International Man`s Day – discrimination in Scandinavia

For decades now the streets around here have looked like this on March 8th – the international women`s day. I know because I`ve been out there banging the drums quite a few times over the years.

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Today is the international man`s day – the day men cry out against discrimination and maltreatment.

But men aren`t discriminated, you say. And you may be right to a degree. Men aren`t being treated like some women are in some countries. They aren`t killed before they are born because they are of the wrong gender. They aren`t held back from school or given less food because they are boys and not girls. They can have an education and a job – they can even drive a car, if they have the money and the talent. For a lot of women, this is not their reality.

Scandinavia

But discrimination is relative. Just like poverty is. A person in Scandinavia might rightly consider herself poor if she can`t afford a cell phone or a television, or if she can`t take her family on a vacation to somewhere warm once a year. That`s not the kind of poverty where you might starve to death but it`s still a kind of poverty if cell phones and televisions and trips to Spain is the standard in the country you live in. You would be relatively poor if you couldn`t afford these things.

Men in Scandinavia aren`t denied food and if they stay sober and don`t drive too fast, they can also have a driver`s license. But that doesn`t mean they aren`t discriminated against. In Denmark and Norway (not sure about Sweden) they have to serve in the military whereas this is voluntary for women and they often lose child custody disputes. These are the two major areas men claim to be discriminated in. I don`t agree with them. I think there are (at least) two more issues and those two are much more important:

No male nurses

1, Men are still looked upon as the “provider” – even in this “liberated” area. This means that women can lean back and say “I want to work with people” and frown upon men who dirty their hands with jobs where they earn a lot of money. Norway – a country where gender equality is supposedly important to politicians and people in general – has one of the most gender divided job markets in Europe. Women are hairdressers, nurses and teachers and men are electricians, engineers and work in finance. It`s discrimination against women that nurses and teachers aren`t paid very much compared to engineers and financial wizards, but it`s discrimination against men when women aren`t taking responsibility for their future family`s financial survival when they pick a career. Or rather, that some women want to live beyond their means. Some women take low paying jobs and expect their (future) husbands to pay the bills, to put it simply. Just like women are expected to be good-looking, men are expected to be rich. This is 2012 – it shouldn`t be like this, but it is. Various surveys reveal that Scandinavian women still pick men who have high paying jobs over men who are kindergarten teachers or nurses – and that young men know this when they choose their profession.

I want to add that these are choices made by young people. Choices. In all three states there have been extensive campaigns to make women consider “male jobs” and vise versa. These campaigns have not been very successful. This has lead some people to scream out and claim that “man and women are different and will therefor always choose different professions”. I don`t think so. I think we choose our professions for a whole lot of reasons and whatever we have in our jeans are just a tiny little factor here. But I do think that men will continue to choose professions where they earn a lot of money as long as they feel that this is what their potential future wives expect of them.  And before this expectation changes we will not have many male nurses or teachers. Not to mention hair dressers.

Hubba hubba hunk of a man

2, The other issue where I think men are being discriminated against here in Scandinavia is the way we have begun to look at them as sex objects – just like women have been for ages. Now we are also judging men by their looks – and to a much higher degree than what we used to, and by some standard formula that didn`t exist just a generation ago (at least not to this degree). We count their six-packs (which is now supposed to be an eight-pack), check their biceps and only want men who are taller than 1,80 centimeters. We laugh at commercials where men are turned into those sex objects we fought so dearly against when it came to women. But apparently it`s just “good fun” when it`s men who are paraded around showing off all their muscles.

You may say that it`s pay-back for all the years women have been – and are – sex objects in commercials but is that really a good reason? Can we, honestly, shout out against women in bikinis when it`s not a bikini commercial and then pant when a half naked man is displayed in commercials for soft drinks, cars or paint? The same goes for celebrities. Why do we drool over the chest muscles of male actors when we rage against a world where female actors have to display their hot bodies just to get a job.

I`m not sure about the rest of the world but here in Scandinavia more and more boys have eating disorders or they have something similar; excessive work-out disorders. They are obsessed with lifting weights to gain that perfect body they think we women demand. As a mother to a son who`s already at 12 worried because he doesn`t have a six-pack, I`m as terrified as I would have been if my daughter had been worried about being fat or not having large enough breasts.

Drink a beer with me

Yes, men are the rulers of the world and women are discriminated against so many places. But I think we can allow ourselves to have two thoughts rattling around in our brains at the same time. We can be worried about the situation for women so many places on this planet and still see that men are being discriminated against too.

So I will lift my beer in tribute to all the fine men – friends and guys I don`t know – and I wish you a great celebration of the International Man`s Day. May you have a good life where you treat women as equals are are being treated as equals back!

Cheers!

PS. This was written from a Scandinavian point of view. If things are very different in your part of the world, I would love to hear about it!

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