11 November 2016

The slippery combination of feminism and snow ploughs

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On Thursday morning Stockholm was covered with at least 30 centimetres of snow. According to the Swedish national weather agency SMHI this is more than any other November day since records began in 1905. This freak of nature disrupted the daily lives of those living in Sweden’s capital.

Part of the blame for the difficulties caused might lie in the policy of “feminist snowplowing” recently introduced in the city.

In an editorial column in Aftonbladet, Sweden’s largest left leaning paper, Evan Franchell explains that the chaos is connected with the decision to introduce “feminist snowplowing” in the city:

“Women more often than men slip in the snow. This is likely because women more often walk or run to the bus. Men take the car and so far it [has been] the snowplowing for men that has been prioritized…. A year ago, the red-green majority in Stockholm city decided to introduce more gender equal snowplowing. Pavements and cycle lanes would be prioritized before roads for cars. But the ‘feminist’ snowplowing has not worked in Stockholm.

Packs of snow hinder pavements, street crossings and bus stops. Baby strollers get stuck in the snow and wheelchairs cannot get across the streets of Stockholm. In pure desperation over the fact that neither the collective traffic nor the ability to walk across the city is a viable option many schools shut down yesterday. […] The red-green majority have a lot to consider before the real winter begins. Sand the streets, plow away the snow and move the cars that stand in the way. It shouldn’t be so difficult”.

Fredrik Ståhle, police inspector in Stockholm, explained in a national public television broadcast that the snowplowing in the city has been so bad that it is now a danger for society.

Traffic has become dangerous in roads covered by snow and ice. Even ambulances have had major difficulties getting through the streets. Fredrik, who has been with the police force for 40 years, explains: “I have never seen [such] bad snowplowing, it takes a long time even though they have been aware that the snow is coming”.

Cecilia Brink, a conservative opposition politician in Stockholm, explains in an interview with Swedish public national television that she believes that the term “gender equal snowplowing” is a bit silly. According to Brink the new policies have not been good for anybody who wants to get across the city.

Feminist snowplowing has been hailed as an important issue across Swedish cities for the past few years, since it is seen as a way of including identity policies in municipal decision making. It remains to be seen if it can be reconciled with the daily challenge of citizens to navigate through snowy streets.

Dr. Nima Sanandaji is the president of the European Centre for Policy Reform and Entrepreneurship (www.ecepr.org). He is amongst others the author of the The Nordic Gender Equality Paradox (www.nordicparadox.se).