Author: Paulina Neuding

Sweden Has Resisted a Lockdown. But That Doesn’t Make it a Bastion of Liberty

“Be like Sweden,” has become an unlikely rallying cry among libertarians, free-market liberals and other proponents of individual liberty around the world in the past few weeks. From outlets like National Review and Reason, to Bill Mitchell and Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, the Swedish government has been praised for its decision not to impose a COVID-19 lockdown, instead leaving it up to citizens to decide whether and how to practice social distancing. Here in Sweden, where I live, schools and stores are open, and sidewalk cafés remain bustling in the midst of the pandemic. To be sure, there are restrictions. Only recently, a few Stockholm bars were temporarily closed by authorities for violating the new social-distancing requirements. But limits on crowds have been set at 50 people—far above the limits in most other European countries—and the government mostly relies on recommendations rather than mandates. As a result, we’re repeatedly told by international free-market proponents that Sweden has struck a sounder balance between disease control and individual freedom. In a widely shared article, …

Scandinavian Airlines: Get Woke, Cry Wolf

What is truly Scandinavian? Absolutely nothing. Everything is copied.  This was the slogan contained in a bizarre ad campaign broadcast earlier this month by Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), the largest airline in Scandinavia and the flag carrier of Norway, Denmark and Sweden. The ad was posted on YouTube, but was quickly edited and reposted after being flooded with bad reviews. The message, in short: Nothing is genuinely Scandinavian. Be it meatballs or paternity leave, everything comes from other countries. While the Dutch, Germans and Americans have all made innovations, ours is “nada, niente,” the ad emphasizes. Then follows the unobjectionable cliché message that Scandinavian culture has been enriched by travel and cross-cultural influences. The edited ad. The original version is no longer available online.  For the past two weeks, SAS has faced a wave of criticism, ranging from ordinary Twitter users and opinion writers to leading politicians. Social media has been full of comments from people who vow never to fly with the company again—their own flag-carrier, 29 percent of which is owned by the Danish …

Saint Lucia—Darkness Has Not Overcome The Light

It is dark and bitterly cold—early morning in Nordic midwinter. Suddenly, she appears: A beautiful girl, dressed in white, palms pressed together as if in prayer, carrying on her head a crown of flaming candles. Behind her, a procession of girls and boys in white robes, holding candles and stars. Together they perform some of the most cherished songs in the Swedish music tradition a capella. Such is the magic of the festival of Saint Lucia, celebrated before the break of dawn every December 13 in churches, schools, workplaces and nursing homes around Sweden. The celebration originally commemorated Saint Lucy of Syracuse, a Christian 4th-century martyr who, according to tradition, was killed by the sword for her faith. Today’s Swedish Lucia wears a red band around her waist in honor of this ancient sacrifice.  In recent years, however, the festival has been subject to a recurring debate about gender roles and inclusion. Many girls dream of being voted Lucia of their school or town. But the idea of the young, white-clad virgin is increasingly viewed …

The Return to Archaic Forms of Power—An Interview with Marianne Stidsen

The #MeToo movement has had an exceptionally deep impact in the Scandinavian countries, says Marianne Stidsen, associate professor of literature at the University of Copenhagen and a member of the Danish Academy. Quillette’s Paulina Neuding spoke to her about her recent book The Nordic MeToo Revolution 2018 – And Its Negative Impact (U Press Denmark, 2019). Paulina Neuding: The Nordics are often regarded as hallmarks of gender equality – known, historically at least, for low levels of violence, progressive views on sexuality, and generous welfare provisions. Do you think that the egalitarian Nordics might have provided particularly fertile ground for a movement like #MeToo? Marianne Stidsen: The #MeToo movement has had an exceptionally deep impact in the Nordic countries – just think of the cancellation last year of the Nobel Prize in literature, one of Sweden’s most esteemed institutions. But I actually don’t think that the explanation lies simply in Scandinavian gender equality. It is like any other historic revolutionary movement – many factors have to coincide to cause this sudden social and political upheaval …

It’s Time for Sweden to Admit Explosions Are a National Emergency

The bomb exploded shortly after 9 a.m. Friday in a blast that ripped through two apartment buildings and could be heard for miles. Twenty-five people suffered cuts and bruises and 250 apartments were damaged. A nearby kindergarten was evacuated. Hospitals jumped into disaster mode. Photos from the scene show rows of demolished balconies and shattered windows. It was ”absolutely incredible” that no one was severely injured, a police spokesperson said. It is the kind of news we usually associate with war zones, but this bombing took place in Linköping, a peaceful university town in southern Sweden. Remarkably, it was not the only explosion in the country that day; another, seemingly unrelated, blast was reported in a parking lot in the city of Gothenburg earlier in the morning. Three explosions have been reported in Malmö since Tuesday morning. As of this writing, no arrests have been made. Sweden has experienced a sharp rise in explosions in recent years, predominantly related to conflicts between warring criminal gangs. The use of explosives in the Nordic country is now …

Self-Harm Versus the Greater Good: Greta Thunberg and Child Activism

Greta is eleven years old and has gone two months without eating. Her heart rate and blood pressure show clear signs of starvation. She has stopped speaking to anyone but her parents and younger sister, Beata.  After years of depression, eating disorders, and anxiety attacks, she finally receives a medical diagnosis: Asperger’s syndrome, high-functioning autism, and OCD. She also suffers from selective mutism—which explains why she sometimes can’t speak to anyone outside her closest family. When she wants to tell a climate researcher that she plans a school strike on behalf of the environment, she speaks through her father. The book Scenes from the Heart (“Scener från Hjärtat,” 2018) recounts these medical difficulties and the events that led to Greta Thunberg’s now-famous “school strike for climate,” in which hundreds of thousands of children have refused to attend school to protest about government inaction over climate change. Greta herself strikes every Friday and spent three weeks sitting outside the Swedish Parliament at the beginning of the school year. Written by her family—mother, father, Beata and Greta—the …

Sweden’s General Election Turmoil

Sweden’s general elections will happen this weekend and the country is in political turmoil. The governing Social Democrats, the hegemonic force in Swedish politics for most of the past century, are facing their lowest results since the introduction of democracy. Only a few percentage points behind them in the polls are the Sweden Democrats (SD) – an anti-immigration and anti-EU party – which may become the country’s biggest political group. The polls thus confirm a fundamental shift in Swedish politics: SD – which is shunned by the other parties, who refer to its roots in the far-right movement – only entered the Riksdag after the 2010 elections, to the astonishment of large parts of the political and media establishment. Since 2014, SD forms a wedge in parliament, preventing both traditional blocs, led by the Social Democrats and the center-right Moderates respectively, from gaining a majority of seats. Both refuse to govern with each other, or with the support of SD. This is uncharted territory, and no one knows how, or by whom, the country will be …

Sweden’s Sexual Assault Crisis Presents a Feminist Paradox

Sweden prides itself on being a beacon of feminism. It has the most generous parental leave in the developed world, providing for 18 months off work, 15 of which can be used by fathers as paternity leave. A quarter of the paid parental leave is indeed used by men, and this is too little according to the Swedish government, which has made it a political priority to get fathers to stay at home longer with their children. Sweden has never ranked lower than four in The Global Gender Gap Report, which has measured equality in economics, politics, education, and health for the World Economic Forum since 2006. Of all members of Parliament, 44 percent are women, compared to 19 percent of the United States Congress. Nearly two-thirds of all university degrees are awarded to women. Its government boasts that it is the “first feminist government” in the world, averring that gender equality is central to its priorities in decision-making and resource allocation. But while Swedish women rank among the most equal in the world, they increasingly …