2. Building a feminist society
Housing – a social right
Building is a tool for social change. Sweden has lacked a clear policy for social change during the past few decades and this has led to a segregated society. Back in the 1970s S-kvinnor produced ”Kvarteret framtiden” (The District of the Future) – a political program for a society based on everybody’s right to an equal life. Now that we are creating the feminist social structure of the future, these ideas constitute important starting points.
The transformation of social structures requires a holistic approach and responsible policies. The aim is to create attractive, functional and socially integrated residential areas with a mix of housing to suit people’s needs throughout life. For this reason builders and property companies must exercise great social responsibility. When S-kvinnor wrote Kvarteret Framtiden a good living environment was one of the central ideas. There is reason to remember this when Sweden is once again entering a period of vigorous new building – we must not only increase the quantity of housing units but also to do this with good quality.
Everybody is entitled to a home of good quality at a reasonable cost, so public utilities are needed in all our municipalities. The selling-off of public utilities must be stopped. Miljonprogrammet, the public housing program of the 1960s, must be modernized without burdening those who live there today with large rent increases. The building of more rental homes must be promoted, partly through neutral taxation among types of housing. Building prerequisites throughout the country must also be re-examined. S-kvinnor must seek reforms that balance out the various forms of accommodation letting.
Women, generally lower paid than men, are more dependent on rented accommodation at a reasonable cost.
Security and availability
Security is a decisive factor in feminist social planning. The feeling of insecurity is stronger when men assume control of public affairs. A fierce macho-culture limits everyone’s freedom. Girls and women are more frightened than boys and men of assault of a sexual nature, or objectification. Many elect not to go out alone, particularly in the evening.
Security is more than a physical environment. The e-hatred that greatly afflicts women spreads anxiety and fear, limiting people’s urge to free expression. This is unacceptable. We must never permit fear to limit girls’ and women’s living space. Men need to take greater responsibility for the climate in the public domain.
Outdoor surroundings must be well lighted and attractive, planned to create security and ease of access. Creating security requires equality since people are not then set against each other.
Town and country – all of Sweden must live
High unemployment and poor faith in the future lead to social problems and worry. Special efforts are needed to create functioning living conditions both for our towns and for our country areas.
The impoverishment of the countryside must be stopped. Basic availability of social services such as chemists, post offices, banks, cash management, telephones and IT must be guaranteed throughout the country. Support for rural development must favor local communities. Free movement for all is a precondition for a living landscape, so investment in good infrastructure, social services, cultural amenities and sustainable local transport are imperative.
Country-wide class differences are even more visible in our cities, which attract the strongest and the weakest groups. The concentration of high unemployment, poor school results and cramped living conditions threatens to strengthen patriarchal structures in many suburbs. Reactionary forces limiting women’s freedom must be combatted and feminist forces strengthened. Many of Sweden’s closely-built-up areas suffer housing shortages, major in the big cities. The building programs that are necessary afford good opportunities to improve existing dwellings, the environment and social conditions in the city districts most in need of this. Everybody is entitled to a physically, ecologically and socially sustainable environment.
An open society enables people to meet outside their original acquaintanceship. Gathering different functions in one locality, for example assembly premises, libraries, swimming baths and leisure centers, can lead to exciting meetings and promote local democracy. Adult education is also an important part of democracy. Associations and popular movements must continue to receive space and opportunities to grow, in towns as well as in the countryside. It is vital that we do not build popular associations out of existence as our towns grow, while at the same time such associations in rural areas may need extra support.
Welfare and opportunities
A feminist society must rely on the availability of well-functioning welfare; but robust joint welfare is not the final goal, it is a tool for increasing the reach of democracy. It is a must for everyone’s freedom. When welfare is not enough, it is most often the women who must compensate for shortfalls with cuts in their working time. The responsibilities many women have today for their dependents is leading to salary cuts, less free time, poorer pensions, increased stress and ill-health, while society is losing hours worked and tax revenues.
Pre-school, school and leisure activity are important meeting places for all children. It is teaching activities that must be infused with gender-conscious and norm-critical pedagogics. Freedom to choose schools is contributing to segregation and needs to be countered by a municipal right to veto the establishment of independent schools.
Pre-schools must be available locally, staffed and with groups dimensioned to give the children security and opportunities to develop. A statutory right to child care even in the evenings, nighttime and weekends must be a matter of course. General pre-school must start from age two years. For pre-schools to be available to all, they must become free of charge, as must after-school recreational facilities. School must be equal for all, with a focus upon knowledge. Child education must be grounded in democratic and secular values. S-kvinnor are opposed to religious independent schools and pre-schools. School must be compensatory. Girls and boys must have the same opportunities to achieve good results, feel secure and well. There must be zero-tolerance of any forms of abuse.
Sweden must set an example for other countries in the care of and attention to the elderly. Old people’s rights must be consolidated with a special geriatric care act. Elderly care must have competent staff and quality, a source of security for both the residents and their relatives. Women must not be compelled to compensate for poor home help or inadequate staffing in old people’s homes. Care by relatives must never be reduced to an issue for women. Time spent with children or other relatives must be elective. More research is needed into how far access to old people’s care is gender-equitable, that is, whether women have the same access to elderly care as men.
A feminist social structure must be based on jointly-owned and financed welfare of good quality. The public sector must not be governed by market forces. When welfare becomes privatized, schools and care risk becoming inequitable. Private operations must be controlled and required to reinvest surpluses.
- Gender-equality must be a factor in all social planning.
- Tax policy to be revised to achieve neutrality between the different residential forms.
- Create secure and well-lit residential areas.
- Investment in social service and infrastructure must go hand-in-hand with housing construction throughout the country.
- Invest in functioning public transport and broadband for the whole country.
- Prevent the selling-off of public utilities and support the building and retention of more rental homes.
- Renovate miljonprogrammen, the public-housing programs.
- Invest in welfare to enable women to take part in working life on the same terms as men.
- Entitle local government to veto the establishment of independent schools.
- Pre-schools and schools must be based on democratic and secular values and follow gender-conscious and norm-critical teaching approaches.
- Statutory entitlement to child care, including evenings, nighttime and weekends.
- A special care-of-the-elderly act to be introduced to support old people’s rights.
- Profit must not govern welfare: public funds must be employed.