I grew up with 6 women. Five sisters and my mother. It’s a long time ago – the 60s. Our home was full of debate and thirst for change in religion, politics, and women’s rights. My sisters were passionate and typical of their generation. Tired of the old world and the quiet conservatism of the 1950s. Visiting priests got an earful about the church’s attitude to women. Boyfriends were told what was expected of a modern man.
Thanks to the focus and courage of strong woman in that generation progress was made, and many aspects of life in Denmark changed and improved since I left nearly 40 years ago.
When I visit Denmark, I watch news and political programs to get a sense of the national mood – and to update my allegedly old-fashioned Danish (a wonderful niece tells me I speak black and white Danish i.e. like a tv presenter before color tv).
Last Monday I listened to Danish breakfast tv for a few minutes in my hotel room. As in most countries, morning tv is a fairly light affair with discussion of current topics. There were 6-7 people in the studio plus the host. Women and men aged 30-45, sharp and articulate. Dressed in black. Playful banter.
The topic: Why are men better drivers than women?
In 2019. In Denmark. I was left speechless.
Yesterday in Spain, 5-6 million women went on strike and 350,000 demonstrated in Madrid, 200,000 in Barcelona. It is an impressive, spontaneous movement, but the Spanish women are motivated by fears for a roll-back of their rights. The dean of Spanish journalism noted that there are more woman than men in Spain; they are the majority. And when a majority has to fight for its rights in a supposedly democratic system, then there is something fundamentally wrong with that system.
If that’s where we are 50-60 years after strong women like my sisters put their shoulders to centuries of inequality, how can anyone say that feminism and #MeToo has gone too far?
I feel disappointed and responsible for how little has been achieved since the 1960s. I paid little more than lip service to the issues. My wife can talk about significant asymmetries in our couple, and how I dealt with the balancing of family and work priorities. I don’t come out looking great.
So what’s next? The Spanish women point out that there are 1,000 motives driving the broad feminist movement in their country. It’s not about one thing with a neat fix available. As for me, I need to listen to the strong women around me – my wife and daughter, sisters, nieces, friends, teachers, therapist, former colleagues. I’m not sure what role I can play, but I know there is unfinished business.