Choice! No Rape! Organic Food!: A Summary of Shakespeare’s “Rotten” State

For all the liberals’ complaints about the state of the healthcare system in the States, and indeed the state of the country in general, I’m really surprised Scandinavia is rarely mentioned. Remarks full of yearning for “the way they do it in Europe” generally refer, I’ve found, to Britain, France, and Germany. But after spending eight months in the ultimate welfare state–Denmark–I’m disappointed to return to the US.

Seriously, there probably is no better place to be born a woman than Denmark.

Of course there are problems, like the immigration debate much of Europe is currently experiencing, ridiculously high taxes, and the fact that the ethnic homogeneity of the society makes it hard to compare to the U.S.

But in a country where bike theft is the most rampant crime, women grow up with little fear of being out after dark. Today marks 100 years since Danish women got the right to vote (on April 20, 1908), and this little country, whose monarch and opposition party leader are both women, has a long tradition of empowerment.

Both maternity and paternity leave are guaranteed for one year per child–politicians have expressed that it’s important both parents take time off, so that both parents are on equal ground in their careers. The government even pays each couple per child, out of a philosophy that an extra human being requires extra funds. Abortion, like all medical care, is free; in fact, a publication from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs outright declares that “Denmark is convinced that abortion should be free and legal.” But it’s discouraged through comprehensive sexuality education and widely available birth control. Though most of the population is registered with the state Lutheran church, religion rarely enters into discussions of sexuality and health.

A sexually open culture means a production like “Vagina Monologues” wasn’t necessary. I was surprised it wasn’t performed in Copenhagen (Stockholm did it), but “cunt” was reclaimed here long ago. Denmark was the first country in the world to legalize pornography, in 1969, and while at first I thought perhaps this indicated a culture of violence against women, I’ve found it’s just a result of their sexual openness, and manifests itself more through the Dworkin/MacKinnon definition of “erotica” rather than “pornography.”

There are some controversial laws that impact women. For example, the “24-year rule” states that a Dane cannot marry a non-Dane who is younger than 24 years old. This law is meant to prevent young Muslim women from being forced into marriages, but obviously has ramifications for everyone, and is a dangerous example of the government trying to interfere with cultural practices. Women’s headscarves are also a hotly debated topic.

The country that produced the Mohammed cartoon crisis definitely has some issues to work out. But their commitment to women’s rights, and environmentalism as well (bringing cloth bags to the grocery store, biking everywhere, buying local and organic), is really something to be admired.

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4 thoughts on “Choice! No Rape! Organic Food!: A Summary of Shakespeare’s “Rotten” State

  1. ‘No rape’ is a pretty strong claim…

  2. There were 527 reported rapes in Denmark in 2006. (I would link to a source, but it is in Danish.) I’m really unsure about my math, but I think this means about 10 women out of every 100,000 were raped. Of course this is still too many. I am not sure what the statistic for the U.S. is but I am confident it is significantly higher, and I would also wager that reporting rates in Denmark are higher than in the US, making the gap between the two countries even larger.

    However, I think it was clear from the exclamations in my title, and the points I made in the post, that I wasn’t entirely serious about “no rape,” and was exaggerating to illustrate my point.
    Denmark still has many societal problems (“The Art of Crying” is an Academy Award nominated Danish film, and true story, about incest, I recommend it if you’re interested, although it doesn’t support any of my claims) but sociologically it’s still an interesting case study–they’re doing a lot of things right.

  3. I know you weren’t being entirely serious and I appreciated the article. I’m just a little sensitive about it, as we’re just coming off of Take Back the Night (which was Thursday), so you’ll have to forgive me.

  4. Of course. I’m glad TBTN raised your awareness. In retrospect, my title would probably feel really disrespectful and minimizing to Danish sexual assault survivors, but in the context of the post I think it is clear it wasn’t intended that way. Indeed, it was a little sarcastic, as I agree that DK is a wonderland for women in relation to many (I would say most) other countries, but if you’re not white and not a citizen the story does change a little.
    Thanks for reading!

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