"Sweden has the first feminist government in the world," brags the Swedish government on its official website. Meaning what, exactly?
"This means that gender equality is central to the Government's priorities... a gender equality perspective is brought into policy-making on a broad front... The Government's most important tool for implementing feminist policy is gender mainstreaming, of which gender-responsive budgeting is an important component."
Accompanying this patch of bureaucratic rhetoric is a photograph of Sweden's current government of twelve women and eleven men.
Pictured: Sweden's current, proudly feminist, government cabinet, for whom "gender equality perspective is brought into policy-making on a broad front," and "gender-responsive budgeting is an important component." (Image source: Government of Sweden)
Of course, there are various types of feminism. Sweden's preferred type is not about universal sisterhood and the spreading of sexual equality around the globe. No, it is "intersectional" feminism. What is "intersectional" feminism? It is a species of feminism that, in accordance with the relatively new academic concept of "intersectionality," accepts a hierarchy whereby other "victim groups" -- such as "people of color" and Muslims -- are higher up on the grievance ladder than women, and whereby women who belong to those other groups enjoy an even more exalted status as victims than white female Christians or Jews.
This means that "intersectional" feminists must be culturally sensitive and culturally relative, recognizing and privileging culturally predicated values other than sexual equality. They must be feminists who understand that while no expression of contempt for the purported tyranny of Western males can be too loud, overstated or vulgar, they must, in their encounters with less feminist-minded cultures, temper their devotion to female equality out of respect for those cultures' different priorities. In practice, this compulsion to respect the different priorities of other cultures is most urgent, and the respect itself most cringing when the culture in question is the one in which female inequality is most thoroughly enshrined and enforced.
This brand of feminism, needless to say, is not confined to Sweden. Last year, on the day after Donald Trump's inauguration, it was on full display in the United States at the Women's March, where the new President was universally denounced as a personification of patriarchy, while Linda Sarsour, a woman in hijab and champion of Islamic law (sharia), became an overnight feminist heroine.
What is Sarsour promoting? Under sharia law, a woman is expected to be subservient and obedient. Her testimony in court is worth half that of a man, because she is "deficient in intelligence." A daughter should be given an inheritance only half that of a son. A man is not only permitted -- but encouraged -- to beat his wife if she is insufficiently obedient. A man may take "infidel" wives, but a woman may not wed outside the faith. A man may have up to four wives, but a woman can have only one husband. A man can divorce his wife simply by uttering a few words; a woman, if she wants a divorce, must subject herself to a drawn-out process at the end of which a group of men will rule on the matter. A man is entitled to have sex with his wife against her wishes and, under certain circumstances, other women as well. And that is just the beginning.
Sometimes, when one points out these rules, people will respond: "Well, the Bible says such-and-such." The point is not that these things are written in Islamic scripture, but that people still live by them. Moreover, at the Women's March last year, Sarsour, a woman who champions these profoundly inequitable, profoundly anti-feminist codes of conduct, was applauded. That is "intersectional" feminism raised to the point of self-destruction.
Still, in no country have the precepts of "intersectional" feminism been more unequivocally endorsed by the political and cultural establishment, and more eagerly internalized by the citizenry, than in Sweden. Case in point: one of the consequences of "intersectional" feminism is a severe reluctance to punish Muslim men for acting in accordance with the moral dictates of their own culture; and it is precisely because of this reluctance that Sweden, with its "feminist government," has, according to some observers, become the "rape capital of the West." Moreover, it was "intersectionality" that, last year, led every female member of a Swedish government delegation to Iran to wear head coverings and to behave like the humblest harem on the planet. "With this gesture of subjugation," observed one Swiss news website, "they have not only made a joke of any concept of 'feminism' but have also stabbed their Iranian sisters in the back."
Yet another example of "intersectional" feminism is the 45-year-old Swedish woman who worked in a group-home for "unaccompanied refugee children." In November 2016, presumably out of the goodness of her heart, she took into her home Abdul Dostmohammadi, an Afghan former resident of the group-home, after he turned 18 and could no longer live there. Within a month they were lovers; some months later, as recently reported, Dostmohammadi sexually molested her 12-year-old daughter. When the girl told her mother, her mother did nothing, explaining later to authorities that she had feared Dostmohammadi would be deported.
When the girl told her father, who lives elsewhere, he informed the police. The mother need not have worried about deportation: Dostmohammadi was given a three-month suspended sentence, charged a small fine, and ordered to perform community service. Such is the power of "intersectional" feminism in Sweden's system: it enables a Swedish mother -- and a Swedish court -- to accord lower priority to the welfare of her sexually-molested child than to the welfare of the Muslim man who assaulted her.
I will close with another example of institutionalized "intersectional" feminism in action: Alicia's Iraqi parents took her to Sweden when she was four. When she was 13, they took her back to their homeland to marry her 23-year-old cousin. Returning alone to Sweden, Alicia, a Swedish citizen, gave birth to twin boys, who at birth automatically became Swedish citizens. After she cared for them for a period of time, her children were taken away, against her will, to be raised in Iraq by her husband. Last year, he petitioned the Stockholm municipal court for sole custody. On January 9, 2018, the Stockholm Municipal Court ruled in his favor, on the grounds that the twins had lived longer with him than with Alicia, who is now 24.
A Swedish court ruled against the parental rights of a female Swedish citizen and handed over her children, also Swedish citizens, to a foreigner who is known to have raped their mother, in the context of a sharia "marriage," when she herself was a child. Juno Blom, an expert in "honor-related" violence, is one Swedish woman who apparently did not get the memo about "intersectional" feminism. Calling the court's ruling a "disgrace," Blom charged that Sweden has failed Alicia throughout her life:
"A little girl was taken out of Sweden, married off, raped, and deprived of her children without action by the authorities. And now they have put the last nail her coffin by denying her custody. I have probably never seen a case in which so many mistakes have been committed."
Blom does not seem to understand. Swedish officials have not made any "mistakes" in Alicia's case. Every single action on their part has been rooted in a philosophy that they thoroughly understand and in which they deeply believe. They are, as they love to proclaim, proud feminists through and through. It just so happens that, in deference to the edicts of "intersectionality," their ardent belief in sisterhood ends where brutal Islamic patriarchy, systematic gender oppression, and primitive "honor culture" begin. That is feminism, Swedish style.
Bruce Bawer is the author of the new novel The Alhambra (Swamp Fox Editions). His book While Europe Slept (2006) was a New York Times bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist.