Sweden is apparently world’s first officially self declared “Feminist” government. The brave sisters, of the foreign affairs department, recently obliterated the patriarchy in the United States, with a staged photo onslaught.
But that was before they surrendered to the dictates of an Islamist theocracy, just like all good Western feminists should. In a scenario all too painfully familiar in recent days, a bunch of privileged Western women found liberation in keeping their head down and knowing their place.
Look, I have nothing against Iran, in fact, I respect them, that they are iron-spined and strong enough to make Western governments bow down in front of them and their rules, regardless of which continent they are in. I find the weakness and hypocrisy of the other side more abhorrent. In what can be termed as the most abjectly hypocritical turnaround in recent history, Sweden’s annoyingly grandstanding government, paraded (or should I say, reverse-slutwalked) with their heads covered in a visiting delegation to Iran.
Why such a fuss with Sweden, you might wonder? After all, from Federica Mogherini to Julie Bishop, everyone has covered up top to bottom, even their hair, when they have met the Iranians. The Italians went as far as not just covering up when they visited Iran, but covering themselves and their statues up as well, when the Iranian delegations visited Italy.
Following the law of the land you say? More like following one sided theocratic laws, in both continents. After all everyone knows, when in Rome, roll like you’re at home…or something like that. So why single out the Swedish sistahs?
Because nothing in this planet is as annoying as outright hypocrites taking the moral high ground.
Prima facie, there can be no ‘feminist’ foreign policy per se, but more on that later. Sweden’s foreign minister took an effort early in her days to explain what it is all about. In her own words, it is about focusing on peace, justice, human rights and discrimination. But how does that make it a feminist foreign policy? Does that mean other Western states do not care about those issues?
Even before this farce occurred, I had wanted to write a critique about the myth of Swedish ‘feminist’ foreign policy for quite a while, but carried on with my life, because it was frankly meaningless and not worth my time. As a researcher in International Relations, a discipline which primarily seeks to study and understand the interactions and conflicts between states in an international system, nothing has been ever so frustrating than watching my own discipline being hijacked by sociologists focusing on race and gender studies and hogging half of the grants for meaningless research with zero policy relevance. There can be no feminist foreign policy, just like there can be no feminist biology, or feminist chemistry or feminist economics, and those who try to claim such, are essentially inventing a new form of meaningless word salad.
International Relations — as an academic discipline — traces its philosophical origin to Thucydides, Sun Tzu, Kautilya, and the likes. It’s a discipline that tries to study and understand how the international system works, how powers interact, when peace happens, and when states or empires go to war. In modern times, mainstream IR theories like Realism and Liberalism follow a similar epistemological premise. While Realism is hardnosed and conservative, and deals with power, interests and security, Liberalism highlights the power of institutions, trade and democratic peace. To put it simply, they might be at odds over issues, but at least they are both empirically testable and falsifiable. The reason why postmodern concepts like feminist foreign policy have never been taken seriously in mainstream Political Science and IR, and have never published in premier journals like Harvard’s International Security, is because they have nothing to offer beyond stream-of-consciousness gibberish.
A typical example of feminist foreign policy scholarship would be this 1997 paper: “You Just Don’t Understand: Troubled Engagements Between Feminists and IR Theorists,” which is famous in PoMo circles. When the authoress was asked why feminists don’t have falsifiable theories, she replied that feminist epistemology believes in deconstruction and non-positivist methodology. Or in other words, I claim what I feel, to hell with your evidence, because evidence is socially constructed anyway. One needn’t be an IR theorist to understand the absurdity of this position. It is a miracle (for them) that 20 years since Richard Dawkins wrote “Postmodernism Disrobed“, these academics still have tenured positions at Western Universities.
But such dismissal is a lazy critique. So, let’s empirically test the Swedish feminists, bringing facts to claims. What is the legacy of feminist Sweden thus far?
Sweden was the first state to acknowledge Palestine, antagonising what is the only democratic power in Middle East and steadfast Western ally, Israel. Sweden apparently stood up to Saudi Arabia over the flogging of Raif Badawi. But when Saudis retaliated, the feminists promptly got their liberated derriere handed back to them, backtracked, and appeased Saudis with even more arms to sell. In a classic instance of a Security Dilemma, Sweden is now cozying up to NATO and the U.S. to defend against a revanchist Russia — just like any state, regardless of whether it is feminist or not, would — (which somehow makes Swedish trolling of Trump hilarious, given it is U.S. which provides security over Europe).
But that’s nothing compared to what feminist Sweden has unleashed on its own population. Uncharted migration has correlated with a record number of rapes, and crimes against women, which the Swedish media and government have tried to jointly cover up. Swedish police have been gagged by the government, told not to talk about mass sexual assault by certain minority groups, which has resulted in individual police officers venting in private. I could go on, but the most thorough breakdown of Sweden’s social structure seems to have occurred under their feminist government. The burdens of growing social security costs, ossifying academic orthodoxy, increasing Soviet-style nanny-state control, and the resultant far right backlash, is all described in detail by James Traub in Foreign Policy.
Failure to stand up to theocratic and revanchist forces abroad, and the failure to protect women at home, all the while impotently posing for photo-ops against disinterested men, in relative safety, seems like the hallmark of Sweden’s feminist foreign policy.
This is inevitable. Camille Paglia once said the same thing in a lecture. During the dying days of any civilisation, the civilisation becomes effete and impotent. Today, when one can see a German hippie with signs like “Hijab is empowerment,” or Saudi apologists like Linda Sarsour leading a bunch of free American women, one can only lament thinking of the actual women moderates and liberals who have been fighting against forces of genuine patriarchy in Middle East. The Kurds, the Yazidis, the Iranian liberals, the Saudi women who risk being jailed for driving.
Perhaps, Swedish gender scholars might want to meet and talk to people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali first, before railing against “Western patriarchy,” the same system, under whose relative security they are safe from the ultra-orthodox forces gathering at the outskirts; the system which they seem determined to break down, ushering in a nightmarish chaos.
Sumantra Maitra is a doctoral researcher at the University of Nottingham, UK. His research is in Great power politics and Neorealism. You can find him on Twitter @MrMaitra.