Following January’s assaults in Stockholm, which specifically targeted unaccompanied child refugees, the social media war between feminists and racists in Sweden has heated up significantly.
On January 29, 2016 at 8pm a masked mob of between 70 and 100 male anti-refugee protestors took to the streets of Stockholm to personally convince non-whites not to stay in Sweden, following a campaign on social media and flyers handed out on the streets.
Despite the fact that the anti-immigration party, the Sweden Democrats, are claiming a constantly increasing following, the protestors clearly felt they were not getting adequate representation, so they felt they needed to take matters into their own hands.
One of reasons behind this act of scaremongering and violence was the killing of a 22-year-old female who was stabbed to death while working in a refugee centre for unaccompanied minors in Mölndal on January 25; they were also angry about the sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve.
“I work a lot with immigrants in specific, who have not grasped that it is unacceptable to sexually harass women.”
Part of a post on a Sweden Democrats supporters’ Facebook page calling out to their peers for active support of refugees states that “It is time for us Vikings to take to the streets and protect our women. Not only Vikings, but everyone who hates Muslims that treat our women like trash.”
Along with street demonstrations on the day following the coordinated attacks, the twitter campaign #notyourwoman (Swedish #Inteerkvinna) started, taking a firm stand against being used as pawns in a political scheme, against being portrayed as helpless, and against being spoken for by men.
Women said they were not going to be used as an excuse for physical violence; the claim is that Swedish women do not wish to be seen as needing to be spoken for, or to be protected by anyone without there being immediate danger to their safety, as it implies that women are inherently weak.
One of the Sweden Democrats’ goals is to maintain traditional Swedish values; something that goes against immigration, feminism, LBGT, care of old people and extensive school funding – policies that all previous Swedish governments have been actively supporting.
Although they are not just one clearly defined sub-culture, Swedish feminists often support other groups considered under-represented in society, including refugees, as they tend to work towards equality for everyone.
Over the last century, that work towards equality has been something Swedes have taken pride in – including men calling themselves feminists.
“It is time for us Vikings to take to the streets and protect our women. Not only Vikings, but everyone who hates Muslims that treat our women like trash.”
The position in Sweden was summed up by a man from a small rural town who said: “I don’t support violence, but I understand that people are getting fed up. I don’t hear a lot of protests when a foreigner commits a crime, but when a Swede stands up and says they’ve had enough, then it’s twisted and turned to look like Nazi Sweden is rising. It is quite tiresome to never hear the whole story.”
The man, who wanted to remain anonymous, says he works at a youth centre, and part of his job is to prevent and counteract violence: “I work a lot with immigrants in specific, who have not grasped that it is unacceptable to sexually harass women.”
The growing suspicion of immigration has caused two polarised camps to form – those who would like to maintain the country’s individualism and those who have been silently raging against reforms that they feel threaten their right of privilege.
The concept of the white offended man has been around for a long time, and is being thoroughly contested in Sweden, but they have not acted this violently as a united group for many years.
Mjukis Lundin, a 37-year-old expat who now lives in the USA, published a long explanation of SD’s rise in Sweden, and highlighted how Sweden has always been racist: “People in Sweden had never stopped being racist. They had just been quiet about it, because when they said racist things, people got mad at them.
“They were literally being politically correct. And now there was a political party that told them they didn’t have to feel that way anymore. They not only could be racist, being racist made you the underdog. The opposition to politics as usual.”
Mjukis goes on by expressing his own opinions on current government in Sweden. “The 2014 election was a rough time for me, as a Swede. It was hard to concede that my fellow countrymen were racist shitbags.”
What the #notyourwoman is pointing out is a contradiction between the actual current climate (which is still far from equal despite Sweden being considered forward thinking in the matter) and the claims of the group who chose to create a violent mob using women as an excuse.
The Stockholm attacks and #notyourwoman have made the boundaries between the opposing sides clearer, as the attack claimed ownership of women, and the women who disagree are delivering an ultimatum to those who claim to care for them.
The feminist movement has actively underlined that racists are not welcome in the feminist community, whose following is still massive.
“I do not want a racist misogynist to take away my voice as a woman and anti-fascist.”
Linnéa Seidegård, a 27-year-old student, argues that white men who abuse women make up a large part of the hostile men discussed, and that “women” is not descriptive enough of the people they claim to protect
“We cannot disregard the fact that women are not treated as a group in this debate, women of colour are obviously not worthy of their protection,” Seidegård said.
She also feels that “men of colour are always considered to be the enemy whom we are supposed to be sheltered from,” and makes it clear that she sees many reasons to stand against those who claim to have her best interests in mind.
“I do not want a racist misogynist to take away my voice as a woman and anti-fascist. I do not want a racist misogynist to occupy my space to speak for myself, and I do not want a racist misogynist to steal my right to defend myself. I do that better than him anyway, and I am not his woman.”
However, a counter movement is growing alongside #notyourwoman, recycling the tag #rapefugees which started trending after the Cologne attacks, stating that the women who do not support the so called Vikings deserve to be raped.
Kristina Wicksell, one of the women who shared her photo and statement of not wanting or needing to be represented by xenophobes as part of the #notyourwoman movement, received an anonymous phone call informing her that she is “a weak woman in need of protection.”
The caller told her she had made a mistake by publishing her opinions with her real name and photo, and told her he wanted to shove a mobile phone into her mouth, along with other hostile comments.
Following the threatening phone call, she told Expressen: “Some of us who have participated in the campaign have been threatened by Nazis [sic] and it does prove our point.” She goes on to urge women to not suffer in silence, as she thinks it will normalise the issue.
The Swedish police is currently being publicly criticised for not protecting women from harassment and threats, Including Kristina’s case.
Most recent, three women fell victims of separate attacks in Östersund during the first weekend of March.
On the following Monday, the police issued a warning, advising women to not go out alone at night. This has been criticised by local government and women’s aid groups, along with citizens.
Patric Leonhed, 29, is sceptical towards the chosen strategy, and tells Artefact that “instead of preventing crimes by finding the perpetrators, it seems like they [the police] are trying to starve them of potential victims, while looking at the suggested limitation of women’s mobility as an acceptable price to pay.
“I am not entirely against their appeal, as it is every individual’s responsibility to care for their own immediate safety. According to their own statement, it seems as though they find themselves unable to maintain our external safety; what we as individuals have no impact on ourselves.”
In practical terms, the men who find #notyourwoman provocative and say they will no longer provide women with protection from rapists are making an empty threat for the purpose of scaremongering alone.
Women who are walking alone are targeted for this type of rape, and have not in general been lucky enough to have another man come to their rescue previously – not for lack of people wanting to intervene in assaults, but rather because the attackers choose secluded spaces to avoid confrontation.
Being declined a privilege the women never had is not in itself enough to strike fear into women, and another tactic is therefore being employed.
Besides Twitter, Sweden’s largest anonymous online forum, Flashback, is shock full of individuals who state that they think these women deserve rape, and sometimes even going so far as to encourage others to commit crimes against them.
Instigating criminal activity is illegal in Sweden, but there are currently no known cases under investigation in the above mentioned cases, and there are no known attempts by authorities to find the anonymous posters. Instigation of a crime found to be severe can lead to up to four years in prison.
Featured image by Frankie Fouganthin via Wikimedia Commons.