Is there more equality in Scandinavia than the Mediterranean?

(50 Posts)
CuttedUpPear Tue 26-Feb-13 09:36:28

I'm in interested in a discussion about why it is that women in Nordic countries seem to have won equality far easier than those in more southern European countries.
For example, Finland was the first country to give full suffrage to women and the good maternity rights and childcare support of Sweden and other Scandinavian countries are well documented.

It would appear that, in general, as we head south towards the warmer climes that equality is harder won. I'm thinking of the more macho latin cultures with women raising children without hands on help from their partners and therefore having less opportunities to build careers.

So...
Is this really the case?
And what, if anything, does it have to do with the weather?

CuttedUpPear Wed 27-Feb-13 07:19:14

Influence of the church - yes, good point.
But why did the Catholics manage to maintain their hold on society in the south but not maintain/extend to the north, do you think?

<Still holding out for mind blowing climate connection>

AbigailAdams Wed 27-Feb-13 07:55:29

"But why did the Catholics manage to maintain their hold on society in the south but not maintain/extend to the north, do you think?"

Possibly because of TeiTetua's theory <neatly combining two theories together grin> And of course the reason why there were more disparate groups in the north was because of the weather <taps nose>.

Honestly we should be on Panorama or something grin

Sausageeggbacon Wed 27-Feb-13 08:04:42

Going back to the reason so few women in parliament I would expect 10% of MPs to be women. Simply because party memberships averaged across the 3 main parties is 1 in 10 are women (DH stands regularly for local elections and reads too much on this subject). If 10% make up the active members then, to me, it would stand to reason that this is reflected up the chain.

If more women got involved at grass roots then I think we would see more women MPs. Can we ask for 50% representation at the top if we don't get active all the way down the food chain?

AbigailAdams Wed 27-Feb-13 09:31:00

hmm Not sure that adds up SausageEggbacon. I'm not refuting your figures but I think lots of women are involved in politics - just maybe not on a party basis. I think lots of women feel sidelined by politics too for several reasons. Party politics is a bit of an old boys club for a start and can seem intimidating (and is certainly sexist - what little I have seen of it). A lot of things women worry about or want to address are sidelined by politicians. I still think that there is a bit of a legacy from the fact that women only got the vote a hundred years ago and then the whole push for women to stay at home while men did all the "important" stuff in the fifties/sixties so politics is still seen as something men do. Which is backed up by the bank of male politicians, advisors and "experts" you see on television everytime anything political is discussed.

I think men should start making politics more accessible to women tbh. Like taking seriously sexual harrassment allegations when they are raised (because Lord Rennard is by no means the only one), more flexible working from councillor level (although I think there is a greater representation of women on councils than in parliament??) to MP level.

AbigailAdams Wed 27-Feb-13 09:32:03

I didn't mean a sceptical face there btw. I was meaning more hmmm (as in thinking!).

BubblesOfBliss Wed 27-Feb-13 09:39:52

Sorry - a bit of half-concentration/one-handed typing here...

Rome took on the grassroots religion of Christianity to keep some sort of grip on power. This became a Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox split as wrestling over ideology (trinity/one God) and power (Rome versus Istanbul Constantinople) but still is where religious power in Europe is concentrated to this day.

The frequent Muslim (another Abrahamic Patriarchy) invasions from the East have mixed it up a bit, but still same shit, different robes.

The power of Rome was never able to conquer the Celtic north, until as Roman Catholicism it took on the pagan rituals and called them Christian it was able to 'breech Hadrian's wall', Ireland etc and the people took it on.

The Norse kept hold of there Norse mythology/ideological power for longer - away from the Romanised Christianity of Catholicism and its centralised patriarchal power, and although Norse paganism is still a patriarchal ideology, the people have not been so heavily programmed and brainwashed into submitting to the will of Rome.

I believe this is a contributing factor in the North/South differences in equality.

Also, regarding the reformation, this has been key to the language and ideology of equality movements such as anti-slavery, women's rights, etc. In countries where there are caste systems, etc - it is far harder to argue that all are equal under God - so at least that's something Monotheism has Got going for it - even if God is always imagined to have a penis.

BubblesOfBliss Wed 27-Feb-13 09:51:19

Hi Abi and sausage

The reasons for fewer women in parliament are manifold - and go from the grassroots to the top.

Why are fewer women in at the grassroots level? Perhaps because they know they'll be scrutinised more harshly and judged on their appearance than their male counterparts in a misogynist culture, they are more likely to have caring responsibilities, they were not raised with a male-entitlement that it is right and fitting they have power - quite the opposite, etc, etc..

Probably of those that do enter, the reality of the boys club and the sexual harassment, etc take hold..

Of those that get past those obstacles, then there is being voted for by a predominantly misogynist electorate who think women can't handle power....

I'm sure the extra barriers women face keep on and on in a similar way that keep the women out of power.

Changing the entire culture is hard.

Sausageeggbacon Wed 27-Feb-13 09:51:46

Abigail if we want more women rising in the ranks we need more coming in at the grass roots. Selection committees tend to be all male in some areas (and with some parties). Not sure why so few women get involved and I was of the opinion if you want power you would be the one person I don't want to have it.

Grass root membership with campaigning just seems not to have women there anywhere near as much/needed. If you are not seen as willing to push yourself (and not saying we couldn't but from what I have seen we don't) you are not going to be asked to be on committees. Without being on committees you are not going to get your face knowing further up the food chain which slows down any chance of being asked to step up.

Someone academically inclined might want to ask parties for a breakdown of membership by sex and breakdown of activist members by sex. It is the second type that we need more women to be if we want more women at the top. If women don't push themselves forward no one else is going to do it for us.

AbigailAdams Wed 27-Feb-13 09:56:00

"If you are not seen as willing to push yourself (and not saying we couldn't but from what I have seen we don't) you are not going to be asked to be on committees." But women are conditioned not to push themselves forward. That is generally seen as aggressive from women. So there is another issue.

"I was of the opinion if you want power you would be the one person I don't want to have it." Hah yes there is some merit in that smile

Yes BubblesofBliss I agree.

namechangeguy Wed 27-Feb-13 09:58:32

It is interesting though that Iceland, Norway etc. have managed to crack this problem re women entering Parliament. Does anyone know how long this has been the case, and whether they used methods such as positive discrimination in favour of women? That is always a fairly feisty topic! I agree with Sausage though - it's chicken and egg.

BubblesOfBliss Wed 27-Feb-13 09:59:57

Yes Abi - an admission that women have to make the extra effort to push themselves simply begs the question:

WHY?

Why do women have to push themselves harder than men?
Why is it harder for women to push themselves than men?

sausage I think your reasoning looks a bit like you think that women are responsible for their own oppression? Or have I got the wrong end of the stick?

BubblesOfBliss Wed 27-Feb-13 10:03:46

NCG
It is interesting though that Iceland, Norway etc. have managed to crack this problem re women entering Parliament. Does anyone know how long this has been the case, and whether they used methods such as positive discrimination in favour of women?

I think there has been positive action in Scandinavian countries - not sure how many. I think selling an idea like positive action is easier in countries that haven't been heavily brainwashed into thinking power and women don't mix.

inde Wed 27-Feb-13 12:01:39

Coincidentally I came across this documentary posted on the James Randi forums today. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5LRdW8xw70 It's in Norwegian with English subtitles. According to the documentary, Norway might be top of the table for cabinet ministers but they are making no headway in creating equality in the workforce. For instance if they encourage more women into men's professions the female to male mix returns to the norm when they stop. I had better say before anybody watches the video that the programme comes down heavily on this being more because of nature rather than nurture.
I do think it is a national scandal though that we have so few women MP's and cabinet ministers. If Norway can create an environment where more than half of women become cabinet ministers then there is something badly wrong with our system. The press is heavily biased against affirmative action but in my opinion that is missing the big picture. By not discriminating in favour of women we have a system where half the population is heavilly under represented on many issues that affect them more than the rest of the population. We wouldn't accept that if it was say the Scottish or the Welsh.

Sausageeggbacon Wed 27-Feb-13 12:03:50

Not responsible for our own oppression, the patriarchy goes back to the church if you want to talk oppression.

I think it is more we don't see power as a means to an end and therefore don't feel the need to get involved as much. My point was if we recognise the lack of involvement at grassroots we have the choice about what do we do now. By identifying the issues we have the choice. In 20 years if we haven't got more women into places of power we may well have to accept at least part of the blame is ours.

LeBFG Wed 27-Feb-13 14:35:39

The problem with positive action is that it gives women poor press - by this I mean the women that fill these positions aren't neccessarily the best (lacking experience etc) and end up letting the image of women in politics down. I'm thinking in particular at the catastrophic promotion of two young politicians chosen by Sarkozy in France and not a few women chosen by Blair.

Why aren't more women interested in grass-roots politics in the UK - absolutely no idea and I would love to know more.

AbigailAdams Wed 27-Feb-13 15:40:08

"by this I mean the women that fill these positions aren't neccessarily the best" But that happens all the time at the moment - just with men. There is already postive action towards men in place.

"I'm thinking in particular at the catastrophic promotion of two young politicians chosen by Sarkozy in France and not a few women chosen by Blair." And all their male choices were of course successful hmm

BubblesOfBliss Wed 27-Feb-13 15:40:51

Sausageeggbacon
"Not responsible for our own oppression, the patriarchy goes back to the church if you want to talk oppression."

Well patriarchy pre-dates the church and although the church is possibly the most continuous, complete and centralised oppressor of women - it by no means is the only oppressor.

"I think it is more we don't see power as a means to an end and therefore don't feel the need to get involved as much."

Woah! You can't just slip a sweeping statement like that in without justifying it!!!!! In fact it is so massively sweeping and unqualified it is hard to know where to begin.

"My point was if we recognise the lack of involvement at grassroots we have the choice about what do we do now."

You need to go further- this is only true as long as the barriers preventing/putting women off from having the choice to join at grassroots level are addressed- levelling the playing field a bit.

"By identifying the issues we have the choice."
Again you need to go further- by correctly identifying the issues/barriers and taking remedial action where essential we have the choice.

"In 20 years if we haven't got more women into places of power we may well have to accept at least part of the blame is ours."

Unless of course the barriers have neither been correctively identified or addressed to level the playing field- perhaps because of a common resistance to changes of the status quo and a common tendency to be wilfully oblivious to barriers people face which underpins a common tendency to blame people for their own misfortunes and disadvantages - irrespective of the scale.

AbigailAdams Wed 27-Feb-13 15:41:57

When a male politician behaves badly or is useless, they are never thought of as "letting the image of [men] in politics down".

BubblesOfBliss Wed 27-Feb-13 15:50:11

LeBFG
"The problem with positive action is that it gives women poor press"
I would say the problem lies in a misogynist patriarchy, where any method of redressing the imbalances and unfair disadvantages women face will bring poor press. People even say the word 'feminist' brings poor press.

"by this I mean the women that fill these positions aren't neccessarily the best (lacking experience etc) and end up letting the image of women in politics down."
Men that fill all the positions of power are generally not the best. The world is run by a narrow demographic of narcissistic, overly-entitled, inadequate, ignorant men who are at best winging it. If a woman dares step up to the plate she'll be scrutinised and if she does anything half as shite as the mismanaged foolishness of men, they'll say it is because she is a woman, because she owes her position to positive action.

Patriarchy is positive action for men - and it doesn't get bad press because patriarchs run the press.

"Why aren't more women interested in grass-roots politics in the UK - absolutely no idea and I would love to know more."

Why not contemplate some of the barriers women face that men don't -to begin with?

BubblesOfBliss Wed 27-Feb-13 15:53:33

AbigailAdams
"When a male politician behaves badly or is useless, they are never thought of as "letting the image of [men] in politics down".

Completely agree- except in my mind I think "shit, not another useless man cocking things up again" but sadly I beleive I am in the minority that can be bothered to notice. angry

LeBFG Wed 27-Feb-13 18:06:25

If the best men and the best women aren't getting the best roles in society, who are? If it is all the old school network then it isn't the patriarchy per se who is responsible for the lack of women in top posts....men of the 'wrong sort' are being equally discriminated against.

Because the variety of men in politics is so broad, and because there are so many of them, any one man can't let down the image of male politicians. As women are so rare, I'm pretty disappointed to see some cretinous women in politics - the effect can only be to generate poor sentiments towards women politicians, whether merited or not. Look at the many fantastic women leaders in private business - they are an inspiration to others...but they got there through merit and that's the difference imo.

vesuvia Wed 27-Feb-13 18:40:44

In Sweden, in the 1970s, Swedish political parties started to recognise that women could be a big asset in politics. The parties enabled women to play a bigger role in politics, and big efforts were made to increase the number of women, particularly on the committees that control the parties and choose candidates etc.

In the 1994 Swedish general election, a quota system was used for the first time, based on the feminist idea that half the candiates should be men and half should be women. The number of Swedish women MPs almost tripled as a result of that 1994 quota, from about 15% to 40% of MPs. This then provided a big enough critical mass for the system to continue, and everyone could see that Sweden did not fall apart as a result of women entering parliament in much larger numbers. The number of women MPs in Sweden has remained at this comparatively high level ever since. Now, women are 45% of Swedish MPs.

All the Scandinavian countries have relatively high proportions of women cabinet ministers (around 48%) compared to the parliaments of other countries. That proportion is also higher than the proportion of women MPs in their own Scandinavian parliaments (typically 40%). I think this could be seen as evidence that these women are among the "best" (competent/effective) MPs, capable of rising to senior positions. In other words, women are in parliament on merit, even with a quota system.

The only way I can see significantly large numbers of women entering the parliament of any country is if the existing (male) politicians realise that their current male-dominated system is already a quota, but one very heavily biased in favour of men, which is unfair and not based on merit. Then they should agree to replace it with a 50:50 quota.

By the way, the proportion of UK women MPs in the House of Commons has tripled in the past 30 years, rising from 9% at the 1983 general election to 23% in 2010. I wonder if it is just a coincidence that even the unelected House of Lords has only 23% women too? I think 20% of MPs being women seems to be a widespread plateau or barrier that lots of countries seem to hit. The parliaments which closely reflect the fact that females are half the human population usually have a candidate selection system that replaces the 80% male quota with something less unfavourable to women.

TeiTetua Wed 27-Feb-13 19:18:41

The Labour Party did try the all-women shortlist strategy in the 1990s (and not since?) and it did work to some extent, but they ran into legal problems with discrimination. But the idea is evidently still around, and even David Cameron isn't dead against it. It's a good sign to see leaders recognizing that lack of women in politics is a real problem. Now whether concern will ever turn into progress, that is another question.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All-women_shortlists

BubblesOfBliss Wed 27-Feb-13 19:24:08

"The only way I can see significantly large numbers of women entering the parliament of any country is if the existing (male) politicians realise that their current male-dominated system is already a quota, but one very heavily biased in favour of men, which is unfair and not based on merit. Then they should agree to replace it with a 50:50 quota."

Hear, hear versuvia

BubblesOfBliss Wed 27-Feb-13 19:44:06

LeBFG "Look at the many fantastic women leaders in private business - they are an inspiration to others...but they got there through merit and that's the difference imo."

I don't get this - it is the nature of politics to make people behave like paranoid, grasping numpties -completely out of their depth when suddenly thrust into office when elected- it is not fair to pin such behaviour on women just because they throw the political game into sharp relief through attracting a follow spot-light (on the basis that they are female). I'm sure there are a lot of arsehole women in private business just as there are men. The power of being in private business is a flattering one, political power is not.

Also - as an aside- what about Hilary Devey and how she totally took for granted the unlimited childcare her parents provided and framed this advantage as her own merit- then went on to judge other women without such good fortune as 'not wanting it enough' - Personal merit or privilege/unfair advantage? Inspiration or arsehole?

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