Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sweden - not merely odd

The Lego toy company is in trouble in Sweden for breaching equality guidelines:

Sweden’s Trade Ethical Council against Sexism in Advertising (ERK) singled out images in a recent Lego catalog which featured a little girl playing in a pink room with ponies, a princess, and a palace accompanied by a caption reading, “Everything a princess could wish for…”

On the opposite side of the page, a little boy can be seen in a blue room playing with a fire station, fire trucks, a police station, and an airplane. The caption beneath reads, “Tons of blocks for slightly older boys.”

In its findings, the ERK singled out the images for preserving traditional and anachronistic views on gender roles, according to the Göteborgs-Posten newspaper.

Furthermore, said ERK, the pictures constituted a form of stereotyping which was degrading to both men and women.

When I googled the story I found it listed on several websites dedicated to odd, humorous or bizarre news. On one site, for instance, it was listed alongside an item titled "Man charged for catching, cooking squirrel" and another titled "Rabbit scares off burglar".

It's a mistake, though, to dismiss the story as a harmlessly eccentric aspect of Swedish life.

First, the Swedes are serious about creating a genderless society. The Swedes have adopted patriarchy theory as a state policy. This means that they consider the traditional male role to be the normal human one; the traditional female role they consider a social construct created by men to oppress women; therefore, it is state policy to deconstruct sex differences to create "equality" between men and women.

That's why Lego got in trouble in Sweden for distinguishing between girls and boys in its advertising - the distinction is now considered illegitimate.

Second, Sweden is not the only country to have followed this path. For example, Lego also got in trouble in Ireland. The Irish equality watchdog critised Lego for having a TV advert aimed at boys with the slogan "Who will win the battle?", whereas adverts for Barbie dolls for girls had the slogan "She's so soft and pretty".

Ireland's Equality Authority also complained that:

Blues and pinks were used to differentiate between toys directed at boys and girls ... Toy store owners were also found to be at fault for segregating toys into boys’ and girls’ aisles.

The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland code states that sex stereotyping should be avoided but the researchers say this may not be sufficient, pointing out that in Sweden, no advertising aimed at children under 12 is allowed.

Chief executive of the Equality Authority Niall Crowley said ...“An advertising process is needed that challenges gender stereotypes rather than communicating and reinforcing them.”

Nor is the US immune to this belief that equality requires the abolition of sex distinctions. Barack Obama said last year that women should be required to register for military service and he has now also declared that he would consider opening combat roles to women.

Here is how he put the case for requiring women to register:

... he did say women should be expected to register with the Selective Service, comparing the role of women to black soldiers and airmen who served during World War II, when the armed forces were still segregated.

"There was a time when African-Americans weren't allowed to serve in combat," Mr. Obama said. "And yet, when they did, not only did they perform brilliantly, but what also happened is they helped to change America, and they helped to underscore that we're equal."

So Obama not only believes that women are equally able to serve as soldiers, he thinks they should do so in order to "underscore that we're equal".

The modernist mindset is especially striking here. What seems to matter to Obama is that society be regulated without regard to sex distinctions between men and women.

This means overlooking a lot of things. The young women I know have developed in a distinctive way toward an attractive womanhood. It seems like a slap in the face to who they are to suggest that they should be sent into combat. It is like declaring that what they are, distinctly, as women is seen by society as redundant. In old-fashioned terms, it is a dishonouring of their womanhood.

In the Obama mindset there is no essential masculinity or femininity. I find it difficult to believe, though, that the average man has never beheld a woman and recognised something essentially feminine in her. Isn't there in heterosexuality a sense of appreciation, and love for, what is essentially masculine or feminine in the opposite sex?

If we take what is essentially feminine from women, then where does that leave men? Imagine looking on women and not having a sense of their femininity. Does that not undercut our own masculine responsiveness to women? Doesn't it deplete important aspects of our own identity as men?

If there really were no essences, then heterosexuality itself becomes unreasonable and arbitrary. Why would men fall in love with women, if there were no real essence to either category. It would then make more sense for what modernists say about sexuality to be true - that sexual attraction is spread evenly along a continuum.

And if there does exist an essential masculinity and femininity? Then we have a definite nature to develop as best we can in order to "self-actualise" - as do all living things. If this is so, then it makes little sense to regulate society without any regard to sex distinctions. By doing so we only hinder the self-expression and self-development of individuals.

We should let boys be boys and girls and be girls - and value what is best in both sexes. The Swedish project is not oddly humourous - it's an intrusive aspect of modernism to be seriously resisted.

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