When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

How Did Sweden Become A Hotbed Of Anti-Women Hatred?

Known for its gender equality, Sweden has begun to turn ugly. Some point to a "Breivik effect" spreading through Scandinavia since the 2011 massacre in Norway by a right-wing extremist.

Lund, Sweden
Lund, Sweden
Olivier Truc

STOCKHOLM – The latest trend emerging in Sweden is not high-tech or discount furniture. It's open insults and violent attacks aimed at women. How did this country – a champion of gender equality – become the object of such public hate?

The most recent spate of anti-woman backlash came to light on Dec. 20 2012, with the publication in Aftonbladet, of a piece written by the tabloid’s cultural editor, Asa Linderborg. She wrote that after a series of investigative reports into far-right websites in Sweden, she started receiving so many hateful messages and threats that the police had to place her under protection.

Many of the insults and threats had violent sexual connotations, something men are never subject to. Though neither new nor confined to Sweden, Asa Linderborg was nonetheless surprised by the general tone of the messages she received, which were more violent than they had ever been before.

“Since Breivik, actually,” she says.

The mass shooting perpetrated by Anders Breivik in 2011 against the Norwegian Labor Party’s Youth league, which he called “traitors” and “culture Marxists,” deeply affected the region. The same tone and choice of words used by Breivik are frequently found in the messages and insults targeting women, especially against the feminists who “castrated” Sweden, one of Breivik’s obsessions.

The debate exploded when public broadcaster SVT1 showed a one-hour program on Sweden’s hatred of women. On camera, a number of women came to read the threats that they have received verbatim, many of which talked about sexual torture. The women who bore witness were female public figures – journalists, bloggers and actresses – who say that when sexism and racism is discussed, the reactions are often brutal.

Hashtags of hate

Then, there was the case of Julia, 17. The Swedish teenager had complained on the Facebook page of fashion retailer H&M about a T-shirt they were selling, with an image of Tupac Shakur – the dead American rapper who was convicted for sexual abuse.

Her complaint attracted more than 3,000 comments, a tsunami of hate. How could an anonymous teenager warrant such a reaction? She has received just as many messages of support.

On Twitter, #kvinnohat (hatred of women) has now become a popular hashtag in Sweden.

According to Linderborg, the phenomenon took such proportions because it “deeply hurts the image we have of ourselves as a people. Our pride was hurt, because we are the world’s most equalitarian country and Swedes are usually friendly and tolerant people.”

The previous wave of anti-feminist backlash started in May 2005, after the broadcast of a documentary showing the chairman of the national women’s refuge organization (ROKS) describing men as “animals.” The same year Gudrun Schyman, the charismatic former leader of the Swedish Left Party, co-founded the Feminist Initiative, a pressure group that later became a feminist political party.

At the time, Sweden’s left – the unions, the Left Party, feminism and alternative movements – was starting to lose ground. “It was all linked,” says Linderborg. “All of a sudden, Sweden became a far right country. The right has been in power since 2006, but before that, the social democrats were also following right wing policies. No other country privatized their state-owned enterprises as fast as we did.”

Did this political shift to the right somewhat pave the way for extreme right wing speech? Not according to the right wing journalists who say they too get a lot of hateful messages. “In certain left wing environments, you will find there is a high tolerance for hate speech targeted at the right wing,” says Paulina Neuding, the editor-in-chief of Neo, a neo-con magazine. “As if directing hate at the left was worse,” she adds.

This hate of women sometimes hides a deeper phenomenon – it illustrates the extremes that part of the population will go to. “We live in a brutal period,” says Linderborg. “People are unemployed, social security does not work anymore, they believe they are not being represented, they feel powerless, frustrated. We need to understand that too. We need to take these desperate and frustrated people seriously.”

This wave of hatred might be the first real sign that cracks are starting to appear in the social cohesion lauded by the Swedish government during the past 20 years.

Neuding says the success of the extreme right wing, which is at its highest level historically – 10% – is being underestimated. “This party is considered as illegitimate by the whole of Sweden’s politicians. When you look at the Avixplat website, the informal mouthpiece of the extreme right, you are shocked by the amount of rage and aggressiveness, and this feeling that people have of being abandoned by the establishment,” says Neuding. “There is a huge risk that we will lose all these people.”

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Why Poland's Break With Ukraine Weakens All Enemies Of Russia — Starting With Poland

Poland’s decision to stop sending weapons to Ukraine is being driven by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party's short-term electoral calculus. Yet the long-term effects on the world stage could deeply undermine the united NATO front against Russia, and the entire Western coalition.

Photo of ​Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Lutsk, Ukraine, on July 9

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Lutsk, Ukraine, on July 9

Bartosz T. Wieliński


WARSAW — Poland has now moved from being the country that was most loudly demanding that arms be sent to Ukraine, to a country that has suddenly announced it was withholding military aid. Even if Poland's actions won't match Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s words, the government has damaged the standing of our country in the region, and in NATO.

“We are no longer providing arms to Ukraine, because we are now arming Poland,” the prime minister declared on Polsat news on Wednesday evening. He didn’t specify which type of arms he was referring to, but his statement was quickly spread on social media by leading figures of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

When news that Poland would be withholding arms to Ukraine made their way to the headlines of the most important international media outlets, no politician from PiS stepped in to refute the prime minister’s statement. Which means that Morawiecki said exactly what he meant to say.

The era of tight Polish-Ukrainian collaboration, militarily and politically, has thus come to an end.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest