What do Norwegian Women Really Want?


Illustration by Tori Lind Kjellstad, more from her work can be found at Hyggelig Drittsekk


“I want a real man” said Silje. As the only foreigner in the room I was confused. “As opposed to what? A fake one?”. We were on a girls night out in central Oslo, Norway, most of us were single but some weren’t. There seemed to be a consensus that those who were single wanted “a real man” and those who weren’t were glad they’d found one. One of them had even left her ex-boyfriend because he was too soft.

Let’s not kid ourselves, we all know what people mean by “a real man”: it is a man who has all the attributes and behaviours associated with masculinity: being strong and tough, showing power, not being too emotional, being tall and broad and burping after drinking beer. Sorry that last one wasn’t supposed to be in the list. My question is: why would Norwegian women want a man who shows power and authority when they live in the most gender equal society in the world? French men taking more than their 11 days paternity leave are mobbed: “You wooss. Don’t you have a wife to take care of your kids?”. And Norwegian women complain and want a manly man…WHYY??

Norwegian women want it all: An Alpha male on paternity leave

To get an answer to my questions I asked more questions about this “real man”. “One that knows how to build things, who makes decisions, has authority, has muscles”. Okay. “Do you still want that same man to clean your kid’s nappies and comb your daughter’s hair, leave an important meeting to pick your sick child up from daycare, accept that you have a career that is as important as his without taking a fight?”. As if they were a choir, they all answered “Yes of course, we want that too”.

Silje and Anne Marte continued that night, to tell me about what was really wrong with Norwegian men. “Norwegian men don’t want to offend women and end up being too soft. “What should we do tonight, we should agree, because I don’t want to impose anything on you”. “Take a decision, be a man!”. My skin started to crawl. “So, I ask. You like men who have authority and make decisions without asking for your opinion. What if he decides something you don’t agree with?”. “Well then he has to listen to me”. Right.

Conclusion: Norwegian women saying they want a manly man think they can have their cake and eat it too. They don’t seem to understand that you cannot ask a man to be tough and vulnerable, respectful and authoritative, masculine and metrosexual. You cannot get everything. You cannot get an Alpha male on pappaperm (paternity leave).

Sending conflicting messages to Norwegian men

As a French woman, I find it very shocking that Norwegian women would dare to blame men who listen to their partner, make common decisions and do not want to violate or offend them physically or psychologically. And call them pejoratively “soft”. It’s called mutual respect and equality, it is what Norwegian society has achieved which so many other countries lack behind. It is what many women in non Scandinavian countries dream of.

It is that Norwegian women have forgotten what they have? Going out alone without being catcalled just because you dared wear a skirt, saying in a party that you have a great job without being called a radical feminist (for pursuing a career), eating a banana in a public place without being slurped at. Having a partner who accepts you earn more than him without taking a fight. It seems like Norwegian women want even more because they forgot what they gained. Sadly those battles won by feminism can be lost again.

Masculinism, a bad answer to a real question?

If too many women say they want a “real man”, the risk is to create frustrated men who decide that they will be that man again. Masculinist groups are blooming across the Western world, and Norway is sadly no exception. A simple Google search has led me to news sites asking the question “Has Gender Equality Come too Far”. And interviews of men such as Per Bjørnar Rødde, an FrP politician (far right wing party in Norway. see here for more about Norwegian politics), who advises Norwegian men to marry Asian woman. On the blog of the notorious American neomasculinist and misogynist RooshV, such advice is publicly advertised: “Do Not Have Sex with Feminists“. Whether it is in the US or in Norway, such men claim that gender equality has gone to far and that women should go back to depending on men financially and intellectually as they are naturally meant to do so.

I find what this man and masculinist activists stand for horrifying, but I cannot help wonder whether this might be a bad reaction to a real problem. If we as women want emancipation and equality, then why dream of a return of the Cave men? Isn’t that sending a very confusing message to men? Are Norwegian women ready for the backlash where men would dream of meeting “real women”?

The last Alpha males of Norway

I will tell you a secret. There are still some “real men” in Norway. I just met many of them in my housing association meeting. They were all over 60 years old, spoke loudly, disregarded any comment made by any woman . They knew it all. Is that the kind of man you want in your home? Are you ready to pay the price of that masculinity you crave for? Norwegian women claiming they want a real man would probably survive 24 hours with one of those “Alpha males” from my housing association.There is no place in the world where the definition of a machist men is to change a nappy or clean a toilet, because that is not the traditional behaviour expected from “a real man”. I was even told once by a French man my age, sitting with his feet on his parents’ table “You know why men don’t clean? We just don’t have that chip in our brain to make a hoover work. Better we leave it to you girls”.

To all the Silje out there, be careful what you ask in a man. It can lead to dangerous theories, and diverts the attention from the real things Norwegian women should want, such as equal salary and equal amount of women in business leading positions. Norway might be the best in the class in terms of gender equality but it does not mean equality is achieved here either, sadly. So be careful what you wish for, because you might get it.

This article was published in the Norwegian paper VG on the 5th of March 2016 under the title Hva vil norske kvinner egentlig ha? It raised a small public debate in Norway, was largely read. It was also quoted in the radio programme NRK Salongen, comedians Tunsvik & Tønne talked about it in their podcast (no.163), and the Frog was invited on TV2 Nyhetskanalen to talk about it.

A Frog in the Fjord: One Year in Norway Book

30 thoughts on “What do Norwegian Women Really Want?

  1. Oh fuck. Seriously people, what’s wrong with you? Why should anyone wish for a violent, stupid and abusive partner? Because that’s what it is. And violent, stupid and abusive cannot possibly coincide with sweet, caring, sympathetic, it just doesn’t work on a logical basis.
    And apart from that, this continual objectification is really bullshit, din it into your head. Men are so and so, women are this and that, and they should be this way and that way… How can you even stand it? I consider it incredibly offensive. What are you, coin-operated robots? Don’t you all have a minimum of dignity, hidden somewhere? I don’t get why you can’t consider one another just persons, whole persons, each one with its one characteristics.

    1. I’d like to reply logically to this comment, but it just rambles and actually makes no sense… sorry, but as an English-speaking person I just don’t know what you’re getting at. Please rewrite it in such a way that we know what you’re talking about… because I would like to know.

  2. Hi,

    First of all I want to say it’s refreshing to see an article about Norway from out an expats point of view that tackles a topic like feminism.

    Secondly, it leaves me thinking that you should maybe find some new Norwegian friends to hang out with? Although I am Norwegian, and therefore bias, most of my Norwegian female friends do not talk about wanting “a real man”. And most of my Norwegian male friends do not talk about wanting “a real woman”.

    If anything it is my experience that both men and women in Norway want a someone that is comfortable with their individual identity and comfortable expressing their feelings. Not someone who holds it in and play by the old fashioned gender roles in a modern society.
    In my experience most women here don’t want an Alpha male, but a partner. An equal.

    However, as a Norwegian having studied and lived abroad I found that I had to actually leave the country to learn to fully appreciate Norwegian gender equality and not take it for granted. Especially when it comes to health care, being catcalled and having to deal with sexist jokes.

    I do think you have a valid point, there will always be people who take their rights for granted, the article is not doing itself any favors by identifying it as a problem among Norwegian women.

    A Norwegian feminist who appreciate Norwegian men 🙂

    1. IMO.. Most Women by far prefer a Man that is at the (very minimum) at the same Socioeconomic Scale they are at but far and away will prefer a man that has more Socioeconomic Status. Its just a fact of nature and evolution. Just like a Man prefers a woman that is at (very minimum) similar attractiveness, but will by far prefer a woman that is more attractive and younger than they are. Period..

      And by the way there is nothing wrong with gender equality when defined by having the same opportunity to succeed or follow your dreams – That should be the goal and is basically happening in today’s modern society in most western Countries. But to define equality by “outcomes” has been a disaster in the Nordic societies and is a farce.

  3. Nice article..and yet I do feel the same in Norway as your friends who want ‘a real man’ and I do think that gender equality in Norway has went too far. But for me it is not that much about muscles..If anything norwegians are too focused on ‘training’. It is the shyness and fear to offend as you mention. But most importantly it is the fact that people grew up feeling very safe. The financial security they have together with propaganda coming from the government results in everyone thinking in a uniform way and not seeking new experiences. Simply put: Norwegian ppl are boring and inexperienced. They dress like bad boys with the tattoos and all the cool clothes but it is just a style. No one could be less street-wise than a Norwegian.

    I get much attention from guys (which in Norway sadly manifests by staring at a girl and doing nothing else), but I just feel like they all have puppy eyes. Like hopeful idiotic eyes cos they are afraid to offend me. And if I do speak to them they are so uncool and they think I am so damn cool..and well that is a turn off. Muscles are not important but Norwegians really need to get some real life experiences and for that to happen they need less economic stability. I actually have Norwegian friends who say the same themselves: that they hope Norway becomes less rich so people actually have to live like in a real world and not just float in some bubble of safety. I came here to study and regardless of the super great economic situation I am leaving as soon as I can. I will never find a man here, sorry. And believe me, it is possible to have an alpha male as you call them who go on paternity leave. I have told any guy I have been with for long enough to talk about children that they will go on paternity leave and I will work. And none of them were unhappy about it. Actually the most alpha-male-like-ones were the most happy about it. And I know some ppl (obviously not Norwegian) who do have such amazing families, where they guy is so cool, has been through so much, he is so frisky and challenging and yet very fatherly. I am not saying it is easy to come buy, but it is possible. And I will not settle for anything less.

    I understand that your worry is that this is sending society the wrong message. But I do also think that gender equality in Norway has really went way too far. Like women working physical jobs like men. Some of them are of course fine, but jobs which involve lifting heavy things..it is simply stupid and ignoring what we know about physiology. Women have a womb and it drops if a woman lifts heavy weights repeatedly (I think gym weight lifting might be a bit different of you gradually build up the muscles and it is a very controlled movement so you train the same muscles). I have been in hospital ward with women who need really horrible surgery because of lifting too much throughout their lives.

    Also, I do not think that there really is a double standard as you suggest by saying ‘what if guys wanted real women?’ Well they do. Firstly we are biologically wired to like manly men and they are wired to like feminine women. Just have a look at any evoliutionary psychology theories of mating behaviour. And that is exactly why these suggestions of marrying Asian women etc are being made. Most of Norwegian women are not very feminine.

    Also in Norway flirtation does not exist. I work in a restaurant and I get a chance to observe couples (sounds creepy haha). Their interactions are so flat. I am not saying that gender stereotypes are necessary for flirtation, cos clearly gay people flirt and probably the most of us all. But flirtation means being cheeky, alluding to something which is ‘naughty’. And here there just is no such dynamic in peoples interactions because people are afraid to offend each other..and yes they are too soft. They are so afraid of conflict that any way of challenging one another is avoided.

    So overall I think that Norway would really benefit from the reassessment of gender equality standard they have. But I think it might be part of a bigger problem.. one of generally being afraid to challenge oneself and others and avoiding potential conflict at all costs. In the end of the day I think this cost is just too great.

    1. “Norwegians really need to get some life experience…generally being afraid of challenging one another.” Could not agree more. I would pinpoint these things, rather than any idea of feminism having gone too far, as the cause of perceived problems cited in this article. I have come to appreciate many things about living here over the past year, but I cannot get over the blandness.

    2. Of course flirting exists in Norway, what you are expecting is that Norwegians should flirt like they do where you come from. This is simply a cultural codes you have not cracked yet. However, Norway and Norwegian are an aquired taste, and from what you are writing you will likely never aquire it. This of course go both ways. For many Norwegian educated males girls from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Republics, due to how they dress, their make up, expectations etc. comes of as a bit shallow and therefore may find that they get less response than what they are used to.

      1. Never is not a word I use a lot, because I think that a lot of these things can be taught with patience and communication. Don’t you think?

      2. I am not able to answer your post directly esteemed frog, so I answer here instead. Yes, never is a strong word but it is not always a question about learning to know a culture andt then everything is ok. I have known foreigners that felt at home here from day one, and i have known people that hated living here. Sometimes it just come down to taste. This goes the other way around as well, some Norwegians never quite feel at home in the social democratic fold, and then they go abroad and suddenly it is as they have come home.

    3. You speak the truth. Difficult to do in this political correct, cancel culture society we live in today. Bravo..

  4. Sadly, humans always crave what they miss at the moment. Absolute satisfaction is a myth. As a Russian woman who left Russia 7 years ago, I can assure that the country of my origin is not short of ‘real’ men. Not all the aspects of ‘real’ manhood are negative, such as standing up for a woman if she needs to is one of them. Yet, take my word, I’ve never tried to build a relationship with that kind of ‘real’ men since a role of a subordinate woman, a baby-machine and a cleaner certainly wouldn’t make me happy.

  5. “…you cannot ask a man to be tough and vulnerable, respectful and authoritative, masculine and metrosexual. You cannot get everything. You cannot get an Alpha male on pappaperm (paternity leave).”
    Why not? Can’t a man be more than two-dimensional? The traits you list are not mutually exclusive.

    1. All right, I do agree with you that people can be multidimensional, but the traditional alpha male is a violent, stupid, authoritarian, despotic and a lot of other very bad things, as well as the traditional pretty female is depicted in a lot of awful traits. Society standards ask people to give their worst. I can’t get why people can’t just be people and drop all this standardized shit.
      Apart from that I really don’t know if women in Norway are actually like this. From my experience, some of them are and some are not, as it’s quite predictable, I’d say.

  6. Well said, Froggy! And then they pull their hair claiming that there are not men or all of them are taken! Girls, wake up! There is a reason the norwegians look for a wife anywhere except in Norway! Stop bullying them and you’ll see the difference!
    BTW, it’s not just your friends…I’ve seen how some of them treat their partners and reminds me the way some latinamerican men treat their women ! That’s not about being equals, that’s revenge. I do not think feminism has gone too far, I think that feminism needs to focalize in things that still needs to be challenged as you mentioned!
    Stå på! I love when you describe exactly what I think without all my gramma mistakes 😀

  7. First of all, I wanted to say that there’s no contradiction being soft and hard, masculine and caring, tough and thoughtful, or a good father and someone who’s handy with tools. A man isn’t some cardboard cut-out. We men can display complex personality traits just as much as women.

    Second of all, we already have equality in Norway. We have equal pay for equal work, voting for all citizens, women can work wherever they want as long as they’re qualified and it’s not gender specific (like modeling for men’s clothing). Equality means equaliy of opportunity, not equality of outcomes. We shouldn’t (and can’t) force every workplace to be 50/50 male and female. This is not equality but state sanctioned social engineering. Equality means giving jobs to those who are qualified, regardless of what genitals they have.

    Third of all, many women (no matter their nationality) will never be happy with men. Some women want to control and shame men, and define our masculinity, which they have no right to! I see both traditionalist and feminist women wanting to define men and shame us into being just the way women want us. How about women leave men to define themselves, and we men will leave you women to define yourselves too?

  8. I don’t know what Norwegian women want (I don’t even know what I myself want). But I guess when they say a “real man”, they thought of the good sides of that while forget every coin has two sides. I am very irritated by that Frp man who imported Asian woman. I was surprised that he didn’t realise Asian woman also comes in with a whole package. If his wife did not insist being treated like an asian woman in all things, including her husband working 16 hours a day (to compensate her not working), giving her all his salary and receiving a small amount of pocket money, she is not really fair to herself. I doubt such a marriage can last more than 4 years. You reminded me that every coin’s two sides will come together. This is valid not only in man but also country or job… 🙂

  9. You are missing the point. and make far to general assumtions. Your friend Silje, do not speak for all of us, on the other hand, i i disagree with my husband, i do want him to listen to me: as in listen to my argument and present his own. Not listen to me as in: obey blindly. As a women (norwegian even) i want a partner that is my equal. And i make no more demands for him than i will contribute with my self. Strength yes. My equal must be strong, for i will put my health into the relationship (children still takes a toll on the body), and i expect him to put his back (and waking nigths) into the care of the children so i can get back on my feet after the pregnancy, and even after so we can get through the hard times together, and enjoy the good times; together. While i expect him to leave some things up to me(it is ok if he dont want to have an opinion on the brand of dipers the kids need, if i don’t have to have an opinion on what toiletpaper we are getting), i do not expect to have to handle everything my self. He have to be confident in him self : and in me! And trust me to love and appreciate the choices he makes about things i do not participate in, and wise enough to at least ask when it comes to the bigger things (what sofa or bed are we getting?).

    I have to make this short. The point being, it is not as impossible as you think. Things do get lost in translation. But doubt not: We do love our partners, and take the wowes of “for better and worse” serious. So it takes time to find someone that will be a good match in both better and worse.

  10. I know what women want. They want it all and they want it now! I wanted everything, too, but somehow I learned that would never happen. You have to make some compromises or you’ll be alone forever. Nothing wrong with that either if that is what you want. Once you figure out what is really important it will all fall into place.

  11. “but Norwegians really need to get some real life experiences and for that to happen they need less economic stability. I actually have Norwegian friends who say the same themselves: that they hope Norway becomes less rich so people actually have to live like in a real world and not just float in some bubble of safety. I came here to study and regardless of the super great economic situation I am leaving as soon as I can. ”

    Maybe this only refers to non-immigrant Norwegians. Are all non-white Norwegians treated so equally..do they hold management positions if they are qualified??

    Maybe this topic has been covered already in blog.

  12. Hi!

    Nice posts again!

    I’m just wondering if you can write a blog about “bringing up a bebe”? I’ve read this book and it is very interesting. I haven’t finish it yet, but I just wanted to know more specifically on how French people, especially mothers raise their kids. How can you make them behave in a restaurant while your chatting with your friends? How come your baby sleeps straight the whole night at their baby times?

    Ah! Please!

    I’m hoping to read an article about this.

    Thank you in advance.


    1. Hi there,
      I won’t write this article now, firstly because I write about Norway and Norwegian culture, not about the French, and secondly because I never raised a bebe myself 🙂 I am sure others have written about this though, so good luck!

  13. Completely agree with you but it is nice with a guy that is able to take charge at times:P Not completely without listening to me though, but to be able to suggest games we can play, movies to watch restaurants to go to without making me chose every time (and then complain about my decision-_-)

  14. Hei. Takk for an interesting post!

    I guess these demands for a man are especially with women living in the ‘bigger’ (if we have any cities you call big) cities in Norway. They want it ‘all’ in a man – and often end up finding nothing – and suddenly sees the 40s closing in at big speed 🙂

    There is a discussion about bigger differences amongst men, and that women often choose the ones who have had children before – who are ready for their ‘cull’ of children nr 2. And that more men because of that end up without children. Lets call them the unpopular men.

    The ‘popular men’ are the men of all trades, who can do it ‘all’.

    I think we in Norway actually have quite many men like that. Both liking the ‘rough’ life outdoor and going to town for dinner, being masculine and both dominant and listening at the same time. Being intelligent but also ‘dumb enough’ when required. Liking to be both alone and with people (33 % / 66 % of the time), both cleaning the house and doing something practical (like building a hikingbridge).
    Being inadverted and outadverted at the same time – like myself, both liking going to Couchsurfing meetups or something like it when travelling and also just spend a day in my hotelroom alone once in a while.

    Being an alpha male and a caring person listening to its partner at the same time. Being good with saving money but also spending it on things that make you happy.

    Just being all things at once. Of course these men see that (if they want) they have many frustrated women to choose from – so they might have a bigger percentage of cheating.

    And of couse being one of these ‘allsided’ men myself 🙂 Or maybe i’m one of not that many – just my impressions.

    Actually i have been at home with one of my children for one year but were ust feeling more masculine because of it.

    And at the same time you have many of the “one sided” men – only being Alpha male or only being soft, or not really being any of these things – which todays modern (often from the cities) women won’t touch or be anywhere around.


    1. I saw an article that 1/4 of Norwegian men won’t father children. I think this is partly choice, but also lack of choice in women, as well as a phenomenon I’ve heard of among women known as 80:20, where 80% of women are competing for sex (and perhaps commitment) from the top 20% of men, leaving 80% of bottom men to compete for the bottom 20% of women, and so many men, especially those on the bottom on the bottom 80% of men don’t have a chance 🙁

      1. I was just going to write about that subject. It is known that Norway has a big population of the subculture known as incels, “involuntary celibate” (according to several articles). These are men that “show concerning categorizations of gender and misogyny. They present themselves as victims, and women as the enemy.”
        There is also another phenomenon which is referred to as a “recirculation” of men. Scientific research shows that only 40% of the male population is found to be acceptable, quality wise, to make good fathers and husbands.
        Before writing off women as difficult to satisfy I believe these two phenomenons should be looked into.

        Clearly women with a healthy mindset and outlook on their future would use common sense and good judgement when it comes to choosing a partner and father of their off spring.
        Another thing is that it may be out of her hands. Perhaps nature has it own way of single out good genes in men because it is said that it takes a woman only a few seconds to friend-zone a man or find him suitable for a deeper interaction.

        I’m not too sure about the gender equalities either. Norwegian women earn less than men and seem to choose traditional professions, even after decades of feminist influence. Equality may be nothing but a facade that looks good on paper but in reality it may even be a trap. Why?
        When it comes to children after break up, shared custody appears to have a shadow side to it as it is used by controlling men to hinder their ex-partners ability to make decisions in their own lives. This is my experience and I have also witnessed situations like mine with other women.
        A man with control issues or other mental problems, like personality disorders, will not let go easily. Trying to use the juridical system to find a solution can be a lengthy and costly task. I know that there are women who dominate men but in most cases it’s the other way around and we still feel the power from centuries of patriarchy breathing down our necks.

        I see signs that make me wonder if the Western female population is heading back to the 50’s.

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