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Homo Nordicus in the eyes of a Diego

Homo Nordicus in the eyes of a Diego

| Text: Pierre-Henry Deshayes, Photo: Björn Lindahl

If you rotate Norway like a compass with Oslo in the centre, the North Cape would hit Rome, I am told. Still there is a full ocean, or maybe several, separating the Nordic and Latin cultures.

I can think of one example: while sitting in a parliamentary defense committee, former MP Kaci Kullman-Five once trumpeted a victory for gender equality when the committee leader asked the members to rejourn at 5.00 pm – “Sorry, I have to pick up my kids in the kindergarten”, a male voice objected. Many years later this is common, at least in this part of the world.

In most latin countries, it is hardly an exaggeration to say that women have not even made it to the defense committee.

One thing is certain. Parental leave rocks and that men are required to take at least four weeks rocks even more. Beyond the obvious element of getting attached to a child, it contributes to redefining gender roles: gone are the days when men were mere hunters and women only breeders; now both he and she tend to be provider and caretaker at the same time. From an employer’s point of view, as much as young women are seen as future mothers, male recruits are potential fathers-to-be with all the professional consequences that come with it.

But even here, in these liberal gender equality-conscious Nordic countries, traditional patterns die hard. Men are usually prone to limit their parental leave to the minimum requirements and often even choose to combine their “onemonth duty” with the mother’s holiday.Which obviously works against its purpose. Women sitting in a café sipping a cappuccino, the baby strawler outside, are a common sight – where do men drink their coffee? I hear studies show that men on paternity leave do things they otherwise would have done while their better halves are more inclined to adapt their lives to the new family member.

So is Homo Nordicus really the man of the 21st century or is he an opportunist who takes time off  from work without delivering the expected services at home? In any case, he surely lives more in tune with modern times than Homo Diegos.

Still, it is too early to pat their backs. Many power arenas in Scandinavia remain gentlemen’s clubs. In Norway, for instance, it seems like a west Oslo male “mafia” dominates company boards, trading rooms and the yearly list of the country’s richest. Even seen with a man’s eyes.

Sure, women are everywhere in politics but is that really where the power lies today? Finally, I would like to think loud and turn the tables for a while. I find it hard to turn a deaf ear to those who claim that not only privileges
but also duties should be equally shared among men and women.

The Norwegian gender equality ombudsman is said to have received letters written by men who wonder why it was left to them, and them alone, to do military service.Well, maybe it’s because of the little drop of Latin blood that is left inside me, but I can’t stop thinking that these men’s claim is actually quite sexy.

How to combine work and children?

Children in a kindergarten with hard hats - maybe not the best way to combine the two?


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