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

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.