“Of course I am a feminist” says a man with a blond beard, in front of his colleagues.
Okay, well. Thank you for sharing Bjørn-Olav!
This scene is not from a science-fiction movie. It is an every day scene in the country where I have lived in for almost 8 years: Norway.
In my home country France, feminist is a dirty word. Women don’t want to be qualified as feminist, let alone men. Wanting to achieve gender equality isn’t much appreciated either, since many far right and ultra conservative Christian groups have made people believe that achieving gender equality means teaching children to masturbate at school (Yey France!!). Nothing to do at all with wanting to achieve equality of opportunity for all.
In Norway “feminist” is not a bad word. It is actually encouraged, for both women and men, to be feminists. Yes, you read me well. Norwegian men say they are feminists. In public!! (If you want to get a bit more background on how it is to live in Norway as a woman, you can read my article The Joys of Being a Woman in Norway.)
The first time I realised this was even possible was in a conference organised by a feminist magazine called FETT. To my great surprise men were there behind the stands, part of the Board and committees, giving away flyers, making coffee and inviting us in.
“Would you qualify yourself as a feminist?” I asked this tall Scandinavian guy.
“Yes of course.I want my two daughters to be raised in a world where they can do whatever they want, and be treated equally even from kindergarten. I want them to have the same opportunities than men when they grow up. “. His t-shirt said “This is what a feminist looks like” and had kind of given his answer away before I asked. But still. this was so unbelievable to me that I had to double check.
I then asked the women on the organisation committee of FETT: “Is it fine for you that men are on the Board with you deciding on feminist issues?”. I had this mad idea that in some feminists groups (in France at least), women don’t like men to get into their groups.
“Of course. Why not? Feminism does not go only one way. Men and women are the ones holding the power of change, not just women”. Yes of course. So much common sense made my eyes water a little bit. Why isn’t it that simple everywhere?
What does a feminist looks like?
I would not go that far to say that all Norwegian men qualify themselves as feminists. And it is almost a tabou for a woman not to call herself a feminist. The Minister of Integration, or the Minister of Exclusion as I call her: Sylvi Listhaug, had to explain herself on national television when being invited on the show Lindmo. WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU ARE NOT A FEMINIST?
But even for Norwegian men, you would need to dig deep so find someone who says publicly they do not want equality of opportunity and pay for men and women. Dads go happily on their paternity leave for 10 weeks or more. Believe me, it can be much more. And I am pretty sure that if that were to disappear there would be a few demonstrations in the street of people from all genders.
And as if the pappaperm (paternity leave in Norwegian) wasn’t enough, now the Norwegians are tackling the gender pay gap. Now don’t get your hopes too high. It’s not like men and women are paid equal in Norway either (even science fiction has its limits), but at least some people are addressing it.
Like…the male national football team (also called soccer in the US). The Norwegian male football was not too happy that the female team was being paid less than half their salary (yes, you read well…less than half), so yesterday they voluntarily accepted to cut lose some of their commercial income for the Norwegian female football team to be paid equally. See here for the story in English and here in Norwegian.
Now isn’t that cute?
Isn’t the football world super macho also in Norway?
The Norwegian Football Association has already been in the media for hiring female referees. That did not go smoothly, as explained in this article where a female referee tells about a game where the men had decided not to have a female referee. They screamed “You damn hore” (Du jævla hore). But that did not seem to scare her. Or any other female referee. Or the Norwegian Football Association who has consistently worked harder at getting more women and girls in football, and that is the case for Norwegian sports in general.
So yes, football and sports can be macho also in Norway, but based on my knowledge of Norwegian culture, I doubt the football team did this for the praise and the media coverage. I believe they genuinely want female players to be paid equally.
My first reaction to the news that they were cutting their own salaries/commercial benefits for this “cause” was of course “This is amazing! Men standing up for equal pay and chipping in from their own pocket”. My second reaction was “I hope this sends a signal to private and public sectors, not just sports teams, so that they stop making excuses for paying women less. My third reaction was: wait a second. Is this the solution? That men accept to cut their salaries? Why don’t women just get paid more, instead of men getting paid less? If this is the solution, then we are relying on men believing that they are paid more not because they are double more awesome than women, and need to be paid more for that awesome work, but because there of structural gender inequalities.
Gender pay gap will take over 170 years to close
The World Economic Forum said in 2016 that the gender pay gap could take over 170 years to close. According to my very accurate calculations, if we rely on such enlightened men like in the Norwegian Football Team, it will take roughly 649 years to close the gender pay gap. So I am all in for the signal they are sending, but I really hope other actions will follow.
But hey, gender equality isn’t just going to make itself on its own. We all have to fight for it. You, me, men, women, teachers, parents, people making advertisements and human resources people deciding how much employees are going to get paid. Everyone.
So, I am glad the Norwegian male team kicked off the start of the game. Now all the others, off you go, make it happen! To inspire you, here is a picture of Ada Hegerberg. She is a Norwegian football player playing for the Olympique Lyonnais team (in France): She has won the 2016 UEFA Best Women’s Player in Europe Award in 2016, and in 2017 was named BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year. She is singlehandedly the absolute coolest Norwegian sports person. Now is this worth equal pay, or what?
This article was published in the Norwegian newspaper VG under the title Norske menn kaller seg feminister. I full offentlighet!