a manifesto advocating a “man tax”, the abolition of marriage and the creation of “gender-neutral” names. Sweden already boasts one of the highest levels of female participation in the workplace and some observers questioned the need for a feminist party in a country whose women account for half the seats in parliament.
When it was founded six months ago, polls showed that a quarter of voters would consider supporting Feminist Initiative in elections next year because of rising domestic violence against women and higher salaries for men.
That goodwill seems to have faded after the party’s recent founding congress, however, when radicals such as Tiina Rosenberg, a professor of gender studies, appeared to have secured control of the agenda. The resulting platform included proposals for abolishing marriage and changing the law to let people who undergo sex change operations legally alter their names.
The party called also for the creation of more “gender-neutral” names such as “Robin” or “Norva” that could apply to a boy or a girl. At present parents must choose names from an official list for boys or girls.
Rosenberg resigned from the governing board after complaining of an “anti-feminist backlash” and insulting personal attacks in the Swedish media, where she was ridiculed as part of the “lunatic left”.
Gudrun Schyman, another founding member of the party, came to her defence last week. “The reason for this campaign against her is that she’s a lesbian,” she said. “The attacks against her are homophobic.”
A former Swedish Communist party leader and author of erotic verse, Schyman once demonstrated her sense of fun by posing naked for a newspaper behind a red umbrella. But conservative male politicians do not find her amusing.
She advocates what she calls a “man tax to cover the cost of violence against women in the home” but has stopped short of endorsing the opinions of Ireen von Wachenfeldt, who until recently ran one of Sweden’s largest state shelters for battered women. In a recent television documentary called The Gender War, she proclaimed: “Men are animals.”
The documentary noted that the shelter had printed excerpts of an extremist American feminist manifesto called Scum, which stands for the Society for Cutting Up Men. In it, women are urged to “destroy the male sex” and seize the chance made possible by science of giving birth only to females.
The spectacle of militant feminism reaching into Sweden’s official institutions provoked a political scandal in which Wachenfeldt was forced to resign from her job at the shelter.
Since then the traditional Swedish belief in the need for organising politics, business and even one’s private life to make it as sexually equal as possible seems to have come under threat. In new opinion polls only 1.3% of voters said they would vote for the feminist party.