News & Politics

'Regiment of Women,' Swedish-Style

UK DAILIES OUTAuthor Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie The Telegraph Hay Festival, Hay on Wye, Wales, Britain - 01 Jun 2014 (Rex Features via AP Images)

Back in 1973, the great American novelist, Thomas Berger, wrote a prescient novel about the advent (and logical extension) of feminism, Regiment of Women

In this (2000 plus) future men have been brainwashed into passivity and a decidedly secondary role, wearing silky things, siliconed, and fussing about “”relationships.”” Men are conditioned to deal carefully with the opposite sex: “”Be hysterical — that scares women. . . then. . . be all soft and unresisting. . . . Most of them find that sexy.”” And women, who have wrapped up the reproproblem long ago, collect semen from eligible draftees in camps in surroundings efficient as a dairy (or labor rooms?). And of course the women psychiatrists do their part to help keep the weaker sex under: “”You’re a normal, gentle man who’s got side-tracked,”” intones one to poor Georgie Cornell, tortured by unworthy memories of wanting to slug someone, or the urge to wear a sports jacket.

Fast-forward to today:

Less than a month after it was revealed that the UK is planning to drop feminism from the politics A-level, every 16-year-old in Sweden is being given a copy of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s call to arms, We Should All Be Feminists.

The essay, adapted from Adichie’s award-winning TED talk of the same name, is being distributed in Swedish to high-school students by the Swedish Women’s Lobby and publisher Albert Bonniers. Launching the project at Norra Real high school in Stockholm this week, they said they hoped the book would “work as a stepping stone for a discussion about gender equality and feminism”.

“My own definition of a feminist is a man or a woman who says, ‘Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better,’” writes Adichie in the essay. “All of us, women and men, must do better.”

“Some people ask: ‘Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?’ Because that would be dishonest,” Adichie continues. “Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general – but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded.”

The Nigerian novelist is also critical of modern masculinity, calling it a “hard, small cage” that forces men to hide emotion. “We teach boys to be afraid of fear, of weakness, of vulnerability,” she writes. “We teach them to mask their true selves, because they have to be, in Nigerian-speak – a hard man.”

Well, as the saying goes, a hard man is good to find. But not, apparently, in modern, feminized Sweden.

The organisations behind the project, which is supported by the UN Association of Sweden, the Swedish Trade Union Conferation, the Order of the Teaspoon, Unizon and Gertrud Åström, hope that teachers will integrate We Should All Be Feminists into their teaching, and will be distributing discussion guidelines to help.

Publisher Johanna Haegerström said: “Our hope is that the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie text will open up a conversation about gender and gender roles, starting from young people’s own experiences.”

Capture them young, and they’re yours for life.