"Gender Roles in Scandinavia" was the lecture for today, given by Helle Rytkønen, a very interesting woman who was born in Denmark and lived in the U.S. for 19 years before returning back to Copenhagen. To prepare for the lecture we had to read the following article, "Nordic Men on Parental Leave: Can the Welfare State Change Gender Relations" by: Johanna Lammi-Taskula that talked about parental leave and the involvement of fathers in child rearing once the kid is born. This article pointed out that while the rate of fathers taking parental leave is increasing, it is still not as high as it could be and that there are questions to consider when dealing with parental leave. Helle brought the ideas of this articles into discussion with her own discussion of gender roles within Denmark and how the way Denmark wants its citizens to be intrude on others' flourishing.
Helle asked two questions in relation with the article in which we debated. The first was "Are equal people happy or happier?" and the second questions was, "Does the politicizing of fatherhood change gender relations?" As to the answer to the first question that can be pretty debatable, but within Denmark, a country that prides themselves on equality, that equality can be a cause for unhappiness. The country might look happier if they are overall seen as all equal, but by trying to pursue equality some people's happiness is taking away. Moms who want to stay at home with their kids may not find equity within the system to be flourishing since they are forced to share an equal amount of time with their kids with the father. While this can be seen as an issue there is no doubt that the politicizing of fatherhood being a good thing. Getting fathers involved in the kids' lives is just as important as the mother being involved, as has been shown in psychology, but has it lead to a change in gender relations? While you will find more fathers on the streets of Copenhagen pushing strollers it has been seen that gender roles haven't necessarily changed. When fathers take care of their kids they are more likely to go on "adventures" and go exploring while the mother is more likely to stay in the home with the kid, and therefore is still seen as the one who does the chores around the house.
So you want to spend time with your kids? That's great! But you're in trouble if you want to do it too much. Society in Denmark has dictated through the culture norms that a mother will be looked on as a bad mother if she doesn't take care of her kid on leave, but then once the kid hits their first birthday the mother will also be looked down upon if she doesn't give the child to daycare. While the opportunities for stay home with the kids on paternal leave make people happy, the government has a lot of restrictions that make it difficult to fully appreciate the generosity of the parental leave system. In terms of immigrants, legislation has made it very difficult for them to lead their lives how they want to. While the immigrant population makes up only about 3-4% of Denmark's overall population, they are at the forefront of political discussions for they are seen as bad parents. The way in which they raise their children is all wrong and they are forced to follow the way the government tells them to raise their kids. The government is trying to break the bonds within immigrant families in order to bring in Denmark traditions to "help" them. Does this seem right? It seems harsh to force people to do things a certain way, but when it comes down to it they can always leave right? The problems with immigrants also bring up different issues in Denmark. There are strict laws around marriage that deal with not being able to bring one's spouse into Denmark to live if they are from another country (unless they are from Japan, New Zealand, Australia, or the U.S. since these are the ones Denmark is in a friendship agreement with). In the end, does all of this legislation Denmark imposes upon is citizens live up to their ideals of equality? Even if the legislation made everything equal, does true equality make people happier? Or flourish more?
Sorry for no pictures, there were no walking tours today, but that doesn't make what we did today any less fascinating. Revel in the wonderful thoughts presented in this post instead of getting lost in pretty pictures. I'm sure the pictures we will put up in our next posts will make up for the lack of pictures today.
Thanks for reading!