A Swedish Imperfection

A Swedish Imperfection

"Gender Equality in ‘the Most Equal Country in the World’? Money and Marriage in Sweden" by Charlott Nyman, in The Sociological Review (Nov. 1999), Keele Univ., Keele, Staffordshire, ST5 5BG, England.

Share:
Read Time:
1m 28sec

"Gender Equality in ‘the Most Equal Country in the World’? Money and Marriage in Sweden" by Charlott Nyman, in The Sociological Review (Nov. 1999), Keele Univ., Keele, Staffordshire, ST5 5BG, England.

In Sweden, where equality between the sexes is the official ideal, husband and wife are obliged by law to "share" their incomes, with each having a legal right to the same standard of living as the other. Yet after interviews with 10 married couples, Nyman, a doctoral student in sociology at Umeo University, in northern Sweden, is persuaded that even in what is supposedly "the most equal country in the world," perfect equality remains elusive.

The couples, each with dual incomes and a seven-year-old child, lived in an unidentified white-collar town. All the husbands and wives initially insisted in interviews that they not only believed in equal economic sharing but practiced it.

Yet in all 10 families, Nyman found, "the woman had primary responsibility" for buying groceries, clothes for the children, and other everyday items for the home, while the men usually handled such "bigger" matters as bank loans and kept track of long-term investments and savings. Because the women had the daily burden of making ends meet, says Nyman, they often wound up drawing on their personal budgets to meet unanticipated family needs, worrying more than their husbands about the family having enough money, and spending less on themselves than their husbands did.

Though the women "seemed to subordinate their own needs to those of other family members," Nyman notes, they saw their behavior not as "sacrifice" but as "an expression of love." Comments Nyman: Even in Sweden, "old traditions, attitudes, and behaviors die hard."