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I heart Sweden

June 11, 2010

After producing Swedish meatballs, IKEA and Britt Ekland, Sweden could pretty much have kicked back, popped a snu, and sat out the next half-century or so. But that’s not the Viking spirit. Instead, they’ve continued their march toward actual gender equality, and along the way they’ve made the startling discovery that men are just as capable of home-making and child rearing as women. Socialists!

From trendy central Stockholm to this village in the rugged forest south of the Arctic Circle, 85 percent of Swedish fathers take parental leave. Those who don’t face questions from family, friends and colleagues. As other countries still tinker with maternity leave and women’s rights, Sweden may be a glimpse of the future.

–snip–

The ponytailed center-right finance minister calls himself a feminist, ads for cleaning products rarely feature women as homemakers, and preschools vet books for gender stereotypes in animal characters [I’m looking at you, Berenstain Bears.–Ed.]. For nearly four decades, governments of all political hues have legislated to give women equal rights at work — and men equal rights at home.

I can’t help but think of this article as less a glimpse of the future than the alternate present–in other words, isn’t this how things were supposed to be in the US after the women’s movement? I hate to rant about this yet again, but I can’t help but think that, generally speaking, women got a lot of what they rightly demanded from the women’s movement, without giving up the things they always had–namely, their place as the highest authorities in domestic matters. It’s more complicated than that, of course, but I’m bitter man prone to oversimplification, so there you have it.

This article gives an overview of how, exactly, Sweden went about affecting this cultural shift, and while I hate to promote filthy socialism, it had nothing to do with women burning their bras and everything to do with changes to the laws of parental leave, and incentivizing men’s involvement. That’s right: Government regulated the country into a culture change.

In short, Sweden is where I’d want to live if it didn’t look like this in the spring.

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