Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mayholes and Swedish boy princesses

I don't know how seriously we're meant to take this story. But even if it is meant humorously, it says something about the modern world.

Swedes have traditionally danced around a maypole during midsummer festivals. But now a feminist group wants them to dance around a "mayhole" instead. Why? Because they regard the maypole as a phallic symbol, and because other aspects of the festival are too heteronormative and patriarchal:

Chamberland ... who launched the group on Facebook in 2008, believes the traditional Midsummer maypole is a sexist phallic symbol that should be replaced by something of a more feminine flavour.

Rather than erecting a maypole, he and other members in the group want Swedes to spend time fashioning 'mayholes' by digging a hole in the ground or arranging tree branches in the shape of a vagina.

“It could be all different sizes, laid on the ground, or erected into the sky. It could be built from flowers, fabric, leafs, stones or glass," says Chamberland, who believes Sweden's current Midsummer tradition is too "heteronormative".

“It’s not just the pole," he explains.

"The tradition of girls picking seven different flowers to put under their pillow to dream about their future man is also very heteronormative and patriarchal."

Some Swedes have responded that men and women are represented equally in the maypole tradition because the earth represents the woman, but:

such explanations fail to convince Chamberland, who has just finished his master degree in gender studies, that Midsummer celebrations don’t need changing.

“That still reflects the different gender roles and the view that there are only two genders and that sex should only be vaginal and between a man and a woman when in fact there are lots of different ways to have sex,” he argues.

Stina Svensson, a spokesperson for the feminist political party Feminist Initiative welcomes Chamberland's efforts.

“I think it seems like a creative new way to celebrate Midsummer and I think it’s good when people celebrate the way they want to instead of how they should,” she says.

Another story from Sweden concerns the efforts to deconstruct gender roles in Swedish preschools. A reporter from the Dagens Nyheter went to a preschool and spoke to the boys about wearing princess costumes. The reporter then interviewed the staff about their efforts to break down the sex distinctions between the children:

Sanna Karlsson and Mia Smith's preschool teacher at Ã…rstaberg. Mia is in charge of operations and works in a young group, True is working with slightly older children.

In the pre-school curriculum, it is clear such that we will offer boys and girls the same opportunities and that we should discourage children from being confined by gender stereotypes. An awareness of gender is part of the pedagogue mission, says Sanna Karlsson.

The assumption is that all children should have access to the same material regardless of sex, says Mia Svensson.

Often, it is about offering princess costumes to the boys and building materials to the girls. Although the response of individual children is something you think about.

How do the staff work?

We are in constant discussion, says Mia.

The boys in young departments will be happy about being in a skirt, coming to preschool in nail polish and want to make themselves beautiful. But somewhere along the way something happens.

The older the children begin to comment on each other, become more aware of what they and others are wearing. Just the clothes are clear markers of status as they get older.

Yet there is a lot of experimentation with different roles among the boys.

A good example is that when they dress up as Batman or in very masculine attributes, but it does not seem to control the game. Maybe they stand there in the Spiderman costume and prepare food or walk around with dolls, says Mia Svensson.

The staff works consciously so that the boys should dare to speak freely outside of gender conventions. But much is also about the attitudes they encounter at home. Both she and Sanna Karlsson face sometimes bad parents.

Even if they think it's OK that the boys dress as a princess, they are worried that they will be teased or about the negative response of other adults and children.

Awareness of gender is a fair question, and gives tremendous gains in the environment among children, says Sanna. We notice it becomes a more tolerant atmosphere in which children signal to each other that you can be who you are.

For the staff at Ã…rstaberg it's not about trying to get kids to do something they do not want, but about individual freedom.

This is liberal autonomy theory in action (Dagens Nyheter describes its editorial stance as "independently liberal"). If the highest good is autonomy - a freedom to self-determine - and our sex is something we don't get to self-determine, then sex roles will be thought of negatively as something that limit us. That's why the article talks about children being "confined by gender stereotypes", whereas boys dressing as princesses is held to signal an "individual freedom" to "be who you are".

Swedish preschool teachers are bound to follow this view of the world:

Preschool curriculum developed in 1998 is a guiding document with legal bearing capacity as all the staff at the country's pre-schools must consider.

It says: "The pre-school is to counteract traditional gender patterns and gender roles.

As I've noted before, the Swedish state is not neutral. Liberalism is the state ideology.


  1. You neglected to mention that this is the country where feminists banned urinals out of what looked like penis envy at people who could pee standing.

  2. As I've noted before, the Swedish state is not neutral. Liberalism is the state ideology.

    This is why I avoid discussions with idiots whom believe that the philosophy inherent in the culture or whatever sections just can't be connected to politics.

  3. It would be most amusing to see Swedish feminists try to explain to Muslim immigrant parents why their boys and girls would be better off as androgynous beings.

  4. How on earth can we avoid the same disaster here?

  5. "It says: "The pre-school is to counteract traditional gender patterns and gender roles."

  6. This is actually a good thing. Look at it this way, by feeding this bullshit to children and convincing them that it is true, when the boys grow older and realise that everything they were told conflicts with the real world and human nature/biology, i.e. girls are attracted to strong, confident, aggressive men, not liberal, pansy, sensitive, new age types, then they will become the liberals most vociferous opponents and will react towards them with much anger and rage.

    They are basically indoctrinating their children into a way of thinking that when it fails, which it ultimately will, the lies and falsehoods of that ideology will be exposed and those former indoctrinated children will become foot-soldiers of revolution.

    They are laying the seeds of their own destruction.

  7. You seem to be getting a lot of whacky stories from Sweden lately Mark. :)

    That first story one reminds me of this hilariously joyless example closer to home - in which some do gooders propose replacing easter eggs with brussel sprouts!