Swedish feminist group burns 13K in pay gap protest

We apparently missed last week’s barbecue in Sweden: A feminist Swedish group protested the gender pay gap by burning 100,000 kronor ($13,000):

The Feminist Initiative party says the money set ablaze on the Swedish island of Gotland on Tuesday represents the amount of money the country’s women miss out on every minute in comparison to men.
Party leader Gudrun Schyman says “it may seem desperate to burn 100,000 kronor, but the situation is desperate as well.”

I can’t decide whether I think this is bad-ass or just bad activism. I mean, I’m all for making radical statements to get your message across, but couldn’t have that dough gone to, say, women who are affected by the pay gap? But considering the sad fact that doing that wouldn’t have gotten them a story on AP (and would they have gotten the money donated from the advertising agency otherwise?) is something worth noting as well.
Pic via AP/Janerik Henriksson.

Join the Conversation

  • Comrade Kevin

    I suppose my reservation is that there’s really no way to know if a protest like that will produce anything lasting. Sure, one might get a one or two day story, but beyond that, is this anything more than sensationalism?
    And if it is a radical act, the media produces its own spin on the subject, rendering what might have been designed to empower nothing more than a novelty or curiosity.

  • khw

    Remember the KLF burnt one million dollars and look where that got them

  • daveNYC

    Stupid. There will be more commentary on the protest than on what they’re protesting.
    Not to mention that it’s total fodder for jokes about how women are bad at handling money.

  • Surfin3rdWave

    Bad activism. Very, very bad activism. That money should have gone to a charitable feminist organization, such as Code Pink, a local women’s shelter, or a take-back-the-night campaign.
    Or directly to women (especially single mothers) whose lives are directly impacted by the pay gap.

  • pokemontaco.wordpress.com

    I’m not too enraged over the wasted money. It’s really wasted if it’s bringing attention to a cause, if it’d been spent on outright media advertising it would probably have been more.
    Money is not important. That’s not what’s really at stake-equality is.

  • allegra

    Uh, sorry, women are not responsible for “offering fodder for” the moronic sexist generalizations leveled at them, no matter how much money they burn. “O noes, I can’t engage in this activism because I might be ‘providing fodder’ for some sexist prick asshole, because obviously sexist prick assholes aren’t responsible for their own behavior or speech, but rather the *victim* is responsible for causing it.” :/
    Yeah, sorry. Doesn’t work that way.

  • allegra

    I don’t know. I kind of like it. At the same time as it’s a feminist statement, it’s a statement about how fucked up our exploitative global capitalist economic systems are at base, and how fucked up it is that basic human rights and needs (like health care) currently rest on how much money a person has. We all still seem to forget that money, and especially the complex monetary systems we have now, are human constructions manipulated mainly by the already wealthy and powerful to their benefit.
    It’s sort of a fuck you to capitalism to not donate it, an affirmation that we can collectively “suffer,” as we suffer already, this “lost” $13K in the interest of making a true honest statement.

  • Kessei

    So instead of supporting them in their efforts to bring attention to this important issue, we’re critiquing the way they chose to do this and accusing them of “bad activism” (WTF does that even MEAN?).
    Yay for friendly fire.
    Score one for those who say feminism is dead.

  • orestes

    Hell, what do you expect from someone who believes that every male person should pay a special ‘man tax’ for the sole reason of them being men. How can people vote for this troll?

  • Unequivocal

    They may not be responsible for the actions of sexist prick assholes, but they are responsible for doing something utterly stupid that brings primarily negative attention to their cause.

  • Birdseed

    I’m a member of the feminist group in question, and I thought I’d give a little more context to those of you who’re wavering on the issue.
    Pay gap equalitization is of course one of the classic feminist issues, but one that’s barely registered on the political radar for years. In the past 30 years the pay gap has not moved at all, and we’re still at the same shameful 84% we were at in 1981. You know all this, of course. A lot of people don’t, or chose to turn a blind eye. After all, isn’t sweden supposed to be the country of equality? (Yeah right!)
    Two (male) owners of a PR agency came to us with 100 000 kr. They were going to buy a boat, but instead they decided to donate the money to the Feminist initiative, to start to make up for the pay difference between them and their female co-owners in the earlier part of their careers, to take a political stand against it.
    100 000 kr is the amount women lose out in Sweden every minute at 84% of the average male wage. That’s 7.2 billion kr a year. Together with the PR guys, we started contemplating what 100 000 could buy. Half a page of advertising in a tabloid, perhaps, or some ineffective public ads. Or, they came up with, we could burn it. It would be drastic and dramatic, but so is the issue at the core. With a carefully planned setup where we issued a report at the same time and whipped up media interest at a huge poitical fairm the event became a huge talked-about subject in Sweden and eclipsed all other political discussions for several days.
    The estimated cost (as a newspaper calculated) of just the POSITIVE publicity we got out of the event in Swedish media, would we have bought it as adveritisng, would have been 5.2 million kr ($700 000). For a tiny fraction of what any other party has spent on marketing (total estimated election campaign cost this year, for all parties, is 3000 times the sum we spent), we got publicised from the US to India to Australia, dominated all the big Swedish newspaper web pages for two days, and – in case you were doubting – really got the debate going!
    Two weeks after the event we still get a lot of discussions and editorials in newspapers around the country about the central issue. The voice of the people upset died down fairly quickly, but the positive voices have kept talking about it to a great extent. One example: Sweden’s third-biggest rock festival, DIRECTLY referencing the action, has decided to implement a strict 50%-50% division in male to female musicians next year! We dared, they dare, they say.
    Would donating the money to charity of some sort have had anything like the effect? Of course not. And why is it always the feminists that are supposed to be so charity-oriented? What about all the other Swedish political parties? NO ONE asks them to spend their campaign money on anything but campaigning. We’re not a charity group! We want to get into the Swedish parliament to change the system, we want to make the issues visible, and we think that’s an extremely worthwhile way of working. Maybe we won’t succeed this election, but we’re slowly building up support and an organisation and in my mind there’s no doubt we will eventually succeed.

  • Brittany-Ann

    There is always someone saying that a protest or a demonstration is worth it/stupid. Someone is always there to caution activists, to tell us that our time is better spent elsewhere.
    Sometimes demonstrations have to be dramatic to get people’s attention. We all know that as soon as feminists say “gender pay gap” people hear “wop wop wop wop wop.”
    Their goal was to draw attention to their cause. Well, they did it, didn’t they?

  • Birdseed

    It was a rhetorical figure used in a parliamentary debate, and a fairly effective one at that, analogising the extra cost of men to society with that of smokers or cars. “Believes” and “counterfactually discusses the idea of” is not the same thing.

  • khw

    Thanks for the persepective Birdseed.
    I appologise for my rather flippant comment above – although I’ve had KLF’s “Justified and Ancient” looping around my head for the last couple of days!

  • orestes

    If it was a rhetorical figure, it sure was effective enough to reinforce the public’s worst stereotypes about feminism. “We have to have a discussion so that men understand that they have a collective financial responsibility”, Schyman said. I deny that I have collective financial responsibility of the violence done by some men any more than those who, by some arbitrarily imposed criterions, are lucky enough to be classified as “women”. What are the factors, other than contributions to the violence, which make me financially responsible of male-on-female violence that happens any more than you (or any other person) are? Well?

  • MishaKitty

    You do have to realize how incredibly priviledged and lucky you have to be to be able to actually hold that position though, don’t you?