Saturday, June 27, 2009

An ABBA star, a child called Pop and bathing Swedish style

Björn, the ABBA pop star, wants to ban independent religious schools in Sweden. Why? He gives this explanation:

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.


  1. I have to say thought that breasts are not 'naturally' the objects of sexual attention, as women in some tribal cultures think nothing of being topless and Gypsy women squeeze each other's breasts as a greeting. It's true however that in the modern western world they have great sexual signifiance, and should be for that reason concealed.

  2. Rose, yes and no. If women walked around topless, no doubt the female breast would lose some of its sexual mystique and be less intensely sexualised. I very much doubt, though, that they would cease to be objects of sexual attention. Here's a comparison. A few generations ago Western women started to walk around showing bare legs. This has become the norm - the understanding of modesty has changed in this regard. And yet men still very much look on female legs as having sex appeal. So, yes, there is some cultural variation, but within a biological reality that men find women's bodies desirable.

  3. "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 ...

    HA! What a crock of excrement! Women don't want to be desexualized because they will lose all power if they do. The moment men look at women are don't want to court them in some way or another is the day that women become powerless. So towards that end (and perhaps my viewing pleasure) I say let women go topless. In fact, lets enforce it, make it the law. And lets see how long feminism survives.

  4. Erik, interesting angle.

    I suspect that feminists don't mind giving up sexual power because that's something exercised on a personal level in a relationship with a man.

    What they want instead is a more formal, legal power over men. They want men to be compelled by law to act in the interests of women.

  5. There was a doco some while back about female amputees and their male followers who have a fetish for that sort of thing. A mate of mine made the very pertinent point about the female lead that she in point of fact wanted to be objectified. As an amputee in the everyday world she was sexually ignored but when invited to speak at amputee functions or pose for magazines she felt good, and in many ways fulfilled to be objectified.

    I think this is true of most normal people. Our nature is sexual and spiritual and one should not deny one nor the other but assimilate and channel both toward a civilised and fulfilling outcome.

    What we have in Sweden is the inverse of the stereotype of the Victorian era. Just as these old Brits were said to be sexually moribund and repressed the same can be said of the Swedes, that is if one doesn't confuse activity with expression. The Swedes it would seem are no longer able to magnify their soul through individual self (including sexual expression via traditionally fulfilling roles and outlets) but are rather now consigned to the dessicated, pneumatic and formulaic state driven roles that is their lot, no better than battery hens, flesh given over to machine.

  6. Mr. Richardson, re this item, did it ever occur to you that the mission of modern Sweden is to prove the truth of what traditionalists say about liberalism? It's as though the Swedish looked at some earlier writings of Jim Kalb and said, "This sounds so extreme that no one will believe it, so let's take to the ne plus ultra what Kalb says about liberalism. Let's put it fully into effect, so that there can be no doubt that this is what liberalism really is."

    I realize that this may be putting things backward, as it's just as possible that Kalb got his ideas about liberalism from Sweden, but I still felt it was worth saying.

  7. Quite insane, really.

    Re: sexualization of breasts ... this would not go away if women consistently went topless. They are sexualized because they are one of the key visual differences between men and women, and it's as simple as that. It can be pretended that baring them will make them as desexualized as male breasts are, but that's merely wish thinking. Many European beaches have been topless for years, and breasts have not been desexualized in these countries. In addition, the female breast is an erogenous zone for heterosexual activity in a way that the male breast is not.

    It's clearly another case of wrong-headed feminism trying to de-emphasize what are, to every plain seeing person, rather obvious sex differences.

  8. It's a shame that Bjorn is an advocate for the secularization of society, especially since he is the author of probably the best pop song ever written about a Christian missionary.

    Why, indeed, did Livingston travel up the Nile, if not to indoctrinate African children 9and their parents)?

  9. "A Teacher who does not indoctrinate is simply not teaching."

    GK Chesterton

  10. Thanks for the comments.

    Pat Hannagan, you make an interesting point. The Swedes are sexually repressed in their own way. No man who freely accepted his sexuality would assert that the male breast and the female breast are to be considered exactly the same way. And yet Bengt, the obedient Swedish official, does so to fit in with state policy.

  11. Lawrence Auster wrote:

    "did it ever occur to you that the mission of modern Sweden is to prove the truth of what traditionalists say about liberalism?"

    I hadn't thought of it quite like that. It's an engaging way of looking at it though. I've certainly been struck by how closely Swedish society has followed a line of development predicted by traditionalists like Jim Kalb and yourself.

  12. The notion of raising a child without gender was tried before in the United States with disastrous results.

    David/Brenda committed suicide.

  13. Gender equality is bullshit - a myth based on feminist lies. Any society, organization or individual that embraces gender equality will inevitably go to the shitters.

    Anytime someone mentions gender equality, simply switch off or walk away. You're talking with a moron with zero credibility.

    Gender is biology, not social construct. The thing between the legs defines the sex. Should be pretty straightforward to figure out, unless in the case of a hemaphrodite. How you raise the child is irrelevant to sexual identity, although forcing your son to wear skirts in public and forcing your daughter to shave bald and dress/behave like a guy can have (very bad) consequences.

  14. Muslims are a large and growing minority in Sweden who very definitely distinguish between males and females. I wonder what the response of the Swedish government will be.

  15. You know, Pop's going to have a sibling soon.

    The newspapers are so broad minded that they don't tell us which parent is pregnant.

  16. Aren't gender roles in themselves indoctrination?

  17. Aren't gender roles in themselves indoctrination?


    You could certainly argue that culture influences gender roles in society. However, the basic distinctions are natural. You only have to look at the physical differences between men and women to understand that gender roles have been different over the course of many tens of thousands of years.