Led by Iceland, Nordic countries have again performed exceptionally well in the World Economic Forum’s The Global Gender Gap Report 2017, Australia placing a dismal 35th.

Gender gap report

The Australian government attributes the country’s seemingly poor performance to a Scandinavian scam:

Nordic countries have been held up as “woman friendly” and equal, but feminists have critiqued this perception (Lister, 2009). In Sweden,(link is external) for instance, women continue to undertake more unpaid domestic care work than men but on average work just as many paid hours as men. As such, progress toward equality in the socio-economic sphere has not worked to address the power imbalances between genders at a micro-level. Those intimate, everyday power relationships underpin acts of violence, particularly domestic violence, which did not gain as much policy attention in Nordic nations as it did in Australia (Lindvert, 2002).

In Australia, the shared framework(link is external) to prevent violence against women and their children takes a more holistic approach, defining gender inequality as being perpetuated via:

“structures that continue to organise and reinforce an unequal distribution of economic, social and political power and resources between women and men; limiting social norms that prescribe the type of conduct, roles, interests and contributions expected from women and men; and the practices, behaviours and choices made on a daily basis that reinforce these gendered structures and norms.“ (Our Watch, 2015, p. 8).

The framework also makes clear the way in which other forms of systematic, political, economic, and social disadvantage and discrimination interact with gender inequality.1

A Harvard heavyweight agrees:

Despite the popular perception of the Nordic nations, sexist beliefs about the role of women are deeply ingrained in these countries. In most of Scandinavia, gender equality laws have only been passed in the last few decades, and cultural attitudes have largely failed to keep pace. The persistence of sexist cultural attitudes is manifest in the response to gender equity laws. Dr. Lucas Gottzen, a masculinities researcher at Linköping University, noted that most men in Sweden did not take parental leave when Sweden’s parental leave laws were first passed in the 1970s. “I’ve interviewed some of these men that were actually the first men to take our parental leave in the ’70s … They were looked down upon. They were seen as not as proper men,” he told the HPR. “It was not until the ’90s … that men started to take our parental leave in a much broader sense.” 

And, of course:

Rape culture, a society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse, is also still a problem in the Nordic countries…

Ultimately, the statistics suggesting gender equality for Nordic women in professional settings belie these countries’ sexist cultures, in which misogynistic structures still persist and serve to disadvantage women.

Toxic masculinity is a blight on humanity.

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