Feminist Conversations is a regular series at Feminists for Choice. We spotlight activists from across the interwebs to find out what feminism means to them. Elin and Hennie Weiss are feminist sisters from Sweden who write fierce blog posts and recently joined the Feminists for Choice team. We love with their well-researched and hard hitting pieces and think it kicks ass that sisters would collaborate this way. Rock on Elin and Hennie, and welcome to the team!
1. When did you first call yourself feminists, and what influenced that
When discussing this question we both feel as if we have been feminists for most of our lives, and it felt natural to us, even though we did not really put a label on it until around the age of 18. It feels like it was less of a conscious decision and more the result of being able to have remarkably few gendered expectations placed on us as we were growing up.
2. Did your upbringing lead you to develop strong feminist positions as adults?
Absolutely. Our parents were very gender non-dramatic as we were growing up. We were never told that there were certain things we could or could not do, and our parents encouraged us to engage in any activity that we liked. In many ways, gender was not such an important issue in our home and we did not feel that our parents made gendered decisions in terms of chores or activities. We also believe that we were very lucky to grow up in a busy non-traditional and non-religious family that lived in a fairly rural place. That fostered independence and acceptance in our family, but starting school we realized that there was certain expectations placed on girls that we did not believe in or agree with.
3. When did the two of you decide to begin writing as a team and what was your first piece?
We had talked about writing together for a while but did not start until fairly recently. It was not until December of 2011 that we wrote our first piece together. It was a shorter piece for the feminist blog The F-Word titled One Size Fits All? The piece discussed H&M’s use of computer animated models in which a virtual body was created and different model heads were placed on the body and the skin color was changed to fit the head of the real model. Writing as a team is fun and we are able to discuss and expand our ideas. Usually one of us comes up with a topic or an idea. Thereafter that person usually writes the bulk of the piece. Then the other person adds their ideas and opinions and together we edit what we wrote.
4. How do you see your work as bloggers connecting to the feminist movement as a whole?
We both prefer writing and reading as a source of activism over going out and for example demonstrating. There is so much information on the Internet, which changes the ways that people can be active and included. Information and opinions are easy to come by on the Internet and we feel that opinion pieces, discussions and blogs are used to spread ideas, form coalitions and organize protests and petitions. Blogging is our way of engaging in discussions and connecting with the feminist movement while reaching a wide audience.
5. Do you see any major differences between gender imbalances/sexism in the U.S. and Europe?
We feel that the countries that we know of and have lived in (Sweden, Ireland, and the US) have the same problems, inequalities and sexism. In all three countries women are not equal citizens in comparison to men. The major difference that we both noticed is that Ireland and the US are more traditional when it comes to gender roles and gender role expectations than Sweden. Sweden is a very secular country and we believe that secularism partly accounts for the difference. Religious influences in both Ireland and in the US, we believe, is a major contributor to the gendered stereotypes that exist in those countries. In Sweden, however, there is a strong belief that Sweden is already equal and that Swedish society is much more equal than all other societies, therefore nothing else needs to be done! This belief is so problematic because it completely overestimates gender equality while ignoring the imbalances and the sexism which is still quite rampant.
6. We love self-care for feminists! When you’re not busy writing blog posts and exposing gender inequalities what are ways that you take care of yourself?
Elin: I have a hard time relaxing and I am often very restless so I have to force myself to chill out. When I do I like to go for walks and read. I also love going for a facial or a massage, which is such a nice way to take care of yourself!
Hennie: In order to take care of myself I like to designate some time off to doing absolutely nothing. Sometimes it is nice to not be on a schedule or have a deadline. Living in the city I like to spend time in the forest or by the coast, where I can relax. Sometimes a change of scenery can do the trick.
Janice is a Virtual Assistant, aspiring doula, and long-time feminist activist with a passion for women's history, nonfiction, nature, and wearing flowers in her hair. She is the Founder of The Feminist's Guide, a women's history travel website, which can be found at www.thefeministguide.com.