What's up, Europe? Gender, media and European integration. The story of a a young Dane exploring the continent.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bara Bröst - now in Denmark!

Some time ago I mentioned 'Bara Bröst', a Swedish campaign to 'de-sexualize' breasts and make it socially acceptable for women to have a naked upper body when they, for example, go to a swimming pool. Now the campaign has reached Denmark - yesterday a group of topless women took a dive in Copenhagen.

Way to go, Danes!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Guest post: Good to talk about dads for a change!

A friend of mine just wrote a great reply to the recent question about parental leave for men! He's agreed that I can post it here, since he doesn't have his own blog. I'm grateful for that, since I think it's an interesting and though-provoking piece! For or against paternal leave by law - I hope you'll enjoy reading this.

Dads for a change...

Parental leave has been one of the important topics that I have been dealing with during one year of campaigning for more and better childcare in Europe. My conclusion is that the Icelandic model which forces dads by law to take a percentage of the parental leave is a first (good) solution. Even if generally I prefer non-legal solutions for this type of societal problems, I have to admit that the urgently needed changes in that area (change of culture) can in my opinion only be reached by forcing a little bit the change...as unfortunately in this kind of gender issues lines are moving to slowly and time is urging.

All fathers should see parental leave as a chance and by considering it as one of the most intense and important periods of their lives! This should help them to argument in front of their probably a little frustrated and "women-afraid colleagues" who should try to harass or ridicule them when taking parental leave. Men should try to imagine all the possible changes that would occur in their formerly very gender oriented vision of parenthood once they would agree to take their part of the active parent job as from the start on:

  • Their partner would feel less isolated, less tired, less stressed, less only-mother and more-woman-like...I don't know if you can imagine what positive changes in the daily couple-life this will induce, but I can tell you, especially for the last argument it has been a terribly intense and funny period for us ;-)
  • Giving birth certainly is a reserved women's domain, rising and educating children from birth on is certainly not a matter of gender, but much more a matter of discovering that both men and women can give and receive a lot when taking care of a young child.
  • Building up a strong and “life-long-learning relationship” with your child is something that one should invest in from the very beginning on, as I am convinced this will make the most qualitatively high difference in the relationship with your child for the rest of your life.
  • Acting and not reacting in the framework of "modern" fatherhood will be your very contribution to the achieving of gender balance and will allow you to be n positively constructing actor and not a victim of modern times, which will certainly help you to cope with this new situation without having the impression to loose your virility...

So fathers, if you don’t want to be harassed change your view on the basic things of life…we can discuss all the difficulties and traps being induced by the fact that only women take parental leave, and though the solution lies on the side of men…at least for half of it. So if you don’t want to do it for the sake of the person you chose to have children with, do it for your child and even for yourself...and never forget that women can be our strongest allies and our best enemies at the same time ;-)

Out of my personal experience I can only tell you that I have been missing hugs and a kind of special relationship with my father, which until the end of my teenage life was based on a very cold and patriarchal way of looking at the things of life…I don’t know that if he had taken parental leave it would have completely changed his way of dealing with it’s kids and wife, but at least he would have given me the chance to also influence his life of young father…it is all a matter of give and take…like with nearly all essential things in life!

So yes, the PES should push men to take their parental leave, because politics is all about changing society for the better - I am sure there could not be a better start for change than this!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What happened to Anders Fogh's Facebook profile?

Is it still out there - and if not, does anyone know what happened to it?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Yes, dads would like to stay at home too

As mentioned earlier I'm trying to give my input to the 2009 manifesto for the Party of European Socialists (Danes, it's the English word for 'De Europæiske Socialdemokrater'). Today there's a really interesting topic for debate on the website; namely paternal leave.

As I have said before I am for when it comes to, by law, obliging fathers to take a certain percentage of the leave. Both to overcome the cultural barriers to men taking parental leave (it seems that it's difficult for some employers to understand that men has the right to a role in their children's life) and to ensure that the leave does not become a trap for women. As the PES manifesto website says: "Problems such as women’s lower wages and the fact that women advance less can easily be traced back to maternity leave and being absent from the workplace for many months – in some cases even years..."

In my opinion European legislation makes sense in this area. If there's cultural obstacles to men taking leave in Scandinavia - how is the outlook then for the rest of Europe? If I remember correctly, the Scandinavian countries have the lowest percentage of house wifes in the world. If we are to move forward with gender equality in Europe I certainly think it makes sense to begin here. So, PES Women, the answer to your question from Scratching the Surface is a clear 'yes!'

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The naughty chess game

Now since I have closed my other blog, I will have to write about EU communication curiosities here. It seems like the European Commission has developed a sense of humour with the lauch of its YouTube channel, EUtube. I have written about it before.

Take a look at the safe sex campaign video:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Well - maybe naked breasts can be liberating!

Some time ago I did a post about how more bare skin in Muslim countries is unlikely to be a sign of women's liberation. The headline was 'showing cleavage is not liberation' - and now I might have to eat my own words!

In Sweden a group of feminists are trying to spark a debate about the social norms that discrimate the female body. They call themselves 'Bara Bröst' (naked breasts) and their activities include topless visits to public swimming pools. According to Bare Bröst it should be socially accepted for women to be naked in the same situation as men - it's simply wrong to consider breasts as a part of the female genitalia.

Read the manifesto of Bare Bröst here (scroll down for English) or join their Facebook group.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Is this feminism?

Is this a silly pop song or a feministic statement - or possibly both? I have no clue since I don't know a whole lot about French Yelle.

Here's the chorus translated (if it's not perfect then blame Google translate :-)):

I want to see you
In a pornographic film
In action with your cock
Shape potatoes or fries
To find out
About your anatomy
About your cousin Teki
And your accessories fetish

Thursday, November 22, 2007

In Sofia!

Today's the big day! I am in Sofia for the PES Council. Besides reading this blog there are also other online activities that you can take part in:

You can watch PES TV - 'near live' streaming of the plenary debates and press conferences via pes.org (starting in 1-2 hours) or (!) you can take part in live blogging on the PES manifesto home page.

I wish you two pleasant PES Council days!

Friday, November 16, 2007

An excursion to Sofia - adding the feminist perspective!

Next week this blog will be on the road! Together with other PES activists I will be blogging from the PES Council in Sofia. You'll be able to read my reports here and on Yourspace, the manifesto consultation website.

For those of you who doesn't know the PES, maybe a few words on the party would be appropriate. 'PES' is short for 'Party of European Socialists' (or 'De Europæiske Socialdemokrater' in Danish), it's a European-level party which gathers Europe's socialist and social democratic parties. More than 150 delegates from the national parties will take part in this year's Council (party leaders, members of national parties, international secretaries, members of the European Parliament...) - and a lot of PES activists! And, oh yes, the Danes reading this might now the PES president, it's our former prime minister, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen!

The big topic of the Council will be the party's manifesto ('valgprogram' in Danish) for the 2009 European elections. As the first European party the PES has taken a button-up approach to writing its manifesto: right now the party is asking people in Europe what they think should be its priorities for the years to come. I really think this is an exciting project.

In Sofia there will be a number of sessions devoted to gender equality. One is a debate on women and leadership and I look very much forward to discussing what socialists and social democrats can do to ensure more women leaders - in all parts of Europe. My current stand is that a quota system (like in Norway) is desireable, but I will be open to other views. Given the Norwegian experiences I am convinced this model can work in Scandinavian countries, but I am curious to know what politicians and women rights activists from other parts of Europe think about this. Could it, for example, work in Italy or Bulgaria?

Without doubt the Council days will be busy, but I'm eager to spend some time on posting. Now I have a team of PES activist bloggers to motivate me, and I'm sure they'll keep me up on my promise.

"It doesn't really interest us"

If you're Danish and interested in gender women's rights and gender issues it seems quite obvious who not to vote for at the next national election. Denmark's soon-to-be parties in government do not have a whole lot to say on gender equality. The liberal party couldn't even bring itself to answer the questionnaire. Read the article here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Go, left-wing!

Tonight's the night of the Danish national elections! Keep your fingers crossed!

It has, by the way, been very interesting to see that educational politics has been on the agenda of this election campaign. If the next elections will bring a debate of gender equality, I will never complain again about the monotony of topics!

Socialists of Europe, unite!

'Open source social democracy' is the slogan of a new initiative by the Party of European Socialists (or 'De Europæiske Socialdemokrater' in Danish'). Being generally enthusiastic about democracy and communication initiatives at the European level this campaign has certainly caught my attention.

The Party of European Socialists invites Europe's bloggers and political activists to give their five cents to a common manifesto for Europe's socialist and social democratic parties in the next European elections. The PES manifesto campaign has a home on the internet, Yourspace, and it is essentially a blog where people with an interest in European politics can sign up to post and comment.

What do you think should be on the agenda of socialists in Europe? My username is 'Asynjen' and I'm saying gender equality!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Showing cleavage is not liberation

I just read a really interesting diary entry at the European Tribune. I have taken the liberty of an extensive quote - but I suggest to read the post in full.

"...a lot of "Westerners" seem to have this idea that Arab women are all covered up and hidden from view. And in some places, yeah, they are.

But even in the most conservative, Islamist parts of the Arab world, there is this newfangled thing called television, and with satellite television comes the Rotana network, owned by a very wealthy member of the Saudi royal family. Rotana is one of a growing number of hugely popular MTV-like Arabic pop music video stations, populated largely by beeeeyuuuutiiifuul scantily clad women which Abu Aardvark (otherwise known as Professor Marc Lynch) has dubbed Pop Tarts, aka the Nancy-Haifa Culture Wars.

But the pop tarts don't just inspire hand-wringing and controversy among the conservatives. There are also Arab feminists and progressive Arab women who -- like many others who'd call themselves neither feminist nor progressive -- are deeply divided about whether these "video clips" are helping or hurting.

Because, you know, there's also that whole Orientalism thing, and as Ruby reminded us above, the Middle East is no stranger to that painful stereotype of the exotic, seductive female. And this centuries-old image has not brought with it much in the way of liberation."

Friday, November 02, 2007

Help the Danes

I just came across a cause called 'Help the Danes!' on Facebook. I thought it was pretty funny - so here's the description:

Help the Danes adapt to the globalized World

We, the Danes, are very nice people but we are afraid of the World. It's not, that we don't want to meet others and learn from them. It's just, we are used to things being done in one way and one way only! Please help us, the Danes, to a higher level of cultural intelligence so that Denmark doesn't become a 43.000 km2 national-romantic museum of how things used to be in the past. Help!

Travel to Denmark!
Invite us Danes to Travel to your place!
Talk to us Danes whereever you meet us!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Denmark’s battleground between progressives and populists

I just read this extremely interesting article on Denmark's political situation by Labour International's correspondent in Denmark, Jeremy Millard. Here's a few excerpts, but I encourage everyone to take a look at the article in full:

"Danish politics and political parties are currently on a knife edge, poised to go either way in the near future. On the one hand, the ruling ‘right block’ is presiding over a booming economy with record low unemployment and inflation, as well as an escalating current accounts surplus. A closer look suggests that this is largely due to ‘flexi-curity’, the Danish tripartite cooperative approach to labour market conditions, and the generally favourable international economic environment, rather than the sitting government’s economic management. The danger for the Social Democrats and progressive politics generally is, however, that the ‘right block’, including the Peoples’ Party, will buy-off the trades unions and working population using the state’s growing surpluses, and thereby ensure at least one more term for this unholy coalition at the next election due within two years."

Things are, however, never that simple. The present government is very timid and unsure about how to tackle the new 21st Century challenges of welfare reform, globalisation, investment in and exploitation of new technology innovation, immigration, climate change, etc., not least because of the incompatibility of the coalition’s unholy alliance. About the only thing the parties that make it up have in common is unswerving support for the Iraq war. The Liberals and Conservatives, as in many other parts of Europe, tend to be internationalist and pro-European, and even in some cases pro-environment, whilst the Peoples’ Party is anything but these things. Tensions come regularly to the surface. This new agenda is where the Social Democrats, and other progressive parties, have a chance to seize back the initiative."

"Thus, the ‘creative-classes’, or ‘progressives’, drawn from the better educated in left and right parties close to the political centre, are starting to define their political agendas in similar terms. They all recognise complexity and are outward looking, they think long-term and strategically, they understand the benefits (as well as the challenges) of global trade and investment, and recognise the value of strong international ethics, cooperation and institutions."

"On the other side of the circle, we see a growing coalition of populists, previously at the margins of left and right whose voters tend to be less well educated, more introvert, insecure and intolerant of difference, and who see politics and the world generally more black-and-white, them- and-us, and think short term and more fearfully of the future. In the 21st Century, it is access to and use of knowledge which is starting to define politics and political allegiance, rather than ownership of capital. Thus, many of the shrinking number of lower paid traditional working classes, who used to vote Labour in the UK and Social Democrat in Denmark, are being drawn to the BNP/UKIP and the Peoples’ Party respectively."

"Politics is thus in flux, and not just in Denmark and the UK. Left-right, progressive-populist, and single issue-networked politics, are all important ingredients of the new political sea of democracy heaving around us. The Danish Social Democrats and New Labour, together with other progressive parties across Europe and globally, have much to teach each other, but also much new to learn in partnership in order to successfully navigate this uncharted ocean."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Surfing blogs, finding stuff

"Our aim is not to become like the men or do politics like the men, but to work in the unique way which women do - getting on with the job"

- Julie Morgan, member of parliament, United Kingdom

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

We choose welfare


Today the Danish government announced that we will have our next national elections on the 13th of November - so soon, so soon. I am a bit sad that I live in Brussels and will not experience the campaign first hand. Well, it is an opportunity to really take advantage of the Danish parties' YouTube offers. Eventhough their channels haven't got the best reviews - these videos of party leaders Naser Khader and Helle Thorning are almost embarassing!

The one below is my favourite so far: Helle Thorning, leader of the Danish Social Democratic Party and, hopefully, Denmark's first female prime minister ;-)

Thanks to Dansk Politik TV for collecting the links.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Freedom is a hostage

The other day I heard a socialist express his concern that the concept of freedom seems to be taken hostage by liberals. I agree with him - I am also deeply concerned that today's most popular definition of freedom seems to be the liberty to act rude and disrespectful.

The Danish prime minister's speech at the ELDR conference triggered this post.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A brutal ritual

Allow me to recommend a post by a friend of mine, working in Kenya. He writes about female genital mutilation which is a serious issue in Africa. Kenya is a good example with 32 percent of the country's women having gone through ritual mutilation. Lakipedia, Kenya, the World gives some insight into why genital cutting is still widely practiced in Kenya - and many other parts of Africa.

There is, by the way, a reason for why I am not referring to genital mutilation as female circumcision. Simply because it's wrong: the procedure is not comparable to male circumcision. More than 80 percent of the times it includes partly or full removal of clitoris - and is not limited to excision of skin as for example in the Jewish tradition.

Let us scrap the headscarf debate and discuss a problem like this instead!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Socialism matters (still)

I found this feature on socialism and (post)modern politics via Onkel Henning - food for thought:

"Democracy is in crisis. Nationalism is cornered, traditional conservatism is weakened and classic liberalism has been pushed aside by a strong trend to steamroller everyone who is different and thinks differently. This leaves neoliberalism as today's dominating ideaology that defends and legitimizes uncontrolled capitalism. This is why we need socialism" (Information, 18-9-2007, my translation from Danish).

Monday, September 24, 2007

The revolution will be blogged?

In Italy the stand-up comedian Beppe Grillo has triggered a small-scale revolution with his blog. Here he exposes and ridicules the corruption of Italian power holders and encourages the country's citizens to 'take back politics'. One of Beppe's ideas is a law that will exclude convicted felons from the Parliament. At the moment there are 23 felons in parliament and the 'Clean up Parliament!' section of Beppe's blog lists their crimes.

Beppe's very high Technorati authority is not the only evidence of a highly successful political project. The event 'V-day' (V is for 'vaffanculo', which means something like 'fuck off') earlier this month drew many many Italians into the streets to demonstrate and sign a petition for banning convicted criminals from Parliament. In one day more than 300,000 signatures were collected.

Beppe's blog has certainly led many Italians to take back politics. I am particularly fond of these statements which show how cynicism - the greatest danger to democracy - can be overcome and even be replaced by activism:

”In Parma we organised a V-bicycle ride for the whole city, everywhere we went we woke up the people with the tin-tin of our bicycle bells. No party, young and less young, there were really loads of us. Participation, interests, joy, smiles…. This was the reaction of the people…. I even brought my 10 month old son with me on the bicycle. I know it was an important day and I will be able to tell him so in the future: “Marco you don’t remember but 8 September 2007 you were there too.”

"I thought I was right wing because I love rigour, precision, enterprise, frameworks, the “good” family, because I am a businessman….. I thought I wasn’t left wing because I hate sharing with those who don’t pull up their sleeves and get on with things, because I don’t like to squash individual “talents” rather than identify people for their qualities, because those on the “left” have often offended my wish to work at school, at work, in life… NOW, after SIX HOURS of queuing in Piazza Castello in Turin, I am no longer anything… AND YET I AM EVERYTHING! I am full, full of hope, of a desire to “participate” to be involved and to involve others. I am part of the “group” of those who want to change the Spirit of the World that is our country, Italy. On Sunday I will go fishing in the lake. I haven’t done that for 15 years. I want to live….well.”

More about Beppe Grillo in The Independent and The International Herald Tribune.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Goodbye to bagpipes

The British press is probably the most Euro-skeptic in Europe - or perhaps it is more precise to limit the critique to British tabloids such as the Sun and the Daily Express. Here the so-called 'Euromyths' are more alive and kicking than anywhere else. Check out one of the many non-truths which have been published throughout recent years:


In Scotland, bagpipes recently faced the axe under rules to slash noise pollution. The EU proposal was intended to ban noises louder than 87 decibels… (The Sun 2 August 2005)


As for banning bagpipes, Scots can rest assured that their favourite musical instrument is not under threat from EU proposals on noise pollution. While new measures will come into force next year, they are designed primarily for those who work with loud machinery for a sustained period – more than 87 decibels for eight hours in a row. The law, voted on by ministers and MEPs (including those from the UK), will from 2008 cover the entertainment industry, but will apply only to workers rather than audiences.

If, in the highly unlikely event a bagpipe player is hired to play continuously for eight hours, and the noise created averaged more than 87 decibels, the employer would be obliged to carry out a risk assessment to see where changes can be made – tinkering with the acoustics in a hall to reduce echoes, for example. If that fails, personal protection such as earmuffs will need to be considered, but only as a last resort. Banning musical instruments is not an option. Guarding against hearing loss and stress, which sustained exposure to loud noise has been proven to cause, is the only thing in the pipeline here.

Check out more Euromyths at the home page of the Commission's London office or read the most recent misrepresentations in the press watch section. With comments such as "press lay bare their EU boobs" and "a lot of wrongness about correctness" the Eurocrats in London are certainly not without a sense of humour ;-)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Useless Eurocracy?

Earlier this year The Independent published a list of 50 things which the EU has done for Britain and the Brits. Quite a lot of the benefits are applicable to the cases of other European countries. Here is an excerpt:

1. The end of war between European nations
While rows between England, France and Germany have been a feature of EU summits, war between Europe’s major powers is now unthinkable. The fact that the two world wars that shaped the last century now seem so remote is, in itself, tribute to a visionary project that has permanently changed the landscape. As the EU celebrates the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome it is clear that while the detailed topography will always be difficult to agree, it is an extraordinary achievement that we are standing on common ground.

7. Crime-busting co-operation, through Europol
This provides a clearing house for EU police forces. The police in EU member states can now use an EU arrest warrant to get suspects moved from one country to another where they will face serious charges without lengthy extradition procedures.

11. No death penalty (incompatible with EU membership)
No EU member state has the death penalty and reintroduction of capital punishment would not be compatible with EU membership. Even countries outside the EU are having to review their policies if they want to be considered for membership of the club, most notably Turkey.

Check out the full list here

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Famous feminist - every day!

As returning readers may have noticed this blog has an on-going series of famous feminists - published with varying frequency :-)

I just came across a script which will enable anyone to acquaint website visitors with a new feminist - not sporadically, as on this blog, but every day! Check out Spacefem for code and a famous feminist!

As sad as it gets

It has been almost 7 years since my stay in Switzerland. This small country gives room to some of the most beautiful spots in Europe (the Swiss alps, Lac Léman, Jungfraujoch) and I really enjoyed my year there. The capital, Bern, is still one of my favourite European cities.

But what is up with Swiss politics? To be honest I do not know a whole lot about the Swiss political situation, but I find a campaign poster like the above really disturbing.

This is what Wikipedia has to say about the Swiss People's Party:

"The SVP is the right-most of the four co-governing political parties in Switzerland. It is best known for opposing Swiss membership in international organisations such as the EU and UN, and for its campaigning for tougher immigration, asylum and penal laws. The party is socially and fiscally conservative, but secular in outlook. It is in favour of traditional family values, deregulation and reduced government spending (except for the areas of domestic security, the military and agricultural support). The SVP supports the Swiss traditions of private gun ownership, armed neutrality and the national militia army and opposes most forms of international security cooperation."

Thanks to Henrik Hansen for bringing up the issue.

If I were in Denmark....

I would certainly to love to take part in this event:

"I Sverige har en ny Muhammed-krise ramt lokalavisen Nerikes Allehanda. I Danmark anholder PET terror-mistænkte, angiveligt med al-Qaeda forbindelser. Mere end nogensinde testes den nordiske presses evne til at holde tungen lige i munden. En situation, som sættes til debat under Nordisk Journalistcenters 50 års jubilæumskonference i Århus. Osama Al-Habahbeh, nordisk reporter på den arabiske tv-station, Al Jazeera, taler om pressefrihedens kulturkløft, som den afspejler sig i arabiske og skandinaviske medier i tiden efter de første Muhammed-tegninger. "

Check out the programme and register here

Sesame Street goes feminist

Found via Feministing.com. Check out the comments as well. There is an interesting discussion on post70es feminism.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The shit we buy is produced in China

FENGHUA, CHINA—Chen Hsien, an employee of Fenghua Ningbo Plastic Works Ltd., a plastics factory that manufactures lightweight household items for Western markets, expressed his disbelief Monday over the "sheer amount of shit Americans will buy.

"Often, when we're assigned a new order for, say, 'salad shooters,' I will say to myself, 'There's no way that anyone will ever buy these,'" Chen said during his lunch break in an open-air courtyard. "One month later, we will receive an order for the same product, but three times the quantity. How can anyone have a need for such useless shit?"

May Gao of the Hong Kong-based labor-advocacy group China Labour Bulletin said complaints like Chen's are common among workers in China's bustling industrial cities.

"Last week, I took testimony from several young female workers from Shenzhen who said they were locked in a work room for 18 straight hours making inflatable Frisbees," Gao said. "Finally, the girls joined hands on the factory floor and began to chant, 'No more insane flying toys for Western pigs!' They quickly lost their jobs and were ostracized by their families, but the incident was a testament to China's growing disillusionment with producing needless crap for fat-ass foreigners."

Continued Gao: "As Chinese manufacturing and foreign investment continue to grow, and more silly novelty products are invented, we can expect to see more of these protests."

Read more at The Onion. For the record the above is not true, but nevertheless thought-provoking.

Social networks around the world

After having posted about the use of Facebook vs. MySpace I came to think of this map of social networks which a friend sent to me recently.

Eventhough Denmark is not mapped, a qualified guess is that Danes favour either Facebook or MySpace.

Facebook, MySpace and the class society

"A six-month project has exposed a class division among the American teenagers flocking to the respective sites. The research suggests those using Facebook come from wealthier backgrounds and are more likely to attend higher education. By contrast, MySpace users tend to get a job after finishing high school rather than continue their education. "

Read the rest at the Daly Planet.

I am a Facebook user, by the way. My friends know how persistent I am in refusing to join MySpace. Not because of the class issue, but rather because MySpace is owned by Rupert Murdoch. So far Facebook is still in the hands of the person who created it.

Monday, September 03, 2007

My plog my words

I just came across the expression 'blogoneer' in a report about the potential of corporate blogging. It refers to a "person who blogs with an expert or pioneering attitude". Someone who is somehow venturing out into the unknown, courageously facing the challenges of the blogosphere... or something :-)

I came across this list of blog-related expressions:

Blaudience - The readership of a blog
Blawg - A blog focusing on a commentary about the law
Blog Carnival - A blog with links to other articles
Bloggernacle - A blog written by and for Mormons
Bloggies - a blog award
Bloglet - a small blog with one or two sentences
Momosphere - A blog written by mothers
Plog - A political blog
Gulog - A blog so depressing it's as if it were written in a Soviet labour camp
Blogoneer - A person who blogs with an expert or pioneering attitude.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

I am powerful

It is frequently debated in the Danish blogosphere how women are often described as victims without agency in discussions of women's rights. This tends to place feminists in a dilemma, because many women are in fact vulnerable. However, at the same time the role as victim places women in a position where they are expected to lack the agency to help themselves. Lack of power becomes inherent to being a women - and not an attribute of the difficult situations marginalized women find themselves in.

Anyone concerned with victimization should certainly take a look at CARE's 'I am powerful' campaign. The intro states:

She has the power to change her world - you have the power to help her do it

As simple as that.

Those interested can support the campaign on Facebook or make a statement (or donation) on the campaign website.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Danish halo needs a polishing

After recently having handed in my Master's thesis I browsed through the files and folders which are 'left' from my time as a student in the Erasmus Mundus programme. Here is an article written for a course in September 2005. No doubt political developments have taken place since then - but to my knowledge the Danish development aid has not increased since then, so the content should still be relevant.

The article is attempted to fit the Economist style which was a part of the assignment. Enjoy.

The Halo Needs a Polishing

Denmark is always in top of the statistics when it comes to development spending. But a closer look reveals scratches in the surface: $165 millions cut off development aid, $86 millions spent wrongly and tsunami aid at the expense of other development projects shows it is time to review Danish aid policies.

This week the Danish Prime Minister reaffirmed Denmark’s dedication to aim for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Compared to many of his disappointed colleagues he was fairly enthusiastic about the outcome of the UN World Summit this week. At a press conference he highlighted one goal as unique: the one that calls on developed nations to contribute yearly at least 0.7 percent of their GNP to the world’s poorest countries. This MDG is easy to achieve for the small Nordic nation since Denmark already supports developing countries with 0.9 percent of the GNP.

So does the Danish government deserve a pat on the back? There are pros and cons. Measured in percentage of GNP Denmark and the other Nordic countries are the biggest contributors to third world projects. Denmark does better than most of the world’s nations. That is a significant pro.

Thus few people are aware that the Danish government recently cut off aid to developing countries by almost $165 millions. In 2004 the assistance measured 1 percent of GNP. This year it has been reduced to 0.9 percent. Even though this number is still impressive it is an odd time to cut back on aid given this year’s world summit and the massive awareness of the need to support poorer countries better. That is a surprising con.

Hollows development aid
There is another unexpected skeleton hidden in the closet. Denmark has long advocated for canceling the debts of developing countries. Two weeks before the UN World Summit a humanitarian organization published a surprising report that seems to pinpoint double standards. It revealed that the Danish state consistently has spent money earmarked for development aid to cancel third world debts. During the last three years $86 millions have been transferred from the aid pool to the Danish Trade Fund that used to cover the losses of Danish companies when developing countries fail to pay their bills.

The fund did so by taking over the debt. Even though this is not practice anymore many developing countries have significant debts to the Danish Trade Fund. If a debt is cancelled by the international debt initiative HIPC the fund is compensated by the Danish state. The millions needed are taken from the development aid pool. The fund has another significant income: Pay offs though bilateral agreements made by thirds world countries which debts have not been cancelled. That means that in the end the fund’s incomes are bigger than its expenses.

This profit is transferred back to the Danish state that since 1992 has been the owner of the Danish Trade Fund. Last year the state earned $118 millions on claiming debts. A significantly bigger amount than the one the fund receives from the development aid pool. Firstly the debts of developing countries seem to be a good deal for the Danish government. Secondly (and more fatal) the construction hollows the development aid pool by transferring money to a fund that seems perfectly fit to manage on its own.

The debt cancellation construction, in spite of its cleverness, adds one more “con” to the list. A very serious one.

Concerning funding of tsunami aid
Last year the tsunami catastrophe was on top of the global agenda. The Danish government reacted quickly by donating $69 millions to humanitarian aid in the disaster areas in Southeast Asia. An impressive amount compared to the size of the country and it instantly made Denmark one of the most generous contributors. That is another “pro”. Surely Denmark should be recognized for its quick and generous aid.

The huge donation worried many Danish NGOs. Would money be taken from other aid projects to cover the expenses in Southeast Asia? The government assured them that this would not happen – money would be found elsewhere. But six months later it was revealed that more than $7 millions had been taken from a pool devoted to a development project in Bolivia. That adds another “con” to Denmark’s list.

Policy review needed
So there are an equal number of pros and cons.

First and foremost Denmark is one of the world’s most generous donors of development aid and humanitarian assistance. But the halo needs a thorough polishing before Denmark can call it self a first mover when it comes to the MDGs. Today aid policies and funding practices have begun to undermine the credibility of this seemingly role model nation. To continue setting a good example it is crucial that Denmark reviews these before they start to puzzle the international community.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Danes, religion and infidelity

The ongoing debate in the Danish blogosphere about what is and is not compatible with religious beliefs makes me wonder... is infidelity compatible with being a Danish 'national church christian' ('folkekirkekristen')?

Infidelity is certainly something that Danes practice. Many couples have open relationships or a sex life which embraces infidelity. Or some people simply practice infidelity the old-fashioned way; sleeping around in secrecy.

As I see it 'twosomeness' is at the core of Christianity - also in the version of the Danish public church. Marriage is the most significant ceremony which the public church has to offer: It forges two people together for eternity (or at least a very long time) and in this union they are suppose to be faithful to each other. This is the vow you take when you say 'yes' in church.

I am an atheist and will leave the public church soon - for that reason. My personal point of view is that infidelity is bad if you hurt other people by indulging in it. So I do not have any moral objections to swinger clubs or open relationships.

However, I still wonder: We have a society in which infidelity is extensively practiced. The traditional version of 'twosomeness' does not really seem to apply to the life styles of many Danes. Infidelity is often practiced without regret. But at the same time many of these Danes call themselves 'folkekirkekristne'. What does it then mean to practice a religion or to have a public church? How far can you remove yourself from the basic principles of a religion and still call yourself a believer?

My guess is that a majority of Danes share my point of view: Infidelity is accepted as long as no one gets hurt. They do not all practice infidelity themselves, but that is out of consideration for their partners and not particularly to honour the holy 'twosomeness' of Christianity. If this is the case then most Danes are not really Christians in my view. Which leads me to my last question: If Danes are not convinced of the basic principles of Christianity why should Denmark then have a public church?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday - lets dance?

Dancing is probably not going to happen here in Brussels - I am currently putting my final touch to my thesis. However, here is a bit of upbeat feminist music for you. I have mentioned Peaches before, now you can enjoy one of her videos. This video is almost too 'appropriate', but those with a log in for YouTube should be able to find more extravagant ones.

This performance with Iggy Pop is also worth a view. I like the women zombies!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Blackle.com - Saving energy one search at a time

As a journalist I often write about information technology... so here goes; a 'nerdy' post.

Critical computing is a political approach to software development. What is particularly 'political' about this programming philosophy is the argument that end-users should have a major say in the development process - not because user input generates more marketable products, but rather out of concern for the users: Those who will actually use the system should decide the system design, because they know best how their needs can be accommodated. The critical computing tradition also opposes all sorts of 'data snatching', e.g. company web pages logging information about its users, and argues that systems should be transparent and put users in charge of their own data. The tradition is, to my knowledge, Nordic and has its roots in the 1970s.

Today I came across 'Blackle', perhaps not an example of critical programming, but certainly a project of some political motivation. It is simply a black version of the Google start page. The programmers describe their project in this way:

"In January 2007 a blog post titled Black Google Would Save 750 Megawatt-hours a Year proposed the theory that a black version of the Google search engine would save a fair bit of energy due to the popularity of the search engine. Since then there has been skepticism about the significance of the energy savings that can be achieved and the cost in terms of readability of black web pages.

We believe that there is value in the concept because even if the energy savings are small, they all add up. Secondly we feel that seeing Blackle every time we load our web browser reminds us that we need to keep taking small steps to save energy."

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Which inspiring woman are you?

After several rounds of famous feminists (and finally here) maybe you want to find out which one you resemble?

Take the quiz here

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Generation Chickenhawk

Check out blogger Max Blumenthal's venture into the world of college republicans here.

As a feminist I am particularly fond of this quote from former Congressman Tom Delay:

"If you believe abortion, if you believe that doesn't affect you... I contend it affects you in immigration. If we had those 40 million children that were killed over the last 40 years, we wouldn't need the illegal immigrants to fill the jobs that they are doing today. Think about it"

Scary that someone would reason like that, isn't it? Even more scary to consider that the view-point that abortion forces illegal immigration is not that uncommon among anti-abortion agitators.

Royal sex

It seems the Western world has its own taboos.

A second opinion

I had this conversation on MSN Messenger earlier today.

R.: Why are you sending me this music with sexist lyrics?
X.: What do you mean?
R.: Now look at this lady all in front of me, sexy as can be, tonight I want a slut, will you be mine? I heard you was freaky from a friend of mine
X.: Hm
X.: That is not sexist. That's just music by guys with tiny dicks.

I guess that is another way to view it ;-)

Besides that there is a new book out on hip-hop and feminism.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Are you a political activist?

People who read this blog have political opinions - but do you consider yourself an activist as well? I would be interested to know. If you even have an extra minute, please leave a comment and describe the ways in which you are an activist. Do you for example consider blogging a form of political activism? Thanks for your answer!

Do you consider yourself a political activist?
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Ban mosquitoes

They leave nasty bruises and spread diseases. It seems humankind is successful in getting rid of other species - then why not mosquitoes?

Do they make any vital contribution to the ecosystem? I have never met anyone who appreciates them, so if they don't have a specific purpose (besides nuisance, itchiness and infection), I suggest that we unite to put an end to their stinging. A global movement against mosquitoes - yes, please.

I will still have to consider how, though.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Social classes and integration

I just came across an article about the Danish politician Asmaa Abdol-Hamid who runs for 'Enhedslisten', the Danish Red-Green Alliance. I am very impressed by her commitment to improving the rights of minorities and marginalized groups in society. She has, at the age of 26, accomplished quite a lot socially and politically and I am sure we will hear more from her in the future.

This post is motivated by something she has said which pretty much sums up my take on the debate about integration and ethnic minorities:

"I don't like the word integration. Everyone uses it without being able to define it clearly. Ethnic minorities are not a problem in itself. I prefer to talk about social classes and take a look at citizens' class background instead of their ethnic identity when we need to give reasons for the lack of integration in Denmark." (my translation from Danish)

Applying a class view provides us with new explanations and lines of action. If we remove focus from religion and culture we can instead turn to poverty and other class issues as explanations for what we refer to as 'integration problems'. Some of the poorest and most marginalized people in Denmark are found among the ethnic minorities. An example is child poverty - the poverty risk for minority children is three times higher than for ethnic Danish children.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Bravo, Mika Brzezinski

Better late than never:

The imprisonment of Paris Hilton has become a (controversial) feminist issue. This comment from feministing.com sums it up pretty well:

"It's interesting to see how because of her wealth, power, and behavior, Paris Hilton is considered fair game to say anything about, even the most misogynistic comments. It's as if she's treated as she does not deserve the most basic respect all human beings should get."

Prices on sperm as an equality issue?

A while ago the Danish newspaper Berlingske brought a feature suggesting a men's liberation movement. The starting point is artificial insemination of single women and how that is a threat to men's rights. Fathers' rights are for sure a good cause, but I seriously question the project proposed in the feature.

As the author rightfully points out there are differences in the rights and possibilities of women and men with respect to becoming single parents. Women can have artificial insemination, whereas it is a long and exhaustive process for single men to adopt. Now, I would understand if the purpose of the feature was, for the sake of gender equality, to suggest improvement of men's adoption rights. But no, instead the author comes up with this:

"He should stand up to her and make himself indispensable, but how? For example by increasing the price on semen dramatically. A women has no right to a man's semen as little as he has to his sperm cells fertilizing an egg. Sperm cells in flocks, warm, floating sperm cells, is a precious elixir that makes the world go round! Yes, it is women who gives birth to children but it is men who makes it possible. To give women the right to have children for their own sake and nothing else is to treat men as air." (my translation from Danish)

I will resent from elaborating further on the obvious heteronormativity of this statement (further underscored by a praise of the heterosexual family as society's cornerstone earlier in the feature) and instead raise two different issues:

1. First and foremost the feature appears to confuse an improvement in women's rights with a deterioration of men's rights. Come on, fight for improving fathers' rights and men's possibilities to adopt... but not to worsen the situation of single women! It is not a zero-sum game.

2. Secondly, I am puzzled by the author's anxious assumption about women being less interested in men because of (affordable) artificial insemination. The feature provides no numbers or other evidence to back up the presupposition that less men become fathers because of single women's option to go to a sperm bank. I also find it really sad that the author reduces men to, well, sperm providers. I would certainly hope that there is more to a relationship than the provision of sperm. If availability of semen is what glues the heterosexual family, the praised cornerstone of society, together, I am even more doubtful of the flattering light the feature puts heteronormativity in.

Via Kimporator

Friday, July 13, 2007

Queer & eighties

In case you wonder what 'queer' means I think the French singer Desireless is a brilliant example:

Giving it some thought the eighties was actually a pretty queer decade. Just think of Annie Lennox or Martin Gore from (my favourite band!) Depeche Mode. The band's David Gahan also has a a little 'queerness' to him, sometimes he even resembles an older and 'darker' version of the lead singer of the Ark (that is when Ola Salo is not in glam rock mode).

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Good news!

I am probably a bit slow here but allow me to share the good news: The trafficking victim Rose has now been allowed to stay in Denmark: the Danish Refugee Council has reversed the previous ruling of the Danish Ministry of Refugee, Immigration and Integration Affairs.

The Danish labour union 3F who led a campaign for asylum is very content.

"First and foremost I doubt there are any women who would put themselves through so much suffering just to get asylum. Secondly, I believe that today's decision will actually help to put a stop to traficking. No people smugglers will find Denmark attractive if they know that their victims can get protection if they help the police uncover criminal gangster networks," says Gunnar Homann who is Rose's lawyer.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the petition.

Disney in 1938

A relic from the period between first and second wave feminism. Click here for a full-size version.

Via feministing.com

Monday, July 02, 2007

Big bro is watching your data

Soon the Belgian company SWIFT will sign the 'Safe Harbour' agreement:

"SWIFT has chosen to join the "Safe Harbour". The Safe Harbour is a specific type of "Adequacy Decision" adopted by the Commission in order to allow the free flow of personal data between the EU and the US. It allows EU controllers to export personal data to US organisations that have joined the Safe Harbour, since the privacy principles it contains are recognized to afford the adequate protection required by the EU for international data transfers." (press release from European Commission, 29th of June 2007)

SWIFT is a Belgium-based company which operates a worldwide messaging system used to transmit, inter alia, bank transaction information. If you have ever transferred money to a foreign bank account you are probably familiar with the 'SWIFT code'; the series of digits that identify a given bank.

According to Danish Computerworld Online the American authorities have been allowed to store information for five years - and not the 40 years which were originally requested by the US. Signing 'Safe Harbour' will also oblige banks that use SWIFT's services to inform their customers of the possible transfer of data to the US.

"It remains unclear what would happen if a bank customer should decide that she does not want her information shared," the article ends.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

... and another one!

Yet another paragraph 47 petition has seen the light of the day. This time you can sign for the following:

"I demand a European consultative referendum on the European Constitution, to be held on the same day as the elections to the European Parliament in 2009"

Monday, June 11, 2007

European Fatherhood

I have earlier adressed parental leave for fathers. Today I came across European Fatherhood which sounds like a really interesting project. Head of project is Svend Aage Madsen from the University of Copenhagen.

"Our goal is to promote and assist professionals involved in promoting and supporting men in their role as fathers. The need for knowledge concerning the psychological transition to fatherhood and an examination of methods to overcome gender stereotypes and obstacles to parental leave is also a priority"

The 'best practice' section have a number of examples from Denmark:

Helping employers help male employees become better fathers
Educating professionals in helping men become fathers
German and Danish examples of father-friendly corporate policies

Sunday, May 27, 2007

UN's first all-female peacekeeping force

Check out this interview with Seema Dhundia, commander of the UN's first all-female peacekeeping force. The force consists in 105 police officers from India that are currently stationed in Liberia.

Now that your unit has been in the field for a few months, how would you say the presence of a female UN peacekeeping contingent is enabling Liberia to get on the path to rebuilding?

I think that for the first time the Liberian people are seeing a fully trained contingent of female officers out on streets. Their own women are getting inspired and motivated and now they are coming forward. Seeing my girls performing their duties is inspiring young Liberian women to join the regular forces -- in this way we are sort of role models for the young Liberian ladies. They are seeing our girls and are now coming forward and joining the regular forces. Their numbers have considerably increased after our arrival here

The people are watching us here in Liberia. They are seeing the all-female contingent -- which has come all the way from India for the peacekeeping mission -- and they are getting inspired. They might start their own female force.

Have you faced any specific challenges being an all-women's unit?

There is no specific challenge as such. The situation is still volatile –the undercurrents of the conflict are still there, though the politics seem to be calm and quiet. Sometimes, though, it does get out of hand. But since the troops are prepared and they are professionally competent, we are able to cope with the pressures of any kind of situation.

Have you encountered any situations where being an all female unit has enabled you to accomplish things where a mixed gender unit would not have been able to?

No. Whether it's a mixed unit or a female unit or a male unit the point is that everybody has to be professionally competent. Even if it is a fully formed female contingent, even in that case, the female officers are supposed to be professionally competent and trained enough to tackle any kind of situation in that manner. Whether it is a mixed unit or a female unit or a male unit the point is the officers are to be properly sensitized. Irrespective of what you call it, they are to be properly trained and they have to be aware of what is going in their deployment area.

And would you say that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's presidency has it had any impact on operating as an all-female unit. Has it made things easier or more difficult?

I can't be very specific about it since she is the President. But she does provide a platform for all of us to perform. As far as our duties are concerned we are preparing the same kind of duties that the other peacekeepers are doing so there is no discrimination as such.

What are the primary goals -- if you wouldn't mind giving some background for our readers -- the primary goals of the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia and how do those filter down into your day to day duties in as a policing unit?

The primary goals of the UN mission here are to establish peace and implement all kinds of humanitarian assistance programs. They call this a post-conflict scenario. The infrastructure of the country had to be repaired from scratch. The primary goal is to establish normalcy -- establish peace and to ensure that state infrastructure is functioning. I think that this is the main goal of the UN mission here in Liberia.

As far as our contribution is concerned, we are here to advise and mentor the Liberian national police and we are provide backup support to the police in their day to day work. We are the only people who carry weapons with us, so we provide a security cover -- a backup to the Liberian national police in their day to day job. We also are providing a great deal of on-the-spot training to the Liberian national police officers, advising them on how to react to a particular situation.

Why did you become a UN peacekeeper?

I was commandant of an all-female contingent in India. Coming all the way from India to a place called Liberia and using my expertise and skills in performing my day to day duties was a good challenge. And obviously, if there is a challenge for a police officer it has to be taken in a positive way. It definitely leads to our own development. We are gaining excellent experience from being here. We have learned many new things, including the function of the UN. And it has provided a good platform for all of us. I think that is why all of us volunteered for this mission. Based on your experience thus far, how long do you think the UN will have a presence in Liberia?

I am not the right person or the right authority to say on this matter but I think it will take some time to bring in a little bit of normalcy. It will take some time -- how much time is difficult to judge, but obviously it will take a few years.

Via feministing.com (generally a very recommendable feminist reader!)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Help Rose

This blog supports the online petition to stop the expel of Rose, a Nigerian woman who was trafficked to Denmark. Rose has helped the Danish police uncover the trafficking network that brought her here.

According to the Danish immigration authorities and the Minister of Immigration Rose has nothing to fear with respect to her return to Nigeria - something which is seriously questioned by a thorough Norwegian report and the Norwegian Embassy in Nigeria.

Sign the petition here.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Imagine all the people

Some time ago I wrote a bit about Yoko Ono and how her importance as a gender-conscious artist has been neglected in favour of a portrayal as the witch that killed the Beatles. In the light of my previous post I found this cartoon by the Danish duo Wulffmorgenthaler rather amusing.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The war on symbols and the denial of abuse

The debate about the headwear of Muslim women has risen again in Denmark. This time it is fuelled by the case of a child minder who, according to some, wears a burka during working hours.

First of all, I think we should set things straight with respect to religious head wear. As far as I understand this is a burka and this is a niqab. The latter is what the child minder in Odense wears. Secondly, she puts on the niqab when she goes outside. In her home she wears a headscarf tied under the chin; allowing the children to see her face and expressions.

In the Danish debate a major argument for a ban against headscarves is that they are, supposedly, symbols of the oppression of women. In the case of symbols (please pay special attention to the word!) Danish politicians seem very willing to take action. Since the Danish Minister of Family Affairs recognized the municipality of Odense’s right to forbid their employees to wear religious clothing, there has been no end to the political announcements. A spokesperson from the Danish Liberal Party, one of the parties in government, describes it as a ‘freedom right’ that the Danish municipalities are allowed to ban religious clothing to their likening. Next to Odense several other municipalities have declared that they will make use of this freedom. In the case of symbols there is a lot of political goodwill when it comes to using regulation as a tool to, supposedly, improve women’s conditions.

Let us turn away from religious clothing for a moment and look at case that, to me and many others, is an unambiguous expression of the suppression of women. Some call it the oldest profession in the world. Others call it exploitation of women’s bodies. I am talking about prostitution. An estimate is at least 4,730 (the far majority being women) are selling their bodies in Denmark. There is a serious lack of knowledge about prostitution in my home country, but here are some European facts:

- Data provided by the British Medical Journal on the experience of client violence against women prostitutes indicates that 93 % of women had an experience of client violence (British Medical Journal: Do you want the latest evidence? “Personal characteristics, drug use, and experience of client violence by prostitutes working indoors or outdoors”, downloaded 17/2/2003)

- Around 80 % of women in prostitution have been sexually abused in their childhood (Fact sheet on Human Rights Violations, Prostitution Research & Education, Melissa Farley, http://www.prostitutionresearch.com/)

- The average age of women entering into prostitution is 13 or 14; there is no evidence to suggest that this age is decreasing (La prostitution un métier comme un autre?”, Yolande Geadah ; VLB éditeur, 2001, p. 137)

Data is compiled by womenlobby.org

As Reden, a drop-in centre for women in the prostitution environment in Copenhagen, explains on its web page:

“Prostitution – to sell you own body via prostitution and pornography – will always be the extreme sale and a situation that can be compared to nothing else. There are situations where people think they only have their body left to trade with, or situations where the body is the only demanded commodity. […] It often has long-term and destructive consequences when a woman has to let her body invade by thousands of men she does not herself desire. To survive she will have to switch off her emotions and ability to feel. The price can be that it will become ever more difficult to turn on her feelings again. The woman risks developing insensitivity towards other people, depression and the lack of ability to feel herself and her own needs.” (my translation from Danish)

Talking about offense against women’s rights prostitution is an obvious case. Still, myths of “the happy prostitute” and “prostitution is a woman’s personal choice” are alive and well in Denmark (and many other countries for that sake). Unlike the war against headscarves, supposedly symbols of suppression of women, there is not much political goodwill when it comes to prostitution. In the case of symbols politicians are more than willing to make rules and regulations. In the case of physical exploitation of women it is almost a taboo to talk about criminalizing the buyer. Sweden and Norway, two countries we normally compare ourselves to, have already passed laws. Still, there is very little discussion about banning the purchase of sex in Denmark. Maybe the symbolic value is not high enough?

Or perhaps is the suppression of women not really on the agenda of Danish politicians? Many of them seem to regard symbols as a much more grave manifestation of offense than actual physical abuse. At the end of the day the fight against symbols is unrelated to women’s rights. It appears to be just another expression of hostility towards Muslim culture and Muslims.

A selection of the (scarce) resources available on prostitution in Denmark (Danish-language):
Publications from 'Theme Prostitution' ('Theme Prostitution' is an activity under a government agency)
The extent of prostitution in Denmark
Facts about prostitution compiled by the Danish Socialist People's Party

Friday, May 04, 2007

The oldest profession in the world

If anyone should still suffer from convictions such as "prostitution is a woman's own choice" and "the sex industry is fun" this video from the European Women's Lobby is worth watching.

Among some of the video's statistics are:

- 92-95 % of prostituted women wants to get out of prostitution
- In large European cities between 67 and 90 % of prostitutes are foreigners
- In my home country Denmark there is about 7000 victims of trafficking. In Sweden (where it is illegal to buy sex) the number is more than ten times lower; 400 to 600.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Breasts should be respected the way they are

An artist initiates debate about breast enlargements in China. Watch the report here.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

British school children learn about alternative family patterns

Danish politician and member of parliament Martin Henriksen (the Danish People's Party) has earlier informed the world about his idea Danish schools should teach children and teenagers about sexual abstinence.

I have my doubts whether preaching abstinence is really necessary but I generally like the idea about updating the sex education of Danish elementary school. May I suggest to Mr. Henriksen to take the suggestion made in this article into consideration?

To me it comes across as a problem if the only types of emotional relationships Danish children learn about are the heterosexual ones. It is heteronormativity at its worst. Martin Spangsbro-Pedersen from the Danish National Association of Gays & Lesbians comments on the fact that British school children (from the age of four) learn about homosexual relationships:

"It is very positive. It is important to introduce children to other family patterns than the 'normal ones'. I would like to see the same development in Denmark."

Besides that I find the book titles introduced to British school children kind of cute: "Tango Makes Three" (about a penguin boy raised by two penguin fathers) and "King and King and Family" (I assume something with a prince who finds his prince and has a fairy-tale wedding).

Sadly I have a feeling Mr. Henriksen will not be too keen on my proposal. Him and his party are not exactly famous for supporting families different from the nuclear one.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Another constitution-inspired petition

Earlier I have posted on two citizens' initiatives, Oneseat and Nuclear Power No Thanks, inspired by article 47 of the proposed European Constitution.

Now a new one has seen the light of the day. The 112 petition encourages the European Commission to ensure better aid to Europeans who dial 112. The web page explains:

In the EU, 15 to 30 % of the emergency calls get an inappropriate or even no answer at all!

The European Commission’s own figures show that every year 5,000 more lives as well as EUR 5,000,000,000 could be saved.

Therefore, I request the European Commission to ensure an efficient 112 service all over the EU to my family and me for the 50th anniversary of the United Europe in 2007.

Some of the testimonies on the web page is also quite thought-provoking:

Kristina called 112 in Belgium. The operator did not understand French or English. The ambulance arrived only one and a half hour later...

Oliver lives at the border between Germany and Austria. Once he had to call an emergency number in Austria but he did not know which one to call...

Manuel called the 112 in Spain and finally had to carry his father to the hospital emergency unit on his own because of the poor and slow 112 service...

The European Emergency Number Association is behind the petition.

PS: If some of you did not know 112 is the emergency number that you can use in all EU member states.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

No, we do not have genitalia


Hush. Apparently you are not suppose to say that.

From News for Greens:

"A public high school has suspended three students who disobeyed officials by saying the word “vagina” during a reading from a well-known feminist play.
The honour students, Megan Reback, Elan Stahl and Hannah Levinson, included the word during their reading of “The Vagina Monologues” because “it wasn’t crude and it wasn’t inappropriate and it was very real and very pure,” Reback said.

Their defiant stand is being applauded by the play’s author, who said Tuesday that the school should be celebrating, rather than punishing, the three juniors.

“Don’t we want our children to resist authority when it’s not appropriate and wise?” said Eve Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues.”

It is also interesting to consider that this story (according to News for Greens) were more prominently covered in Canada than in the US where it took place.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Democrats win

This is the results of my earlier poll. It seems the US would have a democratic president if readers of Scratching the Surface were to decide. Perhaps not an extremely surprising result since many of my readers are European.

Thanks for your participation. If nothing else this poll made me aware how hard it is to 'measure' the political opinions of people living in different political systems. It is really difficult to find political categories everyone can relate to without, at the same time, making them so 'broad' that the poll will, more or less, say nothing at all.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

New design

Pink-ish and raw - I know! However, I feel it sends out that feminist vibe. Thanks to Feministiskt Initiativ for inspiration to the colour. Enjoy!

Scratching the Surface expands business

I am now officially back in Brussels and have begun writing my masters thesis. For anyone curious about what I will spent the next half year on I cordially invite you to visit mymediathesis.blogspot.com. I will do my best to update frequently! Deadline is 1st of August.

PS: The name of the blog is the title I have been proposed by my thesis adviser. Does not really say a lot, I know.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

A new Berlin wall?

I really hope this will not big business.

Again, sorry for non-Danish readers.

Friday, March 09, 2007


Recently, with International Women's Day as the occasion, I received this curiosity (PDF); an except from a fifties textbook on how to be a good wife. The absurdity of its advice becomes even more apparent if you reverse the gender roles (PDF).

My apologies to readers whom are not acquainted with Scandinavian languages.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Tell me about you!

If you read Danish I hope you will find the time to fill in a short questionnaire about my blog:

Gå til spørgeskema

The questionnaire is from Blog Tjek 07; a group of Danish bloggers investigating blog readers.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Radio with a European twist

News media that cross borders is a rare phenomenon - at least if we consider their popularity. Most people get their news from national media where events are interpreted and presented in a national context. This is not surprising considering most news media are produced nationally: Danish television news are produced by Danes within the borders of Denmark.

The radio programme Network Europe is an interesting experiment with respect to this. It is a cooperation between ten radio stations from all over Europe - from Scandinavia to Eastern Europe. Together they assemble a current affairs programme with stories from many corners of the continent.

Without doubt the programme has many flaws. It is a bit monotonous, the topics tend to be very 'heavy', and the sound quality is varying. Still, I like the idea about crossborder cooperation and the fact that the programmes offer stories that national media usually filters out.

Listen to the programmes in English or German.

Here in Hamburg some of my class mates are currently conducting a survey among people who have listened to the programme. If you have ten minutes they would be very happy if you would answer their online questionnaire.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The witch is back

Multitasking like crazy. While desperately browsing the web for accomodation in Brussels and typing in an assignment about the Danish media landscape my ears have devoted their full attention to this new album - a tribute to Yoko Ono.

As the Danish broadcaster DR write in their review the album is "colourful and messy". Still, I like it. Especially Peaches, Blow Up and Le Tigre make great performances as their music is mixed with the voice of the witch herself - Ono.

As a statement the tribute is interesting as well. As Rasmus Junge from DR puts it:

"Exactly the negative, public image of Yoko Ono as a cynical and calculating pop-avantgardist is the focal point for the tribute album 'Yes, I'm a Witch', that sttempts to add some nuances to this otherwise black-and-white representation, and at the same time advocates her importance as a gender-conscious, female artist." (my translation from Danish)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Former Pulp-protagonist fights back

I guess, Jarvis Cocker got a bit upset with New Labour after the '97 British elections.

Earlier I have expressed my disappointment in brit pop and the political involvement of brit pop bands. Still, I am pretty impressed with this new song by the former lead singer in Pulp.

Well did you hear, there’s a natural order.
Those most deserving will end up with the most.
That the cream cannot help but always rise up to the top,
Well I say: Shit floats.
If you thought things had changed,
Friend you’d better think again,
Bluntly put in the fewest of words,
Cunts are still running the world,
Cunts are still running the world.

Now the working classes are obsolete,
They are surplus to societies needs,
So let ‘em all kill each other,
And get it made overseas.
That’s the word don’t you know,
From the guys thats running the show,
Lets be perfectly clear boys and girls,
Cunts are still running the world,
Cunts are still running the world.

Oh feed your children on Cray fish and Lobster tails,
Find a school near the top of the league,
In theory I respect your right to exist,
I will kill ya if you move in next to me,
Ah it stinks, it sucks, it’s anthropologically unjust,
But the takings are up by a third,
Oh So Cunts are still running the world,
Cunts are still running the world.

Your free market is perfectly natural,
Or do you think that I’m some kind of dummy,
It’s the ideal way to order the world,
Fuck the morals, does it make any money?
And if you don’t like it? Then leave.
Or use your right to protest on the street,
Yeah, use your rights but don’t imagine that it’s heard, Oh no no,
Cunts are still running the world,
Cunts are still running the world.