Force Majeure: The Limits of Swedish Gender Equality

Force Majeure is a Swedish film that explores what happens when a man abandons the traditional male role, and concludes that women want some degree of traditionalism after all.

Tomas is a modern Swedish man. He treats women as equals, is an involved father, and lets his wife, Ebba, have the final say in family matters. But while on vacation in the French Alps the family mistakes a controlled avalanche for the real deal – and Tomas runs for it, leaving his family behind.

To add insult to injury, he acts like nothing happened. When Ebba calls him on it, he claims that her recollection must be faulty. But he left is iPhone video camera running.

Ebba’s revenge is to publically humiliate Tomas every chance she gets, telling acquaintances about his cowardice and showing the video to Tomas’s friend, Mats. She then locks him out of their hotel room with a chicken sticker stuck to the door, and pretends that she and the children are not there as he begs to be let in. Finally she comes out, and as he tearfully apologizes and begins opening up about his feelings she tells him to “shut the fuck up”.

Were the gender roles reversed this would be called emotional abuse and patriarchal control. But the film seems okay with a woman doing this.

The mood is infectious. Mats’ girlfriend, Fanni, says Mats would have been a coward in the same situation, though she has no specific reason to back up her accusation. Mats defends himself by saying that he provides for his children, but Fanni dismisses this because the children live with his ex-wife. Mats notes that Fanni has no children, and asks her how she would feel if he demeaned her because of this. Well, obviously that would be sexist. But Fanni won’t back down on her accusation of Mats.

The film seems to imply that Fanni has a point about Mats being less than a man for going on vacation without his children. Yet, Ebba runs into a friend at the resort who is also there without her children, and she’s having a brief affair with an Italian she just met. The fact that her husband doesn’t know is deemed irrelevant, and Ebba’s quizzing of her friend appears to illustrate to the audience why women should not be shamed for making such choices.

At the end there’s a bus accident, and as passengers panic and stampede for the exit – potentially injuring the children on board – Mats takes charge, restores order (shouting, “Women and children first!”), and directs a safe disembarkation.

But it’s not clear whether Fanni learns anything from this. Does she take it for granted because it’s simply Mats’ responsibility as a man? Tomas too is able to redeem himself when Ebba needs to be rescued while skiing.

Certain questions arise:

  • What happens when you raise boys into men with the belief that masculinity is toxic?
  • A woman wouldn’t have been shamed for running from an avalanche, and it’s to be expected that a man raised to believe that manliness is bad would run thinking that no one should shame him. Was Ebba failing to be feminist enough?
  • Why does the most feminist culture on earth make a film which implies that emotional abuse is only wrong when men, but not women, do it? What would the film makers’ take be if the couple were lesbians?
  • Do most women fantasize about men rescuing them? Can a woman be a feminist and still have this fantasy? Are men still patriarchal oppressors when they rescue women, even if women want them to?

Bigger question are:

  • The film’s rescue fantasy is about male leadership. In a dangerous situation, do most women want men to take charge?
  • Could the fact of governmental authority throughout all of human history being almost entirely male be the result, in part, of women’s wishes?

The bottom line is that there are no feminists in avalaches, or sinking ships, or any other dangerous situation. Women want men to take on life threatening risks, and they’ll go back to being feminists once they’re safe.

The problem is that while women demand the traditional male role, they also demean rather than respect men who fulfill it. As Paul Nathanson and Katherine Young write in their upcoming book, Replacing Misandry: A Revolutionary History of Men, a positive male identity must be one…

that is distinctive, necessary, and therefore publicly valued. Without a healthy and positive identity, two current trends will continue: giving up (dropping out of school, society, or even life itself) and attacking a society that has no room for men specifically as men, believing that even a negative identity, acted out in antisocial ways, is better than none at all.

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But feminism has always consisted of, not only a quest for equality, but also female chauvinism. First wave feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton promoted the notion that, “We are, as a sex, infinitely superior to men”. And Ms. Magazine editor Robin Morgan wrote, “I feel that ‘man-hating’ is an honorable and viable political act, that the oppressed have a right to class-hatred against the class that is oppressing them”.

Third wave feminism is no better. Men who step outside of the traditional male role by opening up about men’s issues are “ironically” taunted with “I bathe in male tears”, which is merely a progressive spin on the traditional/conservative insistence that men be strong and silent. That is, both statements shame men back into the traditional male role.

This is not a criticism of the traditional male role. I’ve written before about the positive role of stoicism. And certainly a man can’t rescue a woman from an avalanche if he’s too emotional – as Tomas demonstrates in Force Majeure.

One of my favourite lines from the film is when Mats says to Tomas (and I’m paraphrasing), “I was in therapy for two years, but it didn’t help. Then I screamed for five minutes and felt a hell of a lot better”.

Finally, this film (unintentionally?) raises the question of whether traditional gender roles were entirely created by men and imposed on women, as feminists claim. I don’t think so. I think gender roles developed from the grassroots and that women played a huge role in creating them.

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5 thoughts on “Force Majeure: The Limits of Swedish Gender Equality

  1. Nicely said.

    “I think gender roles developed from the grassroots and that women played a huge role in creating them.”

    I tend to agree, but also biology plays a huge role in there, too. From a coldly clinical standpoint, women are protected because we produce the children. Men’s value in the equation comes from their ability to provide and protect. You see this reflected all over nature, too. Feminism, well feminism lies. In truth the vast majority of women want tradition. We aren’t even really attracted to men when they begin to take on new fangled roles. Biology at play there too, I suppose.

    1. I agree, and I thought about adding something about biology. But at 1,000 words I decided it was long enough.

      You know, it’s interesting that Sweden has among the lowest percentage of female engineers. Even China beats them by a mile. (See Susan Pinker’s The Sexual Paradox.) Why is simple: women, having greater choices in Sweden, gravitate toward nursing, social work, etc. and away from engineering.

      1. Well, I suppose you already know this, but women tend to deny the nature of our own selves. Feminism has done a great deal of harm there, because it shames women even farther away from what we truly desire. We flat out want traditional men and we want jobs more in the people/relationship realm. Women are currently being pushed in a direction that they don’t really want and it’s kind of sad because some of them wake up 30 years later and realize they took a path the culture pushed them towards, rather than one that would truly satisfy their inner desires.

  2. The gynocracy isn’t going to give up their privileges over men – so hypothesizing about a future in which men and women work together again is a waste of time. The 1950s are gone for good. Provide and protect is a deeply sexist way of looking at men and promotes male disposability. What we need now is true equality. See realsexism for a good look at how entrenched cultural misandry truly has become.

    Just like most people stood by during the Nazi destruction of the Jews and during the KKK destruction of blacks, those that benefit from the denigration and destruction of men will sit idly by. They will not act in any meaningful way until it becomes abundantly clear that the destruction of men offers little in return. Until then – you’re only going to get lip service. I’m not talking about just the feminists here. I’m talking about most women and also the cowardly, naive white knights that kowtow to women to remain in power.

    I know that this will never happen, but there needs to be a men’s studies course in high school and college. “The Manipulated Man”, “The Myth of Male Power” and “Stand By Your Manhood” are three books with which every young adult male should be exposed.

    Men need to understand that the destruction of the patriarchy – the primary feminist goal – means to destroy men and the transfer of their power and wealth to women through force of law. This destruction isn’t a game. It’s real – and women are out for blood. This redistribution of wealth has been going on for several decades and has been monumentally successful for women – leaving hundreds of thousands of men dead from financial annihilation and suicide.

    While women were busy being taught how to dominate and control men by feminists, boys were left unschooled in how men have been brutalized by women over the past several decades. Young men need to be taught that women are not their friends and are instead their competitors and adversaries – even within marriage. Mothers – rather than teaching their sons the supposed joys of marriage – should introduce their sons to the all too common, total life destruction men undergo through divorce. As that doesn’t serve the gynocracy – that will never happen. Boys will continue to be sent out naive in the ways of women. Why? Because boys and men are disposable; hence male-only selective service.

    Feminists own the colleges now. The reason they’re going after the fraternities is because being a member of a frat – especially the Greek frats – means you have a huge advantage in life. Feminists don’t like that – so they’re trying to either destroy the frats or force them to be co-ed. It’s all about destroying the patriarchy and transferring men’s power and wealth to women. They will win.

    The Rolling Stone piece didn’t have anything to do with rape. It’s all about money, power and control – and the Greek frats have lots of it. Because of this – feminists will do everything in their power to destroy them. The Rolling Stone debacle was a laser guided attack against Greek frats to force their closure or force them to become co-ed.

    Feminists control all of academia now and actively discriminate against men and boys. Boys are having a tough time in school because the girls are favored by their feminist teachers and the boys are denigrated for being male. You’d think the feminists would want all girl schools. Know why they don’t? That’s easy. Because they can’t run the men’s schools if they’re all male. Having co-ed everything ensures they can use false rape, sexual assault and harassment to get rid of all the male management and teachers. This is why fewer and fewer men become teachers and why many quit the profession. Feminists do want female only STEM classes however. They already have many and will get more and more.

    “Yes Means Yes” has nothing to do with rape. It’s all about the redistribution of men’s power and wealth to women. It’s literally legalized blackmail and extortion through use of fear and/or false accusations. This is the real “rape culture”. This is the gynocracy’s method of choice in redistributing men’s wealth and power to themselves.

    Lest we forget – it was the white knights of the patriarchy that brought “Yes Means Yes” into being. Obama himself spearheaded this particular destruction of college men. All legislation that discriminates against men in favor of women was put in place my powerful male leaders at the behest of the gynocracy. Why? For purposes of garnering votes from women to remain in power. These men gladly threw the majority of men under the bus to maintain the favor of the gynocracy – leaving a path of destroyed men in their wake.

    If I had a son – I’d tell him to never get married nor cohabit with a woman and to avoid unrecorded intimate encounters with women like the plague. If I had a daughter – I’d tell her to do whatever she wanted. I’d also tell my son that his life is just important as any other and to always put himself first, even above women and children’s in life threatening situations. There is zero reason for women to expect that men stick to their traditional roles when women gleefully, with a sense of *empowerment*, walked away from theirs.

    The manipulative and sociopathic way in which men have been convinced to view themselves and other men as disposable is nothing short of a crime against humanity. It’s gynocentric brainwashing and needs to stop post haste.

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