Above all, children should be kept away from anything that bears even the slightest whiff of indoctrination. In fact, freedom from indoctrination ought to be a basic human right for all children.
I burst out laughing when I read this. There is no place in the world where people are more indoctrinated than in Sweden. And they are not indoctrinated by churches but by the secular state.
Consider two other news stories from Sweden. We learn in one story that the parents of a 2-year-old have refused to reveal the child's gender:
In an interview with newspaper Svenska Dagbladet in March, the parents were quoted saying their decision was rooted in the feminist philosophy that gender is a social construction.
Where would the parents have gotten this idea from? It's state policy in Sweden. A Swedish minister, Jens Orback, announced some years ago that:
The government considers female and male as social constructions, that means gender patterns are created by upbringing, culture, economic conditions, power structures and political ideology.
So there is a state doctrine that gender is an artificial social construct which should be made not to matter. The parents, as indoctrinated as they come, want to raise their child in line with this state policy:
“We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset,” Pop’s mother said. “It's cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead.”
The child's parents said so long as they keep Pop’s gender a secret, he or she will be able to avoid preconceived notions of how people should be treated if male or female.
Pop's wardrobe includes everything from dresses to trousers and Pop's hairstyle changes on a regular basis. And Pop usually decides how Pop is going to dress on a given morning.
Although Pop knows that there are physical differences between a boy and a girl, Pop's parents never use personal pronouns when referring to the child – they just say Pop.
So we are not supposed to discriminate between boys and girls, not even by dressing them differently or applying different pronouns to them. Gender must be made not to matter.
The second story has a similar theme. Authorities in the city of Malmö in Sweden have decided to let women swim topless at public swimming pools. It was thought discriminatory that men should be allowed to swim bare breasted and not women. Also, thinking about women's breasts as sexually attractive was thought wrong as this made a woman's gender matter - and gender is not supposed to matter:
Speaking to The Local, Ragnhild Karlsson , 22, explained the womens' motives for swimming without bikini tops.
"It's a question of equality. I think it's a problem that women are sexualized in this way. If women are forced to wear a top, shouldn't men also have to?"
Outraged by what they regarded as discrimination, a group of women in southern Sweden made a show of solidarity by establishing the Bara Bröst network. (The name translates both as 'Bare Breasts' and 'Just Breasts'.)
"We want our breasts to be as 'normal' and desexualized as men's, so that we too can pull off our shirts at football matches," spokeswomen Astrid Hellroth and Liv Ambjörnsson told Ottar, a magazine published by the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education ...
"Our aim is to start a debate about the unwritten social and cultural rules that sexualize and discriminate against the female body," said Astrid Hellroth and Liv Ambjörnsson.
So to be equal, Swedish style, we must not discriminate between men and women - we must treat them exactly the same. This means not recognising that the adult female body has a sexual significance different to that of men. It means, in other words, pretending that the female body has no natural sex appeal to men.
The non-discrimination principle leads on to a denial of any form of social differentiation. And so you get the following "resolution" of the bare breasted swimming controversy:
“I’m satisfied with the decision,” Bengt Forsberg, chair of the sports and recreation committee on recreation, told The Local.
“Everyone is required to have a swimsuit when visiting the city’s indoor pools and if it doesn’t cover the upper body, that’s OK too.”
... "We don't define what bathing suits men should wear so it doesn't make much sense to do it for women. And besides, it's not unusual for men to have large breasts that resemble women's breasts," he said.
According to Bengt, everyone is being treated the same by the same rule so everything is OK. Nor, in Bengt's world, are male breasts any different to female breasts. Gender doesn't matter.
In 2007, a young woman named Cordelia wrote about her unisex childhood in Sweden. She noted that at adolescence it was no longer possible to pretend that the sexes were the same, as the behaviour of the boys and girls started to vary dramatically. Then, as a young woman, she rejected the whole unisex indoctrination that had been pushed on her at school and within her family:
It started becoming increasingly clear to me as if man and woman are two pieces of a puzzle that fit together because they are essentially differently shaped ... That their physique and psyche complemented rather than duplicated each other. The idea that they are identical pieces seemed to me as a tremendous misconception and I was terribly irritated at having been fed an incorrect version of things all through my childhood. What I had been told simply wasn’t true. All my recent experiences showed that men and women were different and that men could no less be like women than women could be like men.
Since I wouldn’t want a man who behaves and looks like a woman, it makes sense that a man wouldn’t want a woman who behaves and looks like a man! True?
Why this ridiculous pretense that we are the same, when we very obviously are not? If I had been brought up more as a girl/woman instead of a gender-neutral being, I would have been stronger and more confident as a woman today! As it is, I had to discover the hard way that I was not the same as a man in a multitude of ways ...
I have no idea how the unisex ideal affected the boys around me. They too were brought up in a ‘unisex’ way.
I can tell you this though: In Sweden it is not common for men to help women with bags on public transport. Also, men expect women to regard sex in the same way as they do (i.e. casual unless expicitly stated otherwise ...)
Until quite recently, every time I noticed a difference between me and men I kept thinking; this is wrong ... I ought to be like the men ... I felt like I was letting other women down unless I constantly strived towards the male ‘ideal’ that was set for Swedish women ... But let me tell you, it’s hard work hiding your true nature and pretending to be something you are not!
Discovering that being feminine is not a ‘crime’ (in fact, it can be a positive thing) was a big revelation for me. I don’t actually want to be like a man!
I wish Northern European society would stop denying women the opportunity to be female! What good does it really bring? Who benefits?
So, Björn, here you have one Swedish child who was indoctrinated in ways she came to think false and harmful. But it wasn't by a church school. It was not a religious indoctrination but a political one, carried out by the Swedish state and within a secular culture.
Perhaps we have to accept that parents will always seek to indoctrinate their children and governments will always seek to indoctrinate the citizens. What matters is the quality of the indoctrination. The Swedish product seems to be of a particularly poor quality.
The principles of equality and non-discrimination are not sufficient by themselves. Taken literally and absolutely, they ignore or destroy all forms of social differentiation. They lead ultimately to a bland denial of reality in which, for instance, we are supposed to believe that there is no natural sex appeal invested in women's bodies. Instead of a celebration of gender difference, they lead to an unhappy repression of it.