Month: May 2015

An American in Sweden: Emily

Prelude

As a part of the learning process and exploration of cross-cultural analysis; that is, learning about other cultures, it is important to practice perspective taking. And through the Global Leadership Study Abroad Program here in Sweden, that is being accomplished. But taking the time to explore the experiences of others is also perspective taking. Whereas the former is social awareness in the context of culture, the latter is social awareness in the context of relationships. Much of what has been discussed here in Urban Dynamics is about Sweden from the perspective of the culture compared to the culture of the United States. In addition, some writings have been about the personal experience, or what is sometimes referred to as self-awareness, of the author. But there has been no exploration of another American’s experience here in Sweden, nor has there been an exploration of or a conversation with a native Swede, at least not in interview form.

Iowa State University student, Emily
Iowa State University student, Emily

In this piece, Emily will be sharing her experiences, and thoughts and feelings. She views herself as an independent with conservative leanings. And this is important, because the perception by many Americans is that different people with different ideas and different views of the world cannot sit down and have a critical and productive conversation without leading to some sort of ridciulous exchange that may or may not lead to character assassination of one person or both people. This interview is also important because it provides the readers of Urban Dynamics with a different perspective than the author. It is the opinion of this author that this enriches the experience and enriches the dialogue of what it means to be an American and what the American experience is like in the United States and what the American experience is like abroad, which in this case is Sweden.

Emily is an undergraduate at Iowa State University and is one of twenty American students participating in the study abroad program. She is also blogging about her experiences, which can be found through the links embedded throughout this interview. Her experience is salient and it is similar to many of the other students in the study abroad program, although there are differences. But it is the differences that make her experience unique and hers. Remember, perspective taking is a component of systems thinking and thus is way of viewing the world in a complex way.

Matt Johnson, Author of Urban Dynamics and Systems scientist
Matt Johnson, Author of Urban Dynamics and Systems scientist

The Interview

Here we are at exactly two weeks into our trip. You’ve had some time to take in Sweden and its culture. Overall, what do you think so far?

It’s very fun. It’s been a fun experience. Culture shock is something everyone should experience.

Culture shock? Could you elaborate a bit more on that?

[Well] we blend in…I didn’t expect to…No, I didn’t think we wouldn’t stand out in the way we look. But we are [somewhat] loud. We stand out because of language. But there are lots of immigrants.

You and I have chatted before about politics. You mentioned that you tend to be more conservative in your political leanings. As an independent with conservative leanings, what has Sweden been like for you?

It is an eye opener because it is a bit different, different from my beliefs and point of view. Leaning more towards a conservative point of view, people in Sweden pay more taxes [but] get more in theory. [So] why would a person work harder when they already get it? It is a rhetorical question – food for thought. Everyone has a different work ethic and abilities.

What has the experience been like as a woman? How is it different than the United States?

You don’t realize what your missing until its in front of your nose. America is great. Everyone wants to come to America. But America doesn’t have it figured out. We are the only industrialized country that doesn’t have [paternity] leave. I don’t understand how that happens.

From your persepective, have you found that women have more opportunity here in Sweden? Or do women have more opportunity in the United States?

Based off of paternity leave, yes, women have more opportunities in Sweden. Because ultimately you choose between being a present mother or focusing on your career, or advancing in your career. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but in the United States, they are. [It] doesn’t seem like a big deal, but having paternity leave could be one of the greatest factors of a woman moving up in her field or not.

We’ve see more equal dissemination of child caring responsibilities here in Sweden. We’re observed a good amount of men pushing strollers and carrying babies. What are your thoughts on American men taking greater responsibility in raising children?

I think it is a positive thing and hope to see more of it. [But] it is still their [choice]. They are fifty percent the parent. And so I hope they want to take part in parenting. What I also hope to see is that women who want to be the homemaker are not demonized or viewed negatively because of that choice.

Turning to more specifics, you did mention in your Women’s Family Responsibility in America article that America should institute part-time paternity leave and “more flexible hours,” but not together. Why not implement both applications at the same time? And by America do you mean the private sector, government, or a combination of both sectors?

The reason I said not at the same time is because that would be to extreme for America. There would be a lot of backlash on it instead of focusing on American families. I mean a combination of the two. What I mean by that is that I don’t think it will happen without government help. But the American people also have to want it and demand it.

We have talked discussed in class the concept and use of “woman marine”; that is, gender identification followed by the noun and how it is prominent in the United States and across all industries. Americans don’t refer to gender identifiers followed by the noun when it comes to men. From your point of view, is Sweden different in this regard and how so?

In some ways it is human fault because we make those assumptions about who should be in that role. So things such as ‘woman marine’ refer or reaffirm that that person is less capable or just lower in status than the other gender. So in Sweden to combat that issue, they have taken away formal titles out of everyday life; for instance, Dr., Mr., and Mrs. This signifies equality among parties.

I must admit, I am guilty of using the gender identifier followed by the noun. In fact, I originally titled this blog series “An American Woman in Sweden.” But I recognized the unequal language and changed it. As an American, who happens to be a woman, is that little change important for you? Is it important for you that men recognize such dichotomies?

Being a woman is a part of my identity and so it wouldn’t have bothered me. But am I socialized to think that way? I don’t know. But I am not offended by that [original title].

Do you think it is going away any time soon in the United States? That is, the gender identifier followed by the noun?

Oh no! Because people like rank.

You stated in your My Top 5 blog, “As I think about how much I’ve learned in this past week and how fast it has gone by, I can only [imagine] my personal growth and expansion of cultural competence when I leave Sweden and head back home to the states in June.” After a bit more time here in Sweden, do you think your initial thought and sentiment, assertion, is still true? How do you think the experience will change you and your personal and political beliefs? Or do you think those personal and political beliefs will be reenforced?

Yes it is. Not that I will be culturally competent in every way but it is a step forward. I don’t know if it will reenforce or change my positions, but I am learning.

Final Thoughts

Eric Sundstrom and the Iowa State University Global Leadership Study Abroad students
Eric Sundstrom and the Iowa State University Global Leadership Study Abroad students

Perhaps Swedish socialism, and American conservatism and liberalism are not so different? Eric Sundström, political strategist for Minister of Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström, mentioned in a visit by Iowa State students to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that “One of [America’s] greatest weaknesses” is the lack of paternity leave. He delved into some of the reasons for why paternity leave works. For example, he mentioned that paternity leave increases opportunity for women, because the man stays home and is able to care for the child or children in a more profound way. As a consequence, the number of women in the work force increases. He also mentioned that such a policy increases leadership opportunities for women. This happens because women obtain more experience both in skills and leadership. From this premise, it is easy to see how women can move up the ladder of success and into leadership positions.

Emily agrees the premise makes sense. However, when Emily was asked if she thought paternity leave like that of Sweden could work in the United States she responded with a confident “no.” She believes this because of the differences between the American system of politics and the Swedish system of politics. As Emily stated, “We don’t have the socialist society. We have the capitalist society so that makes a difference.” This is an important distinction. The United States economy is capitalistic and its social norms are much different from that of Sweden. The body politics of both countries are just on different planes from one another and so it would be difficult to implement such a policy at this time in the United States.

However, Emily’s point can be extended to a “what if?” scenario. Speculating about what America’s system would need to look like in order to support a fully functional paternity leave system like that of Sweden’s is an exerices in creativity. It proposes at least two questions. First, what modifications would be necessary to facilitate and support a paternity leave system in the United States? And second, what would the finished product look like?

The Social Identity Profile: Photo Elicitation

Introduction

The social identity profile is deeply ingrained in the American psyche – the American being. It is used in everday language. It is how Americans view each other. Since the onset of American history; that is, the initial removal of the indigenous peoples of north America, Americans have been practicing ingroup and outgroup dynamics in the form of artificial and cognitive partitioning. An example of this is the term “black man.” What exactly does it mean? What is its historical significance? And what type of connotation does it illicit? These are questions that will be explored throughout the next four sections. The term will be explored through what cultural anthropologists call “a culture comparative analysis.”

Gamla Stan, Stockholm

Swedish Family
Who’s the Swedish Family Gamla Stan, Stockholm

In the American context, here is a man that would be viewed as “black” from the perspective of an American. Is this the case for Swedes? Do Swedes use this term? Does it have the same connotation? Or is this term an American creation constructed from 400 years of partitioning and solidifying ingroup and outgroup dynamics? Comparing the United States and Sweden will help make this difference salient because Swedes and Americans view this distinction very differently. How Americans; that is, United States citizens view people out strolling in the street and how Swedes view people out strolling in the street is very different. As an example, is this “black man,” pictured to the right, a father of those children in front of him and is that his wife pictured in the white coat? In other words, is that his family? Or is he by himself? This of course is a very American way of viewing this scene, this moment in time. How would the American view this scene?

It is without a doubt an American perspective of the world to differentiate the “black man” from the American. Do Americans not utilize the terms “all American boy” and “all American girl” with the connotation that the person has blond hair and blue eyes? Is this cognition not a part of the American psyche? Do Americans not get uncomfortable around “black men?” Why are certain neighborhoods perceived to be “ghetto” whereas others are perceived to be safe? Don’t “Black men” use drugs at greater rates than whites and all other groups?

Nasta: Hornstull

Stockholm Train and Subway
Stockholm Train and Subway

According to an article published in the Equity Factor titled White Workers Still Uncomfortable Around Minorities, Study Finds, “…in workplaces with more minorities, white workers felt more negative emotions.” How can this be if America is post-racial? How can it be possible that United States citizens feel uncomfortable around fellow Americans? This is not to say that Sweden does not experience its share of prejudice. Swedes do experience, just like all other Homo sapiens groups, that “preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.” In fact, Sweden does experience such cultural interactions. But Sweden does not experience it in the same way. Sweden’s current prejudicial dynamics has to do with immigration and immigration policies. There are some Swedes who believe that Sweden ought to be a nation of its original inhabitants. By this they mean tall with blond hair and blue eyes. Translating for Americans, this means white, male, straight, and perceived Christian. Of course, this line of thinking neglects the very fact that the Sami people are the original peoples of northern scandinavia and that the Vikings were the original inhabitants of the southern parts of scandinavia, and northern and central europe. The Vikings comprised of variation in phenotypical, that is physical, features such as black, brown, and blond hair, brown and blue eyes, and various heights and builds.

Södertörns högskola

Swedes and an ethnic Swede
Swedes and an ethnic Swede

To a Swede, this exercise in mental gymnastics may seem confusing. But the point is that these three pictured to the right, two Swedes and an ethnic Swede, are just Swedish in the Swedish context but are “white” or “American” in the United States context. The American system allowed europeans and scandinavians to graduate to the “white” majority throughout the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. At no point in American history would these three be subjugated to the structural oppression; that is, the violence, margnalization, exploitation, cultural appropriation, and powerlessness of another group. For example, these three would not need to worry about police brutality in Stockholm, Sweden or an equivelant American city.

These three would not be racially stereotyped in a negative light, but rather would be viewed as safe and trustworthy, not threatening, or as slackers, ungrateful, and dependent on government resources. Frederick Douglass makes this point clear in his writings from the 19th century and El-Shabazz (Malcolm X) makes this point clear in his speeches from the 1960’s. This point of course is often argued in American rhetoric by way of terms such as reverse racism but is not actually valid when understood through the lens of historical economic policy, political representation, or social dynamics. The rebuttal is just not reasonable no matter how many times it is stated as being factual or real. This does not mean that Sweden is not without fault, nor is it perfect.

Norrmalm, Stockholm

Central Stockholm
Central Stockholm

Sweden lost more than 1.5 million, or a quarter, of its citizens between 1850 and 1910 because of extreme poverty and a lack of upward mobility. The ethnic Swede pictured above is a decedent and example of this history. But those were Swedes leaving Sweden due to extreme poverty and terrible policies, not structural oppression like that of the indigenous, African, or Asian peoples that suffered during the United States herrrenvolk. Sweden recognized its unequal economic divide and its lack of policy making by those less fortunate. As a response, Sweden changed its ways. It took decades of economic and political reformation, but today Sweden is a multidimensional country with well thought out and sophisticated economic welfare policies. In short, Sweden took responsibility for its history and corrected the direction of the Swedish system with the proper policies.

An argument can be made that Swedes were tolerant of other cultures and languages and immigrants before the great Swedish political reformation. This cultural continuity may be found in those decendants of the Swedes that emigrated from Sweden during the 19th and early 20th centuries. This is because Swedes, in general, view Swedish people not as tall with blond hair and blue eyes, but as a more complex make up of people of many different eye colors, hair colors, and skin colors. Conversely, Americans view Swedes narrowly as tall with blond hair and blue eyes, thus perpetuating the myth; and if ethnic Swedes who live in America practice such a narrow view, an argument can be made that such a view correlates with graduating to “whiteness.”

Conclusion

With this perspective taking, it is easy to see how “black men” are viewed in the different contexts of the United States and Sweden. It is dinstinct. There is history in one and no history in the other. In other words, Sweden’s history is Sweden’s history and that Swedish history affects today’s Swedish culture; whereas, American history is American history and that American history affects today’s American culture. With this difference in historical context, it is a bit easier to understand what is meant by “black man” and how the term exist in one culture whereas it has no meaning and does not exist in another culture. This powerful and pervasive reality affects how Americans interact with other Americans and how Swedes interact with other Swedes. The question now becomes, will Americans first humble themselves by recognizing these differences along with institutional privileges, and then will Americans take a page out of the Swedish book and attempt to change the paradigm of the cultural and institutional hegemony that is the United States?

 

The Social Identity Profile: Partitioning Americans Since 1662

In 1662, the Virgina House of Burgesses passed Act XII, which stated

WHEREAS some doubts have arrisen whether children got by any Englishman upon a Negro woman should be slave or free, Be it therefore enacted and declared by this present grand assembly, that all children borne in this country shalbe held bond or free only according to the condition of the mother, And that if any christian shall committ ffornication with a Negro man or woman, hee or shee soe offending shall pay double the ffines imposed by the former act.

Although this piece of legislation was meant to move and partition the children of African women into bondage, chattel, slavery, while establishing the forthcoming herrenvolk of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, the philosophy helped set into motion and establish the current state of social identities in today’s America. However, one may retort, “But there is no slavery or racism in the United States. That happened in the past and we are all equal today.” This is indeed a simplistic view of the world and an unsophisticated reply that illustrates the common ignorance of many Americans. In addition, the statement lacks insight into the tremendous amount of historical facts and narratives that exist in written record and does not take into account the self organizing, complex system that is the United States.

American Pastime
American Pastime

Yes, it is true that there is no legislatively supported American slavery that exists in today’s American society as it existed for a significant amount of America’s history. There are no African men, women, and children being forced by their white masters to work the plantation fields of the antebellum south in today’s America. There is no chattel, against the very will of their being, harvesting sugar cane, tobacco, cotton, and rice; and there is no white slave master, with the very will of his being, profiting from the labor of the chattel, spilling blood, breaking sweat, and sacrificing dignity, respect, and sometimes life. No! This does not happen in toay’s America. However, this does not mean that the terms Americans utilize in today’s American culture and everyday language do not maintain and solidify the codification of the original policies of the white/male dominated structure. In fact, they do. Unconsciously and without question, partitioning of ingroup and outgroup dynamics happens an infinite number of times throughout a normal day in both urban and rural environments in the United States of America.

In the beginning, the Virginians felt it important to partition one group of human being from another. This is illustrated through their legislation. One can clearly see from the statement of law that the “negro” is associated with slave; whereas, the englishman is not. This piece of legislation also established englishman as Christian; whereas, “a Negro man or woman” were not associated with Christian. Right away and early on in American history, the social constructs that had been used, and are still used today and everyday in this modern society, were being established in political form more than 350 years ago. This means that the United States and its citizens have had almost 400 years of practice and this is salient in the intersectionality of today’s social identity.

Acts like the 1662 Virginia legislation helped to establish the partitioned lines of the ingroup and outgroup dynamics. Today, government census data are used “to serve as the leading source of quality data about the nation’s people and economy.” It is meant to help identify partitioned groups and their economic, political, and social statuses. It is also meant to identify these categories and allocate government funds in the form of economic support where needed. But the problem and philosophical failing is that the United States Census Bureau derives its power from “Title 13 and Title 26 of the U.S. Code.” Hence, it derives its authority from a governmental institution that bases its philosophy off of doctrinal arguments; that is, its tenets, beliefs, teachings, and prior rulings. These doctrinal arguments and philosophies are decades old and derive from an English system of law of the 17th and 18th centuries – white, male, straight, and perceived Christian philosophies based on enlightenment principles. But social systems utilize partitioning language as potently as doctrinal systems.This is because they are interacting agents in real-world, complex dynamical systems and their ideals and established rhetoric, besides being obdurate, are exlusive.

As examples of how this system of exclusion is perpetuated, Americans automatically and unconsciously approve of everyday language that proposes such questions as

What is your gender? What is your sex? What is your race? What is your ethnicity/Nationality? What is your sexual orientation? What is your Religion/Sprituality? What is your Social Class? What is your Age? What is your Ability? What is your Body size/type? What is your Nation(s) of Origin and/or Citizenship?

These are all questions that encompass the intersectionality of a person’s social identity and they are transposed onto a person willingly or unwillingly by economy and policy, and social norms. These are questions that are answered instantaneously by way of what social psychologists call schemas and heuristics. For example, how is a black man walking down an American city street viewed versus a white man? Many Americans would rationalize the black man as threatening or even a gangbanger depending on how he dresses and/or walks, i.e., Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.

How is a black women who’s name is Latoya, Bonifa, Laquisha, Sha’Tanya, or Courtney viewed during an interview? As blogger sarabeara stated in The 60 Most Ghetto Names when prepping the reader for the list, “NOTE: This is JUST a joke. I did not come up with this list. I just thought I’d post it for fun.” Ignorantly fascinating. Furthermore, as “comments” participant milorox19 vacantly expressed, “Courtney is not a ghetto name.” Of course, milorox19 is correct. But not in the way that milorox19 thinks milorox19 is correct.

To illustrate the ignorance of both sarabeara and milorox19, Sha’Tanya, for example, meets the heuristic intersectionality of identity. That is, when one thinks of the name Sha’Tanya, especially those benefited and privileged from the hegemony of the United States social structure, one thinks black (race), woman (gender), and ghetto (social class). However, when one thinks of Courtney, as does milorox19, one thinks of white (race), woman (gender), and safe neighborhood (social class). This immediate acknowledgemet of who is who based off of a person’s name and all of societals negative and positive connotations that accompany the perceptions and rhetoric is supported by research. As Marianne Bertrand illustrates, “white-sounding names are 50 percent more likely to get called for an initial interview than applicants with African-American-sounding names.” As Bertrand further elucidates, “Statistically…discrimination levels were consistent across all the occupations and industries covered in the experiment.”

As another example, the term “ghetto” illustrates more about the user of the term than it does about the person, people, or place that the term is being associated with trough time and space. For example, Americans; that is, the vast majority of Americans, use the word “ghetto” wantonly in everyday language without rhyme or reason and without knowledge of its historical context. Americans, especially white Americans, place this negative connotation on the “black” neighborhoods of Los Angeles, Detroit, Memphis, Chicago, etc… The list goes on and on. In contrast, white neighborhoods are viewed and accepted as not “ghetto.” They are the very thesis of the “white picket fence.” They are viewed as desirable places to raise children and live safely as a family. Of course, this narrow view is without historical context and does not consider the supported practice of herding Americans, black Americans if you will, into certain neighborhoods, nor does it account for the white terrorism that these Americans faced in the form of urban riots or rural lynchings. Ironically, dichotomously, and incorrectly, these Americans have been viewed as undesirable.

Clearly this is still true today. It is clear in the hiring practices of companies and how companies view names such as Emily and Brendan versus Lakisha and Jamal. It is clear in the pop culture of America and how rationally devoid bloggers and their followers wantonly and superficially throw around the term “ghetto” and display white supremacy in the form of ethnocentric behavior. And it is clear in the housing practices of the past that established the segrageted neighborhoods of today which have helped to establish the contrast between the “ghetto” and the “white picket fence” and its associated cognitions. To be completely clear, people associate black with “ghetto” and white with the “white picket fence.”

The intersectionality of the social profile is a powerful and insidious thing. It has been prevailing and solidifying in its place in American economics, politics, and social being for almost 400 years and there is no end in sight. As a rebuttal, some would argue that the United States is post racial. Many have attempted to make this argument by using Oprah Winfrey as an example. Of course, people who argue this point mistake power for wealth. Oprah Winfrey is wealthy, not powerful. One can exist without the other and in the case of Ms. Winfrey, it is wealth that she has obtained, not power.

Another example of a rebuttal would be the argument that we are post racial because the United States of America has a black president. Again, this statement suffers from the same unreasoned premise. It states that since a black man is the president, and the president is the most powerful position, then black men have as much power as white men and the rest of those in society. Although this progression is logical, it is not true. Power is structural and the United States structure is designed for white, straight men who are perceived Christian. This can be understood through the first 43 presidents of the United States, all 13 Chief Justices of the United States Supreme Court, 99.999 percent of all of the senators and congressman in the United State Congress from the birth of the nation to modern times, all of the signers of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, all of the signers of the Constitution of the United States of American and the list of documents and achievements go on and on. The STEM fields could also be used as examples; the arts and music could also be used as examples; and all of the professional sports could be used as examples. But there is hope.

Today, thinkers, philosophers, scientists, and modern day abolitionists are utilizing the Social Identity Profile as a tool for social justice, equality, and equity. These practitioners are using this tool as a means to help identify, qualify, and quantify the experience of those long disenfranchised American groups. They are appropriating the constitutional and structural divisions as a source of agency to help facilitate the upward mobility of all those historically disenfranchised Americans, because recognizing such differences of existence within the power structure is the first step to codifying a new structure and a new existence; one that acknowledges the value and potential of all Americans; and one that acknowledges the civil rights of a person and the right to be. Is not America the land of life and liberty? Is not America a democracy?

Gender Equality: Paternity Leave

By Matt Johnson

Paternity Leave
Paid Leave – Courtesy of The Economist

The United States does not have a paternity leave policy. This means that the United States government does not provide paid leave, unpaid leave, or any type of economic or social support for single parents or married couples after the birth of a child. However, some companies in the United States do provide some sort of parental leave. According to Bloomberg Business, Google, Facebook, Bank of America, Patagonia, State Street, Genentech, Linkedin, Arnold & Porter, Roche Diagnostics, and PricewaterhouseCoopers are the best U.S. companies for providing paternity leave. And recently on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, it was noted that “Papua New Guinea [and the United States] are the only countries in the world that do not provide any paid time off for new mothers.”

Unfortunately, this is as good as it gets for working parents in the United States. If American parents want a government that will support the family, they will need to look to another country. In Sweden, parents are alloted 480 days of paid leave, or roughly 16 months. “This leave can be taken by the month, week, day or even by the hour.” This policy of course is vastly different from the United States. In addition, the social perspective of Swedes is much different from Americans. Thus, one could argue, effectively, that Swedes view paternity leave, and subsequently the success of the family, to be important whereas Americans do not.

This past Tuesday in class, my fellow study abroad and leadership student Kara posed the discussion question, “If the United States implemented [paternity leave], how would this effect the feminist movement?” This is an interesting and provocative question. For decades, feminists have been pushing equal rights philosophy and arguments to facilitate policy change in the United States. This includes paternity leave.

To delve a bit deeper into the responses of this question and future possibilities, here are a few suggestions from other students in the Global Leadership Study Abroad program of how paternity leave would “effect the feminist movement” in the United States:

Emily

It would be a positive change. It gives men an opportunity to be in the “care-taker” role. Plus, the modern male would be more willing to participate and to give; it forces traditional men to analyze the care-taker role.

Caitlin

It opens doors for women…and it provides more balance to the relationship.

Israel

It would allow men to see what women experience and what women go through during the process of raising a child at home.

Mara

Resocializing the gender roles would help the success of the feminist movement.

However, feminist policy has already been implemented and exist in the form of paternity leave in Sweden. So Kara’s question can be viewed through an already established policy lens. As Eric Sundström, political strategist for Minister of Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström, stated in a meeting with the students from the Iowa State University Global Leadership Study Abroad program on May 22, the lack of paternity leave in the United States is “one of the greatest weaknesses” that great country faces today.

Margot Wallström, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Margot Wallström, Minister of Foreign Affairs – Photo Courtesy of SvD NYHETER

In Sweden, feminist policy is already being applied and instead of viewing feminist policy as something antithetical to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” it is being viewed as something that perpetuates and solidifies “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” As Mr. Sundström further explained, paternity leave creates an environment where the father can stay home with his daughter or son. From this time spent at home, he will partake in simple things like shopping for shoes and clothes and food. This will allow him to learn a great deal more about his child and the added time will allow the father and child to bond at an increased level. But this modern Mr. Mom opportunity creates additional opportunities and benefits for women in the market place as well.

For example, stay at home dads provide increased opportunity for women to work in their careers. It also increases participation for women in the market place. In other words, more stay at home dads means greater mom participation in the work force because the child’s needs are being taken care of at home. And finally, stay at home dads provide women with the opportunity for increased leadership opportunities. This happens because as women spend more and more time in their respective careers in the market place, they will accumulate more experience in their profession and acquire greater leadership potential. The by-product of this scenario is more women moving up the ladder and helping to facilitate greater levels of productivity in the market place. As Mr. Sundström stressed, there is no valid economic argument against paternity leave. Sure, in the short run in takes a substantial investment, but in the long run it is worth every penny and it pays economic, political, and social dividends.

The question of how would paternity leave change the feminist movement in the United States was posed and with good reason. It is important to consider such possible outcomes in a political environment that is much different from Sweden’s. It also offers a futuristic perspective of what something might look like if a particular policy was implemented at the national level. However, American politics is a different animal. The United States is a deeply conservative and religious country and it shows in its policy agendas. Currently, states are pushing bills to rewrite and challenge Roe v. Wade, 1973. So Kara’s question is more important than ever.

The question now remains if America would like to be #1 in not providing paternity leave and being perceived as a country that does not care about the welfare of its workforce or would America like to provide paternity leave and be #1 in providing the worlds most ambituous and productive paternity leave and be perceived as a country that takes care of its own?

Valkommen Till Sverige: Day 8, Aifur Restaurant

Aifur Restaurant, Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden
Aifur Restaurant, Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

Earlier this evening, Iman, Stephanie, Caitlin, Brittany, Sam, Zach, Daniel (our Swedish guide), and I attended a Medieval, Viking-themed restaurant in Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden called Aifur. Simply put, the food was absolutely delicious and the beer was certainly tasty as well. I ate, in true viking form, the lamb rack with sauteed vegetables and potatoes. I also enjoyed the house brew named after the restaurant, Aifur. The “ol,” which is beer in Swedish, provided a bit of a hoppy and spicy taste from start to finish. It definitely was not an Indian Pale Ale, but tasty nonetheless. It was also a bit sneaky in its delivery of alcohol content. This is because even though it was a bit dark, it tasted like a lighter beer, but definitely gave me a nice little buzz after one glass.

As you can see from the picture to the right, the table setup is quite remarkable. The forks are two pronged with a large gap between each prong. It was bit difficult eating with the fork. It wasn’t designed for eating fast, so it took some patients. But Swedes don’t eat fast anyway. The meals are more about the experience and enjoying the food and the company of friends and family. Hence, a meal usually takes an hour or so. And the meals are followed by a walk and Fika. Fika deserves a posting of its own so I will defer until then. One last thing, the water jug on the table is made of clay. It is quite heavy when full even for a person who works out. I found this out when I volunteered to fill everyone’s water glass at the table. It was a bit of a work out, but the viking inside me enjoyed it.

The Date Table
The Date Table

Another really interesting and aesthetically fascinating thing about the evening was what I called “The Date Table” (pictured to the right). Yes! That is a ladder and it is used to to climb up to the table. As you can imagine, I was quite jealous of the family who ate up there during our dinner (I have a picture of the family and the waitress, but I won’t post it at this time so you will have to use your imagination). This is by far the coolest dining setup I’ve seen thus far during my food expeditions here in Stockholm. My plan is to meet a cool lady and enjoy “The Date Table” at least once before I return to the United States.

To give you an idea of what some of my friends ate and enjoyed this evening, Iman had the Indulgence of the Raven Lord. It comprised of a lovely and tasty “Marinated flap steak, served with a parsnip cake, juniper-smoked pig’s side, baby onions and a red wine sauce.” As Iman explains,

[The name] is why I got it. It was really savory. I felt very barbaric. But that’s not the right word. It made me feel very human. There were lots of flavors. I was pleasantly surprised, but I wouldn’t expect the food to taste that good back then. I think the atmosphere made the food taste better. The [restaurant] exceeded my expectations.

As you can see, the dinner was amazing, the beer was very good, and the company was top notch as usual. I’ve had a lot of fun eating at different places here in Sweden and have enjoyed a lot of good food. But as far as experience and aesthetics, this restaurant is my favorite by far and I will be in Stockholm for another 3 weeks. So if there is an experience plus food that can beat Aifur, then I’m ready. Final thought, if you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, then you would absolutely enjoy this restaurant and experience.

Sweden: Day 1, and Day 2

Little did I know, or did my travel companions know, that Day 1 and Day 2 of our trip would blend together into the longest day. I met my travel companions at the south end of memorial union Saturday morning around 9 am. I purchased some donuts from A Baker’s Wife’s the day before, Friday the 8th, to share with the group. I figured tasty donuts along with coffee would be a great way to start off the trip. I was always told by my grandmother that coffee and pastries were a very Swedish thing. Plus, how could I go wrong offering tastyness to everyone else.

2015 Study Abroad - Sweden
2015 Study Abroad – Sweden

We said our final goodbyes and departed campus around 9:30 am. It was a great ride down to the airport. I got to know Iman, Ryan, Brian, and Sam, who are four of my fellow study abroad mates during our ride to the airport. I met Ryan and Iman before the trip and knew them a tiny bit. But the van ride allowed us to dip a little further into sharing our individual stories; that is, hobbies, school, food, movies, and goals for Sweden. As you can imagine, food was the primary topic. I’m sure the donuts helped that quite a bit. There were plenty of complements in favor of the chocolate and cinnamon donuts.

Our plane was scheduled to leave Des Moines, Iowa around 11 am; at least, I think that was the time. Honestly, I was just following along on this trip. I’ve led plenty operations. It was nice just sitting back and being one of the troops. But I digress. The plane was delayed so that gave us some additional time to hang out and socialize, and socialize we did. Sam introduced us to Euchre (there’s us playing Euchre below). I’m still not sure how to play it but apparently I did fairly well for a first time. Nonetheless, it was fun just interacting with everyone else. The game gave us an opportunity explore each others personalities a little bit. Initial reactions are always important.

Euchre with Sam, Beth, and Iman at Des Moines airport
Euchre with Sam, Beth, Iman, and Brian (from left to right) at the Des Moines airport – May 9, 2015

We waited for about 2 hours and finally boarded around 1 in the afternoon. Our flight from Des Moines to Chicago, a roughly uninteresting 45 minute flight, provided some nap time for those who wanted it. I read 4 chapters of the book Women of Sand and Myrrh which is an interesting tale about 4 women and their perspectives of living in a modern middle-eastern country.

Since we arrived in Chicago late due to our delay in Des Moines, we were unable to experience Chicago food. Yes! Sad face. Food is always a part of the traveling experience and Chicago food would have been simply amazing. Perhaps next time, on our way back to Iowa. The most interesting part of Chicago was seeing the nordic people line up to board the train. I felt like I was at a Johnson family reunion. I looked like everyone else. At least our physical features were the same. But that is where our similarities ended. I heard Swedish; I heard Finnish; and I heard German. There were also some other languages that I couldn’t make out. I found out through casual conversation with other people waiting to board the plane that Stockholm was being used as a connecting hub for those traveling to Germany, Estonia, Finland, Russia, and other countries. It was truly fascinating seeing that much european diversity in the room.

During my flight, my fellow passengers provided background audio aesthetics in Swedish. The airline attendants also provided opportunities to engage in Swedish conversation. But they soon realized that I was an American born and raised. I only had the features of a Swede (but what a Swede looks like, blond hair and blue eyes, is an American perspective, not a Swedish truth; more on this point later). The airline attendants were always very courteous and hospitable.

I was seated on the starboard side (right-side) of the aircraft. From my starboard side, I could see sun-light enter the cabin on the port side (left-side) of the aircraft. Of course, there was darkness on the starboard side, but considering the circumstances of an 8 and half hour flight, the evening was of no consequence because from my point of view, there was no evening. Day seem to last forever. It was truly odd but a fascinating experience to say the least.

For the eight and half hours, I was seated next to a gentleman from Finland, Mika. Mika and I chatted about many things and he provided me with some much needed knowledge about Sweden. He also helped me with my responses to the airline attendants and he helped me to correctly pronounce the name of my great-great grandfather Sven’s home town. As we got to know each other, I shared more and more about my reasons for traveling to Sweden. Of course a big part of this adventure is school related; that is, analyzing leadership and the differences between the opportunities of Swedish women and American women. Make no mistake, there are differences.

On the Bus in Stockholm
On the Bus in Stockholm

These differences, including my Swedish heritage and what Swedish means to me, are some of the things I hope to explore and learn about during my 4 weeks in Sweden. Honestly, I have no idea how this trip will unfold. I would like my experience to be as authentic and organic as possible from beginning to end. And of course, my fellow travel companions are a great group of people with journeys of their own, which will sometimes intertwine with mine and sometimes will not intertwine with mine. What gives me great confidence is the fact that these people have supported my journey from the beginning and that has been an important part of this process because I know that I’m not alone in my journey of discovery.

 

 

Polaris: Photo Elicitation

By Matt Johnson

Introduction

This article is meant to be a bit different from the rest. It is a journey into some thoughts and philosophies evoked from experiences in Stockholm, Sweden. Stockholm, the modern metropolis, provides an interesting mix of economic, political, and social mobility for women in the 21st century. The emphasis by its inhabitants is how to increase the capital of women. But it should be understood that Stockholm, Sweden has not always been the mecca of equality that it is perceived to be in the United States. Instead, Sweden was once a patriarchal society that very much practiced the “Great Man” theory like the rest of the western world. Leadership in Sweden was once obtain through family, money, and male predisposition. Noting else. It was once an herrenvolk state. But today, Sweden is much different. It is a social democracy that believes in the welfare state – helping those who cannot help themselves and helping those who are disenfranchised.

The Silver Throne

Swedish Royal Court - The Silver Throne
Swedish Royal Court – The Silver Throne

Since the dawn of human civilization approximately 10 thousand years ago, leaders have been viewed as “Great Men.” In other words, most of humanity’s known great leaders have been men; those with the access, family wealth, and predisposition based on their maleness. Examples of this have been the vast majority of Sweden’s kings, the kings of the British empire, all of the Judeo-Christian prophets, and all forty four presidents of the “great” United States, all of the Supreme Court Justices of the United States, all of the leaders of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, professional sports and all of its respective hall of fame athletes in the United States, and all of the great military generals to serve in the United States military.

When men and women view an inanimate object like a throne, they know that it is reserved for a man, but they “don’t know” it is reserved for a man. In other words, they accept that the purpose of that object is to wield power and to project all of its subsequent privilege, law and order, and punishment. They also know that it represents masculinity. It is a state of economic, political, and social power. This is the difference between the subconscious and the conscious; this is the difference between being self-actualized and not being self-actualized. This is also the difference between questioning the purpose, or function, of an inanimate object or the “way of things.” To question the purpose of an object, and/or derived law, is to illustrate one’s own existence and relationship with the object of “great man.”

Jane Addams

Jane Addams, American Suffrage Leader
Jane Addams, American Suffrage Leader

Pictured to the right is 1931 Nobel Laureate Jane Addams. Addams was a prominent figure in the Suffrage movement of the late 19th and early 20th centries. She also played an intricate role in the passing of the 19th amendment in 1920, which gave women the right to vote in local, state, and government elections. Until 1920, only men – specially white, straight, and Christian – were allowed to vote. This fact is not salient in current modern political debate. In other words, there is no self-actualized consciousness. This is because the “Great Man” stereotype is perpetuated in modern political discussion. Instead of focusing on the intersectionalities of leadership including civil rights leaders, suffrage leaders, and those whites who marched beside black men and women in the south during the 1960’s, the media continues to preserve the herrenvolk institute that is the United States in sights and sounds. But what we have here is the acknowledgement and respect of one of America’s great leaders for civil rights by a foreign institution. It is the outside looking in.

Literally, it takes a Swede, or Swedes, to acknowlegde and appreciate the suffrage work of an American; whereas, it takes a United States citizen, or United States citizens, to ignore the accomplishments of a fellow citizen who fought back against the oppressive state and exercised true constitutional rights for the benefit of not just one person, but an entire people. Until the United States as a whole recognizes this fact, its citizens will continue to bear the insidious burden of oppression as a nefarious sleeve of privlege and blindness.

We Will Always Have Stockholm

Swedish Women in Stockholm
Swedish Women in Stockholm

Sweden is not a utopia. This point should be made salient. But Sweden is quite exceptional in many areas which includes representation. Sweden’s parliament is approximately 50 percent. Sweden’s Nobel prize organization has recognized American women for their accomplishments (see Jane Addams). And Sweden emphasizes the success of women in the economy, politics, and social arena. This is what makes Sweden so remarkable and attractive for Swedes and for those abroad, and the young women pictured to the right are not exception. But perhaps they do not look like Swedes? Perhaps they do not fit the perception of what Americans think Swedes look like? None of the are tall and blonde with blue eyes, but yet here they are, in Stockholm during sunset, out and about doing Swedish activities in the evening time. Lets explore this picture a bit.

An interesting piece of dialogue that has been taking place between my fellow study abroad students and myself is what our preconceptions of what Swedes look like; that is, tall, blond, and blue eyes. But in reality, this is not true. If you are interested in seeing what Swedes look like, view the picture to the right. Yes, it is true that Stephanie, the furthest to the left is blonde, but as we have learned during our journey is that this is not the only type of Swede. Iman, furthest to the right, could also be just as Swedish as any of the other young women. Matter of fact, Swedishness is quite wide and diverse. Any one of these ladies could walk down the street in Stockholm and be considered Swedish. And this is precisely the point, Sweden is a modern country with a modern population that is representative of its capital in diversity.

If an American were to follow the classical preconception of what Swedes look like, his thoughts would follow with tall, blonde, and blue eyes. It would not recognize these young ladies as Swedish. Although this is not a “great man” perspective, the perspective resides within the “great man” construct that is the United States. Historically, the economy, policy, and social being have very much created a welfare state for the ingroup; that is, those who are white. Today, the United States is very much still this country. This includes the current cognition of transplanting its current beliefs and perceptions onto other cultures and societies.

Conclusion

For generations, men sat upon the Silver Throne in Sweden. But in recent decades, this has changed. In fact, Princess Victoria will be crowned queen when King Carl XVI Gustav steps down. For generations, Jane Addams has not received the respect and recognition from her country that she so deserves from her leadership in suffrage but the Noble institute felt otherwise. Maybe the United States will catch up and decide to acknowledge and accept its own. Finally, Americans have thought, for generations, and continue to think that Swedes are tall and blonde with blue eyes. But clearly this is not the case. Sweden is a wide and diverse group of people. The Sami, who are the ancient and native Swedes, are not tall and blonde with blue eyes. They more resemble the natives of the rest of the artic peoples. Blonde hair and blue eyes, as paleoanthropologists suggest, is fairly new in the human population and it is associated with the Vikings. But this type of knowledge and thinking is depressed by archaic views like “great man” theory, which is practiced even today in modern United States.