It seems to be a recurring theme when politics and rape allegations mix: women’s bodies become the battlefield where access to justice is secondary, a mere afterthought or a nuisance. Julian Assange, currently locked in an embassy in London, was granted asylum in Ecuador while his alleged victims in Sweden are denied their day in court because “more important matters” take precedent in a political game eerily similar to the situation with Roman Polanski’s extradition request. Both cases, while differing in circumstance and details, share a commonality based on rape culture values. The bodies of raped victims are not treated as valuable as the political circumstances that surround their cases.
Famous for its music, design and enviable social democracy, Sweden is an idyllic-yet-modern country to spend some time in. I caught up with Ulf Ekberg, best known for being co-founder of Ace Of Base. One of Sweden’s greatest international successes, they are in the Guinness book of World Records for having the best-selling debut. He’s also famous for having girls scream over his good looks, and while he knows how to party, he also happens to be a great businessman—he’s been Volvo’s and Ericsson’s ambassador. In a way he’s the perfect ambassador for all things Sweden is famous for. Ulf takes us on a tour of Stockholm and shares us some of his secrets about the town. The way Ulf describes Sweden with such an eye and detail; it could only be an artist talking.
Recently, there was an international storm around Storm, a Canadian child whose parents have declined to divulge their sex. This followed a similar story from Sweden in a 2009 with a child named Pop, and a Swedish pre-school that doesn’t use gender pronouns. Predictions are even being made for The End of Gender. Once again, “gender neutral” parenting is in the news, but is anything new really going on?
A Quick History Review
In the 1970s to early 1980s, thanks largely to second-wave feminism, there was a surge of gender neutral parenting. Androgynous children’s clothes abounded; Free to Be You and Me was the chorus of this counter-culture movement. Minus socialization to the contrary, went the theory, boys would love dolls, girls would engage in down-and-dirty, truck-centric play, and neither would be distinguishable from the other without peeking inside their brown corduroy pants.
It did not, surprise!, go entirely according to plan, as boys and girls both asserted that no, they didn’t want to dress and act as indistinguishable automatons.
Last week, journalist Lara Logan was sexually assaulted by a group of protesters in Egypt. Details of the assault emerged over time: She was forcibly isolated from her crew. She was beaten; some of her assailants used flagpoles. Some of her hair was pulled out. Red marks, originally thought to be bite marks, were found near “sensitive” parts of her body; they were deemed the result of “aggressive pinching.” She was saved by a group of women, who threw themselves on top of her, physically shielding her from the crowd. One assumes those women were assaulted as well, although no details about this have emerged, and not many people reporting on the story have paused to note the probable cost for a woman who places herself physically between a sexual assailant and his target; next to the story of (white, South African born, American-based) Logan, the heroic actions of those Egyptian women have become all but invisible. The details are harsh, they are graphic, and they are terrifying.
Hedeby Island, Sweden. Henrik Vanger, the venerable head of the powerful Vanger dynasty, opens a parcel from Hong Kong. The contents, a neatly pressed flower, floor the old man as surely as if a mugger kicked him in the guts. A beautiful blond peers down upon the distraught Henrik, enigmatic and silent. A lover? Relative? His daughter? Continue reading