Sweden

Det är synd om Marcus Birro

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 Det är synd om Marcus Birro. Nej, jag är inte ironisk. Jag menar verkligen att det är synd om honom. Han beskriver i sin senaste krönika hur han känner sig attackerad, anklagad och hopklumpad med våldtäktsmän. Och det är ju inte alls kul. Men det är inte därför det är synd om honom. Låt mig börja från början…

Marcus Birro är, enligt honom själv, en jämställdhetskämpe. Han och flera andra män som han känner, alla goda Marcus Birrofäder, blir attackerade och diskriminerade av feminister. ”Rasismen mot män tar inte hänsyn till verkligheten”, menar Birro, och fortsätter med att säga att: ”Den värsta sortens människa är en vit, medelålders heterosexuell man.”

 Eftersom Birro själv inte förstått detta, så känner jag att det är min plikt som medmänniska att knacka på hans dörr med en bukett blommor, à la Postkodmiljonären, och glatt utbrista: DU HAR VUNNIT PÅ LIVETS LOTTERI! medan Birros ögon glittrar av lyckotårar och en orkester hoppar fram bakom bilar och vita husknutar för att spela fanfarer. Som vit, medelålders man, heterosexuell och – gissar jag – medelklass, är Birro den BÄSTA sortens människa i hela världen! Jo det är sant! Vart Birro än väljer att gå i denna värld så kommer han att vara välkomnad och anses vara på toppen av den mänskliga hierarkin.

 Ingen kommer misstänka honom för att vara terrorist p.g.a. hans utseende eller religion.

 Ingen kommer att förutsätta att de har rätt till hans kropp för att han är man. Ingen kommer att sexuellt utnyttja eller förnedra honom för att han anses vara ett sexuellt objekt som finns till för andras njutning.

 Ingen kommer att tysta honom, misshandla honom, förfölja honom eller försöka fängsla honom p.g.a. hans hudfärg, etnicitet, kön, tro, sexuella läggning eller sexuella identitet.

Listan är lång över vilka former av diskriminering som Marcus Birro aldrig kommer att behöva utstå p.g.a. de kategorier han själv erkänt sig tillhöra. Birro som vit, medelålders, heterosexuell man har givetvis tolkningsföreträde när det gäller hur han uppfattar sin vardag och sitt liv. Precis som han själv säger i sin krönika. Men han har inte tolkningsföreträde vad gäller någon annan grupp; de grupper som dagligen utstår faktisk diskriminering.

Det är synd om Marcus Birro, för att han vill kämpa för jämställdhet, men vet varken vad rasism eller feminism är. ”Väldigt många uttalar sig tvärsäkert och argsint om något de vet rätt lite om” har Birro sagt i en artikel i Expressen i juli år. Ändå slänger han sig med uttryck som ”Rasism mot män”.

 Det är synd om Marcus Birro, för han vill vara en hjälte, men istället tystar de som förtjänar att få sina historier hörda, som förtjänar vår empati, som förtjänar att vi kämpar för dem.

 Det är synd om Marcus Birro, för han har inte förstått vilken makt han har att faktiskt göra skillnad. Att han som vit, medelålders, heterosexuell man har alla chanser att vara en grym allierad och kämpa sida vid sida med dem som ständigt blir diskriminerade. Som krönikör har han chansen att skriva om de där svåra historierna, de där svåra kamperna som han själv säger blir bortglömda. Det skulle Marcus Birro kunna göra istället för att skriva en artikel där han attackerar och trycker ned dem som dagligen kämpar emot orättvisor.

 Det är synd om Marcus Birro, för han förstår inte hur bra han har det. 

The Swedish Latin Kings

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This post was originally written for the Being Latino Online Magazine (under my “maiden” name)
 
 

I often wonder if Americans* know how much the United States has influenced European youth culture.  Growing up, we all wanted to be rappers, break-dancers, graffitti-artists.  There were plenty of wannabees and copy cats – we all wanted to look like the Latinos we saw on t.v.   My friends and I would spend who knows how much time in front of the mirror trying to make sure we looked the part; a group of 14-16 year olds trying to find some kind of identity. I’m pretty sure that we looked completely out of place with our baggy jeans and charcoaled eyes, walking through our Swedish pueblitos!   But those were almost exclusively the only Latino role models we had at that time: rappers and movie-thugs.

Of course it felt weird to call each other chula or hear the guys call each other pana and so on – it really wasn’t part of our culture (that we still hadn’t defined). Some of us didn’t speak Spanish that well; most of us hadn’t been to Latin America in years, if ever. Our curse words were mostly made up of words our parents had used in the early 70’s; there was really nothing cool about us.

But during the early 90’s a group of young Swedish-Latino guys from Botkyrka, a district outside of Stockholm known for its large concentration of immigrants, formed the group The Latin Kings (not to be confused with the gang that originated in Chicago). Dogge, Salla and Chepe were amongst the first to rap in Swedish – or what is often labeled as New-Swedish: essentially Swedish mixed with words from Spanish, Arabic, Turkish, and so on – a sociolekt, some call it.

Everybody talked about them – at home, in school, in the media. So many who hadn’t had anyone to identify with before, suddenly had these three guys who rapped about racism, inequality, love and lust – everything that had to do with being young in Sweden; suddenly it was pretty cool being a “blackhead,”as some would call us.

Although they’ve often been targets of ridicule, as many of their lyrics were often exaggerated truths- sometimes just pure fiction, –about life in their district,  most of us remembers this group as the ones who stood up and spoke their minds about discrimination and racism and actually tried to make a difference. We all knew that some of their image was just that, but we didn’t care, because they made a space for us, made us feel like we belonged. They didn’t just represent the Latino culture; they represented all immigrants – first and second generation – living in Sweden.   That was the greatest thing about the Latin Kings.  As Douglas “Dogge” Leon, the group’s most prominent figure, said “Hip-hop was what made our poor upbringing rich.  All you needed was paper and a pen and anyone could join, there was no discrimination …”

 
 
 
 
 
 
References:
Book: Portafolio: den sanna berättelsen om Chepe, Dogge och Salla. (Portafolio: the true story about Chepe, Dogge and Salla).
by Jennifer Turano

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*This was written before I stopped using the word “Americans” to refer to people in the US. 

The Queen of Awkwardness: Swedish Cinema

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I usually don’t watch Swedish movies – they give me the creeps. I grew up watching movies mainly produced in Sweden or the US, and somewhere along the way I started to dislike Swedish movies. But, intrigued by the trailer for Apflickorna (She Monkeys) shown at Guldbaggegalan (the Swedish Academy Awards) I watched the movie with my brother and his girlfriend. I wish I hadn’t.

Apflickorna - Emma

The movie is centered around Emma and Cassandra, two girls engaged in equestrian vaulting. Emma joining the team is the start of a psychological power struggle between the two girls. It was awarded Best Narrative Feature at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and Best Manuscript at Guldbaggegalan. Review after review talks about how magnificent it is, that the power struggle between the two girls is portrayed in such a great way, that the movie deals with questions like how do you build a female identity, what do you lose on your way from childhood to adulthood – and I would’ve loved if that’s what it was about. But when the movie ended, I didn’t feel that I had seen more than a glimpse of that.

The movie was even more awkward than I would ever expect from a Swedish movie, causing us to make jokes throughout the movie just to be able to watch it until the end.  Sometimes a movie needs to be disturbing to get you to think, or make you feel. But this movie really only made me want to step away.

Apflickorna - Cassandra

And this is the problem I have with Swedish movies – they always make me uncomfortable. Sex scenes are always clumsy or filled with anxiety, people who are flirting (like the “power struggle”/”sexual tension” between the two main characters Emma and Cassandra, and Emma’s seven-year-old sister’s attempt to “flirt” with her older cousin by dancing for him in a leopard-print bikini – again: seven-years-old) are always either too young, too perverse, too violent, or just plain wrong. I understand that at times it can be hard to watch movies from other cultures since we differ in out storytelling traditions  – but this is something I should be used to and so I can’t blame it on that.

This movie was by far the most awkward, disturbing movie I’ve seen in a long time – and I think that it could have been so much better. But it left me with nothing to think about – other than that Swedish Cinema really is the Queen of Awkwardness…

Forced sterilization: Sweden 2012

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I’ve often gotten the question if Sweden really is paradise. There are a lot of things about Sweden that are great, that could make you think that this is as good as it gets. But everything isn’t great, or even good. One of the horrible things about Sweden is that a form of forced sterilization is still practiced:

There are at least four demands if you want to undergo a gender reassignment surgery in Sweden:

  1. You have to be over 18 years old
  2. You have to be a Swedish citizen
  3. You have to be unmarried (if you are married you’ll have to get a divorce and then re-marry)
  4. You have to undergo sterilization
Göran Hägglund - party leader of the Chistian Democats

Earlier this year, there was a move to scrap three of those demands (only keeping the age limit) – but the Christian Democrats managed to persuade the other parties of the right wing alliance to keep the sterilization-demand, because “it needs further investigation”. Why? I still haven’t found a source where the reasons behind this law are clarified. And that the Christian Democrats (who were the only party who still wanted this demand) managed to get their way without any other reason than “further investigation needed” because “it’s a complicated issue” scares me. Obviously, the rest of the alliance (with the leading party the Moderates) doesn’t find the question to be very important.

According to The Local, the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL), “criticized the decision, claiming that ‘government stability’ had been given priority over respect for human rights.”

Demanding sterilization is a human rights violation – it needs no further investigation, especially not when no logic arguments have been presented but rather the discussion has always been from an emotional viewpoint. People who are in need of gender reassignment surgery should not have to accept to be forcibly sterilized.

“New” Sport Defense: Sofia Likes it Rough

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Floor Ball - credit Bengt Nyman

In southern Sweden, a coach for a floorball team of 14-year old guys, is teaching these boys three types of defense: Petra, Jennifer and Sofia. Yes, girl’s names. Inspired by (says the coach) the Samuel L. Jackson movie Coach Carter , the boys are supposed to learn different defense tactics by comparing them to how you are “supposed” to treat different girls. Petra likes it rough; “In bed, you can tear her clothes apart and spank her butt“, reads one of the tactic cards that the coach has written. The cards further read that “Petra gets eager when you’re aggressive …” and “Release the monster, release Petra.” “Sofia likes to dress provocative” and by “making out and groping her in the right positions we will get the optimal result”. The boys are also taught that “Jennifer needs to be treated lovingly, be hugged and taken care of”.

the tactic called "Petra" - credit Aftonbladet

It’s needless (I hope) to point out that it’s despicable to talk about girls/women in this way, and to teach it to 14 year old boys. The Swedish floorball association’s chairperson Jane Andersson said to Swedish television (SVT):”This is without a doubt sexist material and completely against what the sports movement stands for,” But when the club’s Vice Chairman was asked if there would be any repercussions for the coach, the answer was: “We haven’t discussed that. This is a very good coach who made a big mistake.” Really? I agree he made a big mistake, a huge mistake, enormous even – but good coach? Actually, I take that back. A mistake is stepping on bus 45 when you were supposed to get on bus 12, forgetting that you’re lactose intolerant and buy a huge milkshake with whipped cream on top – it is not a mistake when you work out a strategy for your team, print it out, and then teach it to said team. That takes way too much thought and planning to be allowed to be called a mistake. Strategies might be good or bad, more or less successful, but they’re not mistakes.

The coach himself told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet: “My formulations were really stupid and I deeply regret it. I took the tactic from American movies, but it was a big mistake. This is nothing that neither the association, I nor my players stand behind and I really want to apologize to everyone who was offended. I’ve learned my lesson.” So we are now supposed to believe that the coach worked out a strategy that he doesn’t stand behind, because it was pointed out to him that it was inappropriate? It baffles me that he wasn’t fired, and that there will be no consequences what so ever for his actions. Not only did the coach teach the boys to treat women like sex objects, but now the whole club is teaching these 14 year olds that you can behave completely immoral and sexist towards women, and nothing more will happen than that you have to say you’re sorry. That’s it. Welcome to the world boys.

 Now, please tell me one more time how great it is to be a woman in the West. Please tell me that Sweden is the so-called Mecca of gender equality, and please tell me that feminism today is useless because we have nothing left to fight for.

Source: Aftonbladet

The immigrant myth…

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I’ve spent a lot of time being angry at the government for having to be one of several other people trying to debunk the myths about immigration. The government should be handling these questions, the government should be providing the facts that prove that immigrants aren’t the ones committing most crimes, that Sweden is not becoming an Islamic country because there are muslims living here, that immigration doesn’t just cost Sweden money – it’s contributing to our wealth as well. But countless times I have found myself having to dig up statistics and studies to disprove these claims to several racists and followers of the Sweden Democrats.

But finally, the government launched a page to their website called “Common internet-myths about immigrants and minorities“, where they present 13 of these myths (including the ones I presented above) and explain why they are myths and not facts. Or did they?

Actually, when reading through, it becomes painfully clear that what the government has done isn’t enough. Every myth is answered, yes, but there are no statistics or studies linked to them and not enough information to explain them. How are we supposed to prove the racists wrong when we have not been presented with enough information to do so? Alexandra Pascalidou, a well-known journalist and human rights activist of greek origin, has in a chronicle in the newspaper Aftonbladet made additions to the governments list, showing the flaws and what needs to be added if we are really going to succeed in shattering these myths.

Alexandra Pascalidou

When answering the myth that most immigrants who flee to Sweden lack real reasons to be here, Pascalidou says that it should be added that Sweden has been involved in the Iraqi and Aghanistan wars, making us partly responsible and therefore making it an obligation of ours to protect the people who’ve suffered from a war that we took part in.

When answering the myth about pork not being served in some schools, the government simply says that in some schools this is true because the kids there don’t eat pork. This gives the impression that the menu is changed only because of muslims, but what about all the vegetarian and vegan children, asks Pascalidou. There are more minorities with differing diets than just the ones following the islamic faith.

One of the most popular myths is that immigration has led to a crime-wave. This is one of the most widespread myths, and the government fails to discuss social class. Where do the criminals live? Do they have jobs? Do they have a future? Do they have anything left to lose? These are all important questions that Alexandra Pascalidou added, and they need to be adressed.

The initiative is great, but needs more work…

Details: Gothenburg, Linnéstaden

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A short walk from home; one of the most beautiful parts of Gothenburg