On Women & Strength: Saving our tea for the really hot water

I answered a question incorrectly. Actually, it’s happened twice now. I’ve been interviewed on two different radio stations about my book, Swedish Lessons, and in both instances I was asked the same question: “Why didn’t you just leave?”
It’s a question I anticipated, as the full answer is the theme of the entire book. In the moment, during these interviews, however, I tiptoed around the weight of the question, instead listing some of the practical and logistical reasons that why, when things started really going off the rails during my time living in Sweden, I stuck it out, even as the situation got worse and worse. Those things are true, but they shouldn’t have been my answer.

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Women, fear culture and a thousand guts

Let’s talk about fear, shall we? I want to talk about fear because I’m tired of it. I’m tired of being afraid, and I’m tired of watching other women and girls be intimidated. We have a culture so laced with intimidation norms that we are often cornered by fear without even fully realizing it.

It happens every day on scales large and small. It’s the small scale ones, I think, that are the most powerful. When women are obviously and broadly discriminated against, we have strength in numbers. We can fight against it. It’s not so easy on smaller, more nuanced scale. For example, we learned this week that a majority of men resent it when their wives are more successful than they are. While the study is a large, glaring piece of evidence of emotional discrimination, how do you think that resentment manifests itself inside a marriage? I imagine it’s subtle, the way husbands express their displeasure with their wives’ success. I imagine each wife feels sorry for her husband and gradually backs off of her upward movement in the interest of her marriage.

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I will baby bump you in the face, internet

The internet usually has between 250 and 4,000 annoying trends happening at once, but this one, or these two rather, are really making my blood boil. They aren’t memes or hashtags or gifs, or even ridiculously endless discussions about how to pronounce gif. They are two phrases: “bikini body” and “showing off her baby bump.” If you’re not immediately nodding to yourself, agreeing that your eyes have been recently polluted with these phrases, you’re probably not familiar with the internet and don’t need to read any further. Just go back to your loom or whittling or whatever and I’ll continue.

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