Women and Politics in European Union

Second assignment

March, 26. 2001


















Myren Carrere

Muriel Chetaille

Kateryna Podoleva











Women's liberation movement, also called Feminist Movement, is a social movement that seeks equal rights for women, giving them equal status with men and freedom to decide their own careers and life patterns.

Concern for women's rights dates from the Enlightenment, when the liberal, egalitarian, and reformist ideals of that period began to be extended from the bourgeoisie, peasants, and urban labourers to women as well. The period's nascent ideas concerning women's rights were fully set forth in Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, published in England in 1792, which challenged the idea that women exist only to please men and proposed that women receive the same opportunities as men in education, work, and politics. In the 19th century, however, the awareness of women's need for equality with men crystallized in the movement to obtain woman suffrage, rather than in any fundamental or far-reaching reevaluation of women's social status, roles, and their place in the economy.

In the later 19th century a few women began to work in the professions, and women as a whole achieved the right to vote in the first half of the 20th century, but there were still distinct limits on women's participation in the workplace, as well as a set of prevailing notions that tended to confine women to their traditional roles as wives, mothers, and homemakers.

Meanwhile, the economic conditions underlying women's inferior (or at least dependent) status were changing as women had fewer children and as household appliances freed them from many of the labour-intensive chores formerly associated with housekeeping. The growth of the service sector in the Western world's economies in the decades following World War II also helped create new types of jobs that could be done as well by women as by men. All these factors made growing numbers of women aware that society's traditional notions of them had failed to change as rapidly as women's actual living conditions had.

A milestone in the rise of modern feminism was Simone de Beauvoir's book Le Deuxičme Sexe (1949;The Second Sex), which became a worldwide best-seller and raised feminist consciousness by appealing to the idea that liberation for women was liberation for men too. Another major work was The Feminine Mystique published in 1963 by Betty Friedan, an American. She attacked deadening domesticity-the conditioning of women to accept passive roles and depend on male dominance. In 1966 Friedan and other feminists founded the National Organization for Women in what is generally thought to be the impetus to the second wave of the women’s liberation movement. Other women's organizations for equal rights proliferated in the United States and in Western Europe immediately thereafter.

The growing feminist movement sought to change society's prevailing stereotypes of women as relatively weak, passive, and dependent individuals who are less rational and more emotional than men. Feminism sought to achieve greater freedom for women to work and to remain economically and psychologically independent of men if they chose. Feminists criticized society's prevailing emphasis on women as objects of sexual desire and sought to broaden both women's self-awareness and their opportunities to the point of equality with men with regard to such matters as contract and property rights, employment and pay issues, and management of earnings, etc. Another of feminism's aims was to advance women's participation in political decision-making and all areas of public life.

In this essay we undertake the task of delineating the rise and development of the modern women´s movements in Denmark and Finland. The two main issues under scrutiny will be sketching the situation with the modern feminist movement and its impact on politics and social issues in both countries. While analyzing the background of the modern women's movement in Finland and Denmark, special attention will be paid to the reasons of the considerable growth of women’s awareness in both countries, to the specific circumstances for the movements emergence. Then we shall differentiate the level and sources of foreign influence on the movement in both countries, as well as the base of the radical movement in Finland and the New Left in Denmark.. Different ideological approaches in Finland and Denmark have also contributed to the different degree of success of the movement in the two countries. Thus the main question of the essay can be broadly defined as follows: is there a correlation between the interior and exterior factors prior to the rise of the modern women’s movements and the level of the women’s involvement in the overall societal functioning. In this respect a number of issues can be brought up for analysis - the relations of the new movements with the State and the issue of integration into traditional politics, the links between the new feminist movement and political parties, the rise of the women’s representation in politics, the influence of the new women's movements on its contents, campaigns of the feminist movements for political reform , etc.

The overall tactics of the essay can be viewed as to intertwine the historical perspective of the evolution of the movements with the current position of women in Finland and Denmark. The tools of the comparative analysis will be implemented to trace the differences as well as similarities in the settings of the evolutions of women’s movements, consequential position of female population and the assessment of the present influence of the movement in Finland and Denmark. In conclusion of the essay we shall, in part, draw some examples of the current positioning of women in both countries, thus evaluating the success of the movements. We will attempt to investigate and analyze the problematics of our topic as fully-encompassing as possible, but we admit that the insight is limited by the scope of the essay.



I. The new women’s movements in Finland and Denmark : background, ideology and evolution


1. The background of the second wave of women’s movement in Finland and in Denmark

The women’s struggle in the 1960s and the 1970s could be said to constitute the second wave of the women’s movement. The first peak reached by the women’s movement was around the turn of the century, with the period between the two wars and the 1940s and 1950s being quiet periods (Dahlerup, Gulli 1985). This section seeks to focus on the background of the new movement in Finland and in Denmark. What were the reasons, in these two nordic countries, for the new movement to grow up? Were there the same cirscumstances in Denmark and in Finland?

Finland was the first country in which an entirely new organization was created, Association 9, in 1965, which, with its unorthodox methods was a precursor of the new women’s movement (Dahlerup,Gulli 1985). The movement came into existence before the second wave of feminism elsewhere in the world, and thus its birth was a relatively separate phenomenon from more famous examples of women’s mobilisation (Holli 1990). The new women’s movement reached Denmark in 1970, the Redstockings were at the heart of this movement.

- The social situation that made the new generation of women start to revolt :

The revival of feminist protest is rooted in the fundamental changes that have occurred in women’s position in the Western industrialized countries (Dahlerup, Gulli 1985). After the second world war and especially during the 60s a rapid modernisation took place. The transformation of economy, the growing urbanisation and the technological advances challenged the european societies to elaborate new schemes to rescue and reconstruct the crumbling social order (Holli 1990). The new generation of women, better educated, wanted to have its place in the society, and more precisely at the economic level. Women didn’t want anymore to be considerated only as housewives, mothers or sex objects, they wanted to enter the labour market. That is why the new generation of women started to revolt at the end of the 1960s.

- Foreign influence :

The Finnish and the Danish movements were not influenced in the same way regarding the foreign movements.

Contrary to Denmark, the Finnish movement did not, from the most part, come from the Anglo-Saxon discussion, but from the Scandinavian woman research that was revived in the 1950s, when books on sex role appeared in the Nordic countries. The debate started in Finland in 1965 when the sex role issue was presented in some newspapers and seminars (Jallinoja 1986).

The Danish movement was inspired by the international second wave of feminism. It started after a meeting in 1970, where three Danish journalists talked about the creation of new women’s movements in USA, Britain and Holland (Dahlerup 1986).



- New left in Denmark and Radicalism in Finland.

The base of the new women’s movement was what in Finland is called "the radical movement". The starting-point of the politics of Association 9 was the Finnish student radicalism. The radical movement first emerged as a peace organization (Sadankomitea) founded in 1963 as part of the new international peace movement. Association 9 was the next radical movement, campaigning for the change in sexual division and for the abolishment of sex role. Association 9 extended the ideological currents represented by the radical movements to women. (Holli 1990).

Whereas in Finland younger radical women worked in the Communist movement (Linden 1980), in Denmark the new women’s movement came out of the New Left, an anti-authoritarian protest movement which remained the main group of reference for the movement.


2. Ideologies: Equality in Finland and Liberation in Denmark

In both Finland and Denmark, women’s movements reacted against the patriarchal society and against old feminism, i.e. the women’s rights movement of the end of the twentieth century. Ideologically, the new movements represented an anti-capitalist feminism. But the two movement did not base their ideology on the same principle. Association 9 based its ideology on the principle of equality, not on liberation as in Denmark and other european countries.

The aim of Association 9 was equality of status, and it campaigned to show how equality did not exist in various areas, such as wages and the right of work. In Finland the new women’s movement concentrated mainly on issues that revealed that women wanted to do all that were allowed to do. "The principle of equality was thus understood from the male perspective". (Jallinoja 1986). Association 9 wanted to change the existing social division of sex roles and of labour to be more just and more functional. Equality between men and women came to mean equal rights, opportunities and obligations in everything (Holli 1990). In its ideology, Association 9 to a great extend established the demands, goals and means that were transferred to be the locus of state equality policy a few years later (Holli 1990).

In Denmark, the ideology of the new women’s movement was based on a radical vision of a totally different society, a society without any oppression, and on a revaluation of womenhood. Liberation, not equality, was the goal. The objective was not to gain a share of men’s positions of power, but to do away with all oppression.

In Finland and in Denmark, the new feminists brought also social and taboo issues into discussion: incest, battered wives, rape, women’s neuroses, men’s domination of sexuality, the unequal distribution of housewor, and the shortcomings of public day care facilities, sex segregation in the labour market, abortion, unequal pay and women powerlessness.


3. Organization of the new women’s movements in Finland and in Denmark

In the Nordic countries, organizationally, the new movement consisted of an anti-hierarchical, horizontal structure with the emphasis on small, autonomous group.

In Denmark, the Redstockings had the typical features of the new movement throught the Western world: a loose, horizontal stucture based on consciousness-raising groups but it was rather anarchic. During the 1970s a number of splinter groups separated from the Redstockings in the larger towns.

As the Redstockings, Association 9 was mainly a movement of students and young professional people, and had no central organization. The two organizations mobilized a new generation of women, predominantly young women from the new middle class.

Association 9 was open to men, whereas the Danish organization rejected male sympathizers.


4. Evolution of the new women’s movement in Denmark and in Finland

The Danish women’s liberation movement has changed considerably during its fifteen years of existence. We can distinguish different stages in its evolution: the sex-role debate of the 1960s (some writters place this debate in the "prehistory" of new feminism), a period of direct action, new feminist counter-culture and the decline of the Redstockings and the apparition of new centres and further specialization.(Dahlerup 1986).

In the historical development of the Association 9, Anna Maria Holli distinguishes "three periods, according to forms of activity and ideological change. The initial research stage of 1966-67 gave way to a direct action stage in 1968. From 1969 to 1970 activities little by little faded, as ideology as well as the activists moved on towards the left". (Holli 1990).

In Nordic countries, the sex-role movement had an important impact on later debates on women’s position and roles and, not least, on the formation of gender equality policy. In Finland, the sex-role debate led, through the founding of Association 9, to a series of nation-wide initiatives. After the ideological-political atmosphere had become more state-oriented at the end of the 1960s, the sex-role activists decided to act "where the real decisions are made" (Jallinoja 1983). Association 9 was dissolved and the sex-role debate was integrated into the political parties and organizations.

The sex-role activists were also directed into the state apparatus and recruited as the builders of the welfare state. Thus, gender issues were politicised early on in Finland. (Bergman 1999).

The first three or four years of the new women’s movement in Denmark were marked by enthusiasm ans spontaneity, by the raising of new issues in the public debate, by experiments with new forms of organization, by direct actions, and by extensive discussions and splits over ideology and strategy. Especially during the first year, the movement engaged in many direct actions, and the movement became well-known through the mass media.

From the mid-1970s direct action by the new women’s movement stopped. Since the latter half of the 1970s, a number of important changes have taken place in the strategies adopted by the new women’s movement. The consciousness-raising groups encouraged a willingness to work with self-organized or autonomous women’s projects. (Bergman 1999).

The movement created a new feminist counter-culture in opposition to the patriarchal culture. The division into many task-oriented groups was a way of getting things done. Coming up to the 1980s, the Redstockings had become just one group among the others in the enlarged women’s centres of the big cities. From around 1980, the creation of a feminist culture continued. Further proliferation of new feminist activities took place. New centres emerged. Specialization and a professionalization

of feminist activities mark this period. (Dahlerup 1986).

Thus, as Solveig Bergman notes, Denmark and Finland can be seen as opposite pole regarding the development and impact of the new women’s movement. The Danish Redstocking movement formed an offensive and highly visible political counter-force during the 1970s. The movement was characterised by both a pronouncing feminist counter-culture and a politics of confrontation, including spectacular and anarchistic protest actions. The women`s cultural festivals in Copenhagen and the summer camps on Femo attracted the interest of broad of women. In Finland, the role of radical feminism was more modest, the Finnish movement emerged on the periphery of the party-politically organised student movement and amongst the politically non-aligned. The New Left was short-lived and weak in Finland. (Bergman 1999).

The new women’s movement had thus very different features in Finland and Denmark. Did these differences lead to different relations with politics ?

II. The impact of the new feminism on politics



    1. The relations with the State and the question of integration into traditional politics


Politics is firstly associated with the political game, i.e. the representation of citizens through their participation in political parties, public debate and democratic elections. This can be called "traditional politics", and it is worth to discuss first the relationship of the new feminist movement with it. How the new feminist ideology shaped the relations with political parties and finally with women’s representation – and maybe vice versa ?


The Finnish movement is characterised by a women’s trust in the excellence of state action. The idea of welfare state, crystallised in the social thought at the beginning of the 1960s, gave the state a more active role as well as expanded responsabilities. As Anne Maria Holli notices the relations between the organizations and the state were solidified through the institutionalisation of organisations, achieved by the corporative market and the legitimation and regulation of party action by law in the late 1960s.

Association 9 never opposed the state as an institution. Its relationship to the state was one of support, and aimed at expanding its activities. Anne Maria Holli talks about Finnish women’s strong state orientation. (Holli 1990).

The ideologies of the new feminist movements were quite different in Denmark and Finland. While in Finland new feminism can be said "state-friendly", the Danish movement has never considered the state the main target of its activities; its ideology emphasised liberation rather than equality, and the state was seen as a structure of the patriarchal society oppressing women. Especially during its first years, the movement considered the state a kind of enemy and itself as being outside the system. (Dahlerup 1986). Dahlerup (1986) points out that the new women’s movement protested against the "old prudent kind of feminism focusing on political reforms" as well as against patriarchal society. The Danish feminists chose the solution of independence, and refused any integration or even cooperation with the traditional political actors : their movement was thus autonomous and loosely organised. On the contrary, in Finland the basic principle of the new feminist ideology was equality and sex-neutrality rather than liberation (Jallinoja, 1986), and the opposition to traditional politics was not so strong. Holli (1990) notes that the Finnish new feminist groups, especially Association 9 never opposed the state as an institution, but that their attitude was rather support and cooperation. It is quite easy to understand how, based on very different ideological grounds (liberation/equality), the new feminist movements had a totally different relationship to the state (enemy/partner), and as a result, to politics (autonomy/integration).



Given the total opposition of their attitudes towards politics, the Danish and Finnish movements had different relationships with political parties. In Denmark, no direct links existed between the feminist groups and political parties. Moreover, women’s sections in political parties had been dissolved around 1970 in the name of equality (Haavio-Mannila et al., 1985), and the old women’s right organisation from the first feminist wave had lost most of their strength. The new feminists envisaged feminism in a context of class struggle, developed an anti-capitalist and socialist ideology: they were thus linked by their ideas with the New Left. Many feminist activists joined small socialist groupings or the Socialist People’s Party during the 1970s, in parallel with their feminist engagement (Dahlerup, 1986). But despite these individual ties, they were no official links with political parties, and especially with mainstream parties. In Finland, the problem was quite different : because the new feminists did not have the same reject of the State than in Denmark, the question of an alliance with political parties was provoking debate among them (Jallinoja, 1986). Historically, the women’s organisations of the first wave have always worked with close links with political parties : this offered a basis for a further cooperation. The political parties became then the "natural allies" of the radical movement (idem), and especially of feminist movements like Association 9. Its logic was that it should get as much influence as possible through the decision-making organs, and they were conscious that parties were important in the decision-making process. At the end of the 1960s, the members of Association 9 mostly gave their support to the Social-Democratic Party and a bit later to the Finnish People’s Democratic League, and when other feminist movement rose during the 1970s-80s, they were close to the Communist Party. Even a "non-political" organisation as the Union (old women’s organisation dominated by new feminists) did have close links with political parties through many individual members belonging to political parties and most of the female MPs belonging to the Union : those links increased the possibilities of working together (idem). Which has been the influence of these different relationships between feminist movements and political parties on women’s representation in politics ?



Since the 1960s and most of all the 1970s, women’s political representation has been constantly on the increase. However, differences have to be remarked between Denmark and Finland. In the 1970s, Finland had indeed a rather high rate of women elected in parliament, 23% in 1975, whereas one year before, women made up only 8% of the Danish parliament. But the late 1970s and early 1980s were a period of rapid increase of women’s representation in politics in Denmark, while in Finland the rise has been much slighter. The result is that nowadays, Denmark has completely caught up and the rate of women in parliament is exactly similar in the two countries : 37%. Has the new women’s movement influence these different evolutions ? Or maybe on the contrary have the different situations in term of women’s political participation shaped the form of the new feminist movement ?

In trying to answer these questions, we should first have a look to the new women’s movement ideas concerning women’s political participation, in the traditional meaning of standing for elections and being elected. The difference is striking. In Denmark, the feminists, who were ideologically liberation-oriented, gave no importance to women’s representation in politics. For them, having 50 percent of leadership position occupied by women only meant that women participate in the oppression of other women and men (Dahlerup, 1986). In Finland, late feminist groups of the 1970s and 1980s, often created on a foreign model by women coming back from abroad, shared more or less the same opinions; but the early movement, i.e. Association 9 in the late 1960s adopted a very different ideology. In the name of equality, they demanded the sharing of public positions, or more largely of power, between men and women. Association 9 defended women’s right to pursue their careers and to participate on all societal decision-making levels, and encouraged women’s participation in public life (Jallinoja, 1986).

What conclusion drawing from the link between the statistics of women’s political representation and the ideology of the new feminist movements about this subject ? First, it has to be noticed that Finland has for a long time been a forerunner in terms of women’s representation - it was already around 15% in the 1950s and 1960s. Although I lacked precise statistics about this period, it seems that the level of women’s participation in politics increased significantly during the period of existence of Association 9 (1966-1970). It is thus certain that the action of Association 9 had a positive influence on women’s political mobilization, but the former relatively high level of women’s representation could also be envisaged as having had an impact on Association 9’s ideology. On the other hand, in Denmark, the rapid increase in the number of women in political life happened in a period (late 1970s and early 1980s) when the new women’s movement, though on the decline, was still very active, and did not defend this participation at all. The rise of women’s representation happened thus in parallel with, and maybe despite the new feminist ideology, but not because of it. As a result, two conclusion can be drawn: first, there is no obvious and direct relation between women’s representation in politics and the new women’s movement, but some influences have to be found. Secondly, these influences are double-sided, that is to say that the women’s movement not only influenced women’s participation in a given country, but also certainly was influenced by the former position of women in the country’s public life.


2. The influence on the contents of politics


If the direct influence of the new women’s movements on women’s political participation is rather tiny, another kind of impact can be detected : the impact not on the political game, but on the content of politics. This influence is indirect, through different channels and especially the changes in minds and attitudes that shape the policies decided by – either male or female – decision-making bodies.



Along with other new social movements more or less directly deriving from student radicalism, the new feminist movement contributed to enlarge the field of political debate to subjects that were before that taboos. Especially in its more radical forms, and because of that more widely in Denmark than in Finland, the new feminists brought taboo issues into daylight: issues like abortion, incest, battered wives, rape (within marriage sometimes), distribution of housework were beforehand considered private and not discussed in the male-dominated public sphere. New women’s movement loudly denounced this silence as an instrument of women’s oppression, and spoke out women’s specific problems. The results are difficult to measure, but the impact was real, and these new themes came into the public debate alongside with other women’s issues like equal pay or public day care facilities (Dahlerup, 1986).

Left-wing parties were the more likely to listen the feminist claims and to embrace some of their ideas (in general the less radical ones) and integrate them in their political agendas. In Finland, the Finnish People’s Democratic League and to a smaller extend the Social-Democratic Party have been influenced, and have add some feminist demands in their programs during the 1970s. As it was studied in the last part, connections between the feminist movement and the political parties were strong in Finland, and this explains why feminist ideas very quite easily integrated in political agendas. Jallinoja’s article (1986) emphasises the importance of double-membership (to a feminist group and a political party) in the transmission of ideas : double-members were numerous in Finland, and they were the more likely to put feminist ideas into discussion within the party and to try to push them on the agenda. Especially in left-wing parties, like the Social-Democratic party did this phenomenon function quite well. In Denmark, where the feminist demands were more anarchist, anti-capitalist and concerning private matters, the personal links between the new feminist movement and the political parties were also less developed, and the penetration of political agendas by feminist concerns was less direct. It happened nevertheless, and the Socialist People’s Party is the example of a party that attracted a lot of new feminists during the 1970s, and developed an elaborate programme on politics concerning women. In the case most other parties, the influence was effective by an indirect way : changing little by little people’s (and especially women’s) opinions and minds, the feminists ad an indirect influence on political agendas, given that the parties try always to meet the preoccupations of the electors. Anyway, this slight change in minds was rather slow, and the new feminist movements employed also other more conscious, direct and efficient methods of action.



Even in Denmark where the new feminists, as we have seen, were not interested in traditional political issues and rejected the state as an enemy, they mobilized for campaigns about a few political issues that seemed important to them. Abortion was the first issue, in Finland as in Denmark, but in both cases, the feminists met a rather rapid victory. In Finland, Association 9, despite its mostly "equality-oriented" ideology, demanded sexual liberation for women, and the right to free abortion seemed a condition of this liberation. As a result of Association 9’s activism, a new abortion law was passed in 1970, which was quite liberal (Jallinoja, 1986), and has always been applied in a very liberal way. In Denmark, the new women’s movement was very active in the early 1970s in the campaign in favour of free abortion. The abortion law of 1970, which was rather liberal, was consequently changed in 1973 into a law authorizing abortion on request, free of charge and with the subsequent sick leave paid by social security (Dahlerup, 1986). The campaign for abortion mobilized very different amounts of energy in Finland and Denmark, and was motivated by different views : the Danish campaign was very large and visible, whereas the Finnish one was rather discrete. Moreover, in Denmark the arguments were those of women’s liberation and sexual freedom, while in Finland they were more directed towards equality concerns in respect of social, regional and health policy (Bergman, 1999).

The second campaign, which was for evident reasons particular to Denmark, concerned EEC membership. In 1972, the debate about Denmark’s entrance into the European Community was a difficult question in Denmark, and a referendum was held in October. The new feminists campaigned against EEC membership, arguing that the position of women and the legislation concerning gender equality were better in Denmark than in many other European countries (especially Southern European ones like Italy or France). They were afraid that Danish women could loose some of their advantages and be drag to Southern European standards. Along with those of many other opponents to EEC membership in Denmark, the feminist arguments almost convinced the majority of the Danes in 1972 (Dahlerup, 1986).

The third important campaign was the demand for equal pay. This issue, which was not a new one mobilized many members of the new women’s movement. In Finland, Association 9, with its sex-neutral ideology, defended women’s participation in wage work; however, because the association was State-oriented, it emphasised the importance of day-care solutions for children, which could be organised by the State, rather than equal pay, which had to be imposed to private companies (Holli, 1990). On the contrary, the Danish new feminists actively campaigned for equal pay for work of equal value, and their efforts were rewarded in 1973 with equal pay getting into the general wage agreements of the labour market (Dahlerup, 1986).

These three political campaigns of the new feminist movement prove that, in Denmark as in Finland, women were able to mobilize themselves in order to impose their views to the decision-making bodies. However, the mobilization was much larger, the arguments more radical and the actions more visible and sometimes violent in Denmark.



Another political more or less direct consequence of the new feminist movement has been the development of gender equality policies, and the creation of special bodies dealing with those matters. It was the beginning of what can be called state feminism, or as Anette Borchorst (1999) "institutionalised gender equality". Thanks to the new women’s movement, equality between men and women reached the political agenda, and male politicians became aware of the issue : the result was the creation of an adapted legislation and a watchdog institution. In Denmark, the Equal Status Council, formed in 1975, had for purpose to promote equality in economic and social fields especially. It advises as well the government and municipalities on questions of gender and equal opportunities, and reports regularly on the evolutions in gender situation (first assignment, Danish group). Many laws have also been passed during the 1970s and early 1980s in order to guarantee economic equality, like equality on the labour market (1978) or equal pay for the same work (1976). It is important to notice however that these improvements in the equal status between genders were not the result of work by the new women’s movement. The new feminists criticized indeed heavily the equal policy, and showed the insufficiencies of a policies remaining on the state and its subsidies that could be shortcut in case of economic crisis (Dahlerup, 1986). But the development of state feminism has without doubt been favoured indirectly by the renewal of the feminist debate engaged by the new movement. Given the ideology of the new women’s movement in Denmark concerning the state, it is thus impossible to see the development of state feminism as a consequence of the movement, but it is obvious that it had an indirect on the new policies, and Dahlerup (quoted by Borchorst, 1999) believed that it brought a radicalisation and strengthening of the state’s gender equality policy. In Finland, the case is even more complicated : the new women’s movement was, especially in its beginning, much less hostile to the state than in Denmark. However, it did not emphasise particular demands in the realm of gender equality policy, and hardly participate in the creation of the new institution; the Council for Equality between Men and Women was formed in 1972, with quite similar advisory and watchdog functions than in Denmark (Borchorst, 1999). Association 9 was auto-dissolved in 1970 because there was a will to work "where the real decision were made", and a relatively great number of its members succeeded in obtaining posts in state and municipal offices. But although many feminists like the former members of Association 9 were attracted by institutional bodies and the idea of change from within, they seem to have had little or no participation in the building of the emerging state feminism. There is thus a kind of contradiction between the "state-orientation" of Finnish new feminist movement, and the fact that it did finally not intervene more in favour of equal status policy than the Danish one.

3. New feminism : a new practice of politics ?


Given the fact that the new feminist movement did not participate in the traditional political game and had a rather indirect influence on the content of politics, it is legitimate to ask if it was a political movement, or rather a cultural or social one. It will be argued that the new women’s movement created a new means of doing politics, and that this difference is part of its identity.



Bergman (1999) writes that the new women’s movement has "contributed to a discursive extension of the context of politics". Nothing is truer, and as we saw that many issues beforehand considered private were brought into the political sphere, the transformation of the content led to a transformation of the concept in itself. This change started consciously within the new feminist movement, before spreading slowly to the whole politics. An important point in this new conception of politics is expressed in the international feminist slogan : "the private is political". What does then "political" mean ? It refers to a concept broader than the traditional political sphere, and is more or less a synonym of "public" or "subject to collective action". This implies that the political institutions were considered capable of bringing fundamental change to the position of women : all problems previously considered private could possibly be taken up by the public sphere and discussed as social problem (Dahlerup, 1986). This enlarged considerably the field of politics, and was a means for the women who rejected the male-dominated politics to legitimate the appropriation of their own problems through collective action. This wide concept of politics developed by the new feminist and other new movements spread then, at least partially, to the whole society, and since that time the most private issues like sexuality have been debated more publicly, and many taboos have been spoken out, homosexuality being one of them. Another change in the concept of politics was more particular to the Finnish new women’s movement, and especially Association 9 : Association 9 considered politics as an inevitably conflictual activity, and had the ambition to erase conflict out of politics. A "new politics" would succeed in taking into account the interest of the whole society, and improving the situation through social policy and equality politics (Holli, 1990). This vision of politics may seem utopian, it nevertheless shows how the new feminists were not satisfied with the traditional practice of politics and developed a new concept of politics corresponding more perfectly to their ideas. Because I found no mention of a similar conception of "new politics" in Denmark, I think that the Danish new feminists rejected more radically the concept of politics, and privileged autonomous collective action, which is anyway another type of politics.



The new women’s movement in Denmark and in Finland had a very similar vision of how public life should be like. The political ideal going along with feminist ideas was participatory direct democracy : this idea shaped both the internal organisation of the movements, and their activities directed towards the public (Dahlerup, 1986). It is thus important to understand the theoretical basis of the whole organisation. The idea of participatory direct democracy is not a new one, and finds its modern source in Rousseau’s work. It was very widespread among the all the radical movements of the 1960s and 1970s, like the student movement, peace movement, environmental movement… It went along with anti-authoritarian ideology, and envisaged a society in which everybody would participate in the decisions that concern themselves, and where the decisions would be made by consensus.

In Denmark, the new women’s movement put into practice the principles of direct democracy in its own internal structure : the movement remained on many autonomous groups, loosely connected. Within the group, the structure was equalitarian : the main functions were distributed according to a principle of rotation to avoid the rise of a leader or the establishment of a hierarchy, and all the decisions were made in common through negotiation within the group (Dahlerup, 1986). In Finland, the movement was more centralised : whereas in almost all Danish towns new feminist groups were created and remained autonomous, most of the feminist activity was centralised in Helsinki (with some tentative to extend in Tampere and Turku) within a single organisation. At the end of the 1960s, Association 9 had the monopoly of new feminist action. Later on, while the multiple new feminist groups of the 1970s founded an informal coordinating community called "Feminists", the Women’s Right League Union became the other main organisation constituting the new feminist movement (Jallinoja, 1986). The movement was thus nationally much more structured and centralised in Finland than in Denmark, but on a local basis, the principles were the same : the groups had an internal anti-hierarchic organisation and applied collective leadership as well. The strong anti-authoritarian trend of the Danish movement can explain its prevention against any kind of authority, that is why it privileged autonomous groups in an anarchist way. Ideology thus shaped concretely the new women’s movement’s organisation, as well as its activities.

The movement’s activities were fixed according to a strategy that was sometimes discussed and sometimes appeared evident to the group : first, the target of their action. In Finland, Association 9 demands for sex equality policies were mainly directed towards the state, and this search of political reforms was criticised later by the Feminist groups (Jallinoja, 1986). On the contrary in Denmark, the action was not directed at all towards the state, but its main targets were women, the general public and the labour market (Dahlerup, 1986). These targets made possible the use other forms of action than traditional lobbying : one of the main was direct action. Especially used in Denmark during the first phase of the movement (1970-1974), direct action was a strategy coherent with the principle of direct democracy. The goal was indeed to reach the whole society without the traditional political mediators, the political parties. The feminist groups conducted many creative, disruptive, non-violent actions, the purpose being to be remarked and heard. Interruption of the speech in a political meeting, women walking in the streets grotesquely dressed as sexual objects, interruption of a beauty show or refusal to pay more than 80% of a bus ticket because women’s wage was 80% of men’s wage : this kind of events did not use violence, but were often ironic, and because of that stroke the public. They did not necessitate a lot of women or of material, but the media coverage was important and allowed the spread of feminist ideas. This idea is very important, and the new feminists understood early that mass-media was essential to them in order to spread their message; after a few deformations of their goals and distortions of their image, they learnt how to use the media for their goal. They organised themselves the media coverage, reused to speak to make journalists, and gained thus some control over their image in the media. The strategy of collective action along with a good use of the media was a reason for the success of the new women’s movement (Dahlerup, 1986). However, it was not their whole activity, but only the image they gave in order to reach widely the society. The internal activities of the new feminist groups were much less visible and provocative, and in Denmark they took mainly three forms : first, consciousness-raising groups, which was a common feature of the new feminism in the 1970s, secondly summer camps, which were very popular moments of meeting and debate along with distraction, and thirdly cultural activities that led to the creation of a considerable counter-culture (idem). In Finland, most of these grassroots activities as well as direct actions were inexistent or particularly weak. This is the first to the weakness of the movement compared with Denmark, but also to the different orientation of the movement, which was developed more in the direction of the state and the civil society. I lack documents about Finnish new feminist’s concrete actions, but I think that the reason is that they were less numerous and visible.

A conclusion on the activities of the new women’s movement could be that trough direct action, they experienced a new method of communication with the public. These non-conventional forms of political participation constituted an attempt to renew the political practices according to the new concept of politics that was developed. Grassroots participation was particularly strong in Denmark where the civil society has for a long time been well-developed, a fact reflected in the ability of the anti-authoritarian movement to connect with popular concerns during the 1970s. On the contrary in Finland, grassroots participation never became an established part of political life, but the movement had more connection with the sphere of power (Bergman, 1999). The new women’s movement found finally different means to be heard in Finland and Denmark, but dealing with political issues in the broader sense of the word, their action was clearly political and aimed at renewing political practices.



In conclusion we can rightfully say that the women’s movement in Finland and Denmark is by no means dead. It has transformed and taken different shape, used different methods but it is still a very influential factor of both countries’ intricate socio-political mosaic.

We have stipulated that both the ideologies and political biases of the new wave of the women’s movement in Finland and in Denmark have been different (while in Denmark its activists stayed away from integration or cooperation with the political actors, in Finland apparently there was no opposition of joining forces with the traditional politics in ensuring equality and sex-neutrality), but the main indicator of its efficacy is revealed in the promotion of women’s role in society and decision-making.

The birth of a separate feminist culture is relatively new. Only the so-called radical feminist movement created a demand for the development of activities exclusively for women, and started emphasizing the respective special gender characteristics. The more radical feminist trend has to do with the general wave of social and political consciousness which started in the 1960s.

Although it has been a question of emancipation, the women’s groups have not acted outside society, but rather tried to change it from within in both Finland and Denmark. The fact that women have had a voice in both countries is based on their presence in all of the social forums and wide-scale campaigns, in some cases purely political (e.g.Denmark’s EEC membership). The three political campaigns of the new feminist movement, fully discussed in the main body of the essay, prove that, in Denmark as in Finland, women were able to act together to make their voice heard by the decision-making bodies.

Attaining equality between men and women has recently been a key objective of the modern women’s movements in both Finland and Denmark. Finnish and Danish equality thinking stresses that equal opportunities are not enough in and of themselves. There is also a need for active efforts to improve the position of women, which justifies the very existence of the women’s movement.

Not without the considerable lobbying effort from the feminist organisations in Finland the Finnish Act on Equality between Women and Men came into force at the beginning of 1987. It extends to all areas of societal life and applies specifically to equality between women and men, obligating both the authorities and employers to promote equal opportunities. It stipulates that both men and women are to be provided with the same opportunities for education and professional advancement, they should have equal opportunities to be elected to positions of power and authority. This serves to deepen and diversify the expert knowledge possessed by the various organs and bodies. In Finland's national structural policy organs, women account for 25-50 per cent of the members depending on the committee (Finnish Woman: The Road to Equality, FINFO) . On the boards and councils of the provincial federations and in the provincial co-operation groups, the percentage of women has risen since the entry into force of gender quotas. Finland's law requiring that at least 40% of each sex should be represented in the membership of various decision-making bodies led to an increase in women's membership from 25% in 1980 to 48% in 1996. Although women, once they enter politics, mostly concentrate on the traditional women´s issues - the welfare of mothers and children, and domestic issues - one has to bear in mind that in recent years Finland has seen women in positions such as the Minister of Finance, Minister for Defence, Speaker of the Parliament and the President of the Republic. Gender discrimination in the labour market and in politics according to the experts in the respective field is still present in one way or the other (The Finnish Woman by Päivi Lipponen and Päivi Setälä ,2000). But there is a counter-argument to this opinion. According to that argument, the Finnish social and political situation could best be described with the term ‘gender consensus´. Gender consensus contains the idea that issues of equality are not discussed in the open, because true equality has already been achieved in Finland.






Bibliography :

First assignments of the Finnish and Danish groups.

Internet references cited in these assignments.

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