Before I went to Copenhagen, I expected my visit to be rather underwhelming: My google-search made me feel like the city was comparable to any big European city. When I actually arrived here, I was on the contrary, verysurprised. I must admit that Copenhagen took my heart by storm. My prior expectations did come true in the sense that Copenhagen is ‘just’ another big European city with nice architecture and great shopping options. But what I didn’t expect to find here was the amount of personality in the city. Even though you are in a capital city, you don’t get lost in anonymity and in ‘mainstream’ shops and lokale. There are two big streets for the shopping lovers and brand-hunters, but otherwise, each street has its own charm, with pretty little shops that all have their own vibe going on. On top of that, Copenhagen is full of beautiful picturesque buildings, that all contribute to the old city charm – and I surely underestimated just how nice it is to walk in such old streets!. And not to forget, the ease with which Danish people seem to go about their day is highly contaminating!
Obviously I also had an agenda for coming to the city – to inquire on gender equality in Denmark. In the following, here are some impressions of Copenhagen and how the city deals with gender equality.
Female traffic Lights
I have not seen this anywhere else than in Copenhagen yet. In some crossings, the pedestrian traffic light symbols showed a female figure instead of a male! There are already some big cities around the world that have made traffic lights more ‘female friendly’, for example some streets in Melbourne, Australia, and in Madrid, Spain. We are all so used to seeing a red or green man up there on the street lights, that we probably don’t even notice anymore that it’s always a male figure and never a female. Copenhagen did notice and decided that a woman also deserves to tell us when to wait or when to walk. Something that never even crossed my mind!
However, the idea to show female figures on traffic lights is not taken up positively by everyone. The biggest argument against this change has been that cities should rather tackle more ‘serious’ problems such as unemployment and criminality.
Part of the Nationalmuseet (Danish National Museum) is an exhibition on the Vikings, since they make up part of Danish history.
The exhibition is now being showcased in a prime place within the museum and pays a lot of attention to the women of the Viking era as well, to the extent that the only posters that I could find while roaming around the city, showed female Vikings and no men! A clear statement that says that women could also be strong warriors. This feminist message can also be found on the website of the museum itself where an entire page is dedicated to the Viking woman. Here, Scandinavia during the Viking era is called the ‘pioneer of equal opportunities’: women could already then choose themselves who they wanted to marry and had the right to divorce. In general, Viking women seem to have possessed more freedom and rights than women elsewhere in that time.
To be honest, I didn’t expect that at all. So for me, this was very interesting to learn and I can therefore recommend visiting this exposition in case you want to learn something new about the Vikings! But I must also say that it seemed to me as if the museum was trying to convey the most positive message about Viking women as possible, and the fact that I could only find posters with Viking women felt a bit strange to me. In general, there is a fine line between advocating for equal rights of the genders, of for more rights of women. And I find it quite interesting to see how different organizations, like the Danish National Museum, interpret feminism in different ways.
In the end of June, Denmark elected its new government. For the second time in a row, a woman was elected for prime minister, this time a woman that is the youngest Danish prime minister to ever be elected (Mette Frederiksen is 41 years old). In addition to that, Frederiksen’s has recently selected a pregnant woman as Minister of Culture, a quite uncommon thing to see. This caused quite a fuzz in the country, since the Minister (Joy Mogensen) is a single mother and people are questioning her ability to raise her child single handedly and performing her job at the same time. By selecting her for this job, Frederiksen sent a clear message to employers across the country.
In general, my first impression of Copenhagen was very positive. So far, the general idea that Scandinavia, and therefore also Denmark are high up in gender equality, has been more confirmed than disconfirmed. What I don’t know yet however, is how people and organizations think about this topic. To find out more about this, my next post will be an interview with KULU, an organization that is a central contributor to the women’s rights in Denmark and for women internationally. After that, I will interview individual people on the streets on their experiences and opinion with feminism in Denmark. And lastly, on my way back home in two weeks, I will stop by the Danish city of Aarhus and visit their Women’s Museum. I am curious to see if the organizations and people in Denmark experience it the same way that the world does!