Last night, I experienced something that I rarely experience in Sweden. I found myself at O’Leary’s Irish Bar. O’Leary’s is a sportsbar. Screens and televisions on every wall blare the latest football and hockey matches. Lots of different matches, on different screens – all at the same time. The beer flows and the menu consists mainly of burgers, spare ribs and buffalo wings.
But it wasn’t this that was a strange experience. The strange experience was the masculinity of the environment. Apart from two women, the place was full of, presumably straight, men. For me, this is a rarity in Sweden – an environment devoid of women and overflowing with testosterone.
When we talk about culture, we often describe it using various cultural dimensions. These dimensions help us compare different cultural tendencies. One such dimension is called ‘masculinity-femininity’.
According to research Sweden is the most feminine culture in the world.
This doesn’t mean that all men in Sweden are ‘pussies’, although the Finns tend to think so. What masculinity-femininty is about, is partly about the prevailing values of a society and partly about the gender role division.
In masculine cultures, men do things which are traditionally ‘male’. They have the higher education. They bring home the wages. They often have the power, the money and the position in their societies. Women stay home and look after the house and the kids. People in these types of culture tend to strongly value competition, assertiveness, individualism.
Feminine cultures, on the other hand, are culures which tend to value cooperation, nuturing, understanding. They are cultures where the gender roles are more diffuse. So, in feminine cultures you will find men taking parental leave, changing nappies and fetching at the day care centre, for example. You will see women with a high level of education and in roles that are traditionally ‘male’ – eg doctors, judges, politicians etc.
It’s easy to see how problems can arise when people with these fundamentally different views meet to work together, or even to start a family.
And with this definition, it is easy to see why Sweden is the most feminine culture in the world.
However, this is probably not something I would have said last night to the drunk lads in O’Leary’s!