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Hungry Eyes for Scandinavian Baby Buggies
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Hungry Eyes for Scandinavian Baby Buggies

| Text: Rolien Créton Photo: Björn Lindahl

As the first glimpses of spring appear in Copenhagen, rows of baby buggies stand neatly in line in front of fashionable bars. The children doze away at the comforting sounds of laughter from their parents who enjoy themselves inside.

It is a pretty sight, but strict planning is required. At four o’clock sharp, mums and dads have to race to the supermarket, the hairdresser, the dry cleaner and, last but not least, the nursery school.With a bit of luck, they are just in time at the café for the necessary Carlsberg and a chat with a friend.

The famous rows with prams are living proof that it is indeed possible: a full-time career for both men and women, a family and a social life. Danes are used to it and know nothing else. When a Danish couple tried to do the same in New York, they were put on trial for child abuse, a charge to which the couple reacted with rage and disbelief.

True equality between the sexes in Scandinavia is still a long way off. Not a day goes by without report appearing in the newspapers about unequal pay, unequal representation of women in positions of authority and unequal division of responsibility in terms of childcare.

This contrasts starkly with the situation in the Netherlands. In the 1960s, Dutch women burnt their bras with the same enthusiasm as their Scandinavian counterparts. However, although the Scandinavian flames of women’s liberation kept burning, Dutch women had to face the fact that their fire died.

The results of the Scandinavian struggle are apparent for everyone to see.There is an extremely high level of female participation in politics, which has left an indelible mark on society. Lots of laws pass through Scandinavian parliaments, which would never be accepted in male dominated parliaments.

Two Danish ministers only want to accept longer parental leave, where this leave is taken by the father. Another Danish law proposal changes the burden of proof in case of sexual intimidation to the accused instead of the victim. Danish men now find that they have to prove they did not squeeze the breasts of their female colleagues. In Sweden, female politicians have struggled to make bullying in schools illegal. Single mothers in positions of authority have changed society’s perceptions. To examples of note in this respect were Finnish president Tarja Halonen and Mette-Marit, fiancée of the Crown Prince of Norway.

At the same time, Scandinavians are still struggling with the consequences of this increased equality. In Denmark, stressed parents find escape through alcohol or smoking several packs of cigarettes a day.

For Danish children, who also suffer from stress and are fussy during the long hours they spend at school, pills seem to be the answer. The medication they receive is actually meant for combat hyperactivity. But as so many Danish children are considered to be “more active than they should be”, it has become frighteningly common to slow them down in this way.

The few mothers who prefer to watch their babies grow up at home, are marked as outcasts and lead an isolated life. It is difficult to fight against the norm that a full-time job is best for everybody. But again, the fact remains – in terms of equal rights, no country can reach the Scandinavian standards.

Luckily for our self esteem, Scandinavia has its flaws. In one area of Northern Lapland, there is a considerable shortage of women and people in the community fear for their future. No women means no children and immediate action is needed. In an attempt to address this issue, local men organise huge dinner parties to attract women from all over.

At first sight, it seems as if the women are being served on their demands. But looks deceive: for the rest of their lives, they will have to prepare the usual reindeer stew.Those who are not able to, are kindly requested to return straight away.

 

 

Rolien Créton

is the Scandinavian correspondent for "Radio 1 journaal" (Dutch radio news) and Dutch newspaper "De Telegraaf".

She is 32 years old and has been living in Copenhagen for four years.

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