Denmark’s Delayed #MeToo Movement and the Myth of Gender Equality

Denmark’s Delayed #MeToo Movement and the Myth of Gender Equality

Three years after the rest of the world was rocked by #metoo protests, Denmark is now experiencing its own gendered paradigm shift. A combination of factors contributed to the postponement of #metoo in Denmark; mainly, a cultural disdain for political correctness. However, the fact that #metoo is still relevant, several years after its peak, shows that the movement is resilient, and its accomplishments will likely stick around for years to come.

A Postponed Gender Reckoning

In August, Danish television personality Sofie Linde shared a story about sexual assault on national TV. Her story sent shock waves throughout the country. Young people took to the streets, and other women from a range of industries also came forward to share their own experiences. This impacted many powerful politicians, and some, like the mayor of Copenhagen, were even forced to step down. Three years after the rest of the world went through a gender reckoning, Denmark is now experiencing its own #metoo movement. 

2017 saw multiple countries holding powerful men accountable for their past actions and history of sexual harassment against women. The label #metoo was created by Tarana Burke in 2006, but the term really took off after many women came forward to share their own experiences and  accuse notably powerful men, like Harvey Weinstein, of sexual harassment. The movement spread throughout the world, with the hashtag trending in over 85 countries. Sweden, which shares a border with Denmark, was rocked by #metoo protests, particularly amongst the Swedish Academy, which went so far as to cause a delay in the handing out of the Nobel Literature Prize by a whole year. In Denmark, however, such a movement never happened. Rather, #metoo was framed in the Danish media as a result of “political correctness” and a witch hunt of men. 

The Myth of Danish Gender Parity

Denmark is often lauded as a feminist haven, generally ranking in the top five of places with the most gender equality. Danes have some of the most generous parental leave measures, cheap childcare and low pay disparities between male and females, leading Denmark to be ranked this year as the best country in which to be a woman. Some journalists believe that this reputation created a false sense of “we already have equality, so #metoo must not concern us”. This way of thinking has resulted in the depoliticization of feminism, meaning that it is not really discussed in political spheres. Yet, simply because it is not discussed does not mean that latent sexism is non-existent. More than half of Denmark’s companies do not have a single woman on their board. Surveys show that a fifth of all women in local politics have experienced sexual harassment. Henriette Larsen, the director of Kvindfo, an organisation that works on issues relating to gender and diversity, claims that Denmark’s reputation as a leader in equality is “partially a myth”

However, since August, there has been a change, with Denmark’s youth leading the charge. Former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Shmidt recently stated: “When you look at why this is happening now, it’s thanks to these young women, who have decided that enough is enough”. In recent years, there has been a paradigm shift in what is to be considered harassment, and young people now have an array of social media platforms to express their opposition to outdated norms. Danish culture has long been defined by “frisind”, a view that emphasizes a need for open discussion, free-thinking, and a refusal to bow down to political correctness. Partially for this reason, Denmark did not participate in the global cultural reset that was #metoo. Now, however, young people are demanding that certain conversations be had and that sexual harassment against women be brought to the political forefront. 

The Resilience of #MeToo

This event matters because in many parts of the world it seems unthinkable that norms around gender-equality and sexual harassment could return to pre-metoo standards. The campaign had a massive global impact, particularly in terms of the way we perceive allegations made by women against people in power. Now that the movement has reached Denmark, it is likely that the country will see a shift in understanding surrounding feminism and what it means to have a truly inclusive workplace culture. “Frisind”, as a mantra of unprejudiced free-thinking can no longer entail the neglect of women’s experiences of misconduct. The fact that #metoo still holds the power to actively impact national and international discussions three years after its supposed peak suggests that the movement is still alive and well, and will likely stick around for years to come. 

Categories: Europe, Politics

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