Scandinavian girls have more fun

My kids were playing at the park up the street and made friends with a boy and girl who spoke fluent Norwegian. An hour later, my three daughters were in their backyard, splashing around in a hot tub. At some point, I was telling the mom, who is Norwegian and a doctor, about my blog. She said that her daughter is not, and never was, into princesses. She told me she’d noticed how sexist American movies and TV are, and that the media in Norway isn’t like that at all. (“What is going on with this American talk show host and contraception?” she asked. “That would never happen in Norway.”) She started pulling out books and DVDs from her shelves. Not only did most of them include female characters but they were pictured front and center. I bet the reason that her five year old daughter isn’t a “girlie-girl” is because she’s hasn’t been brought up on American media. You’ve probably heard of the Scandinavian Pippi Longstocking, but what about this Norwegian grandmother?

Or this elephant firefighter?

All of her DVDs look like that– the submarines, soldiers, police, and helicopters are female characters. I wish I spoke Norwegian.

“I’m not a feminist,” she told me. “I never had to be before I came to America. It’s so sexist here, maybe I am one now.”

17 thoughts on “Scandinavian girls have more fun

  1. This is a very late comment to this story, but I thought that you might like to know that one of the shows you covered in this post – the one with the elephant firefighter – has been translated to English, as “City of Friends”, and is now airing in England.

    More information on it is here – .

    And an interview relating to it is here – .

    I hope that you find this to be of interest!

  2. May I offer this adult book: Tomorrow’s Children, author Riane Eisler. It was published in 2000 She laid the groundwork for Tomorrow’s children in her 1998 book, The Partnership Way. She is also the author of the historical work, The Chalice and the Blade. I would also recommend the adult book, A Chorus of Stones by Susan Griffin. Margot is right that there is and has been an ongoing war against women and children. I believe we must have the foundation firmly laid. This is not just a passing phenomenon against women. We have only to look at what the Inquisition did, and what is in our own history, the Salem Witch hunt. And look at the present day, Santorum, Rush Limbaugh and that ilk.

  3. Perhaps what she’s so quick to judge as sexism is simply a cultural difference? There are many different cultures, all over the world, from the beginning of time, that have had differing stances on women’s roles. In some women lead, some men, some it varies. We do have cartoons with strong female roles – PowerPuff Girls, Dora The Explorer, Kimpossible, She-Ra, The Proud Family etc.

    The beauty of being a feminist is that it allows the woman to choose. If she chooses to be a princess, stay at home mom or live and breathe the color pink that doesn’t make her any less a feminist, she is exercising her freedom of choice.

    Likewise if she wants to be a cop, wear blue, or fight in the army – that’s her choice as well. It doesn’t make her more of a feminist.

    Most of us choose to mix it up – and it’s the choice that’s important. If you give your daughter a well rounded life experience that allows her to choose, then it doesn’t matter what’s on the TV.

    • Hi Cheryl,

      The problem is that kids do not have a choice. Yes, hypothetically, a girl can choose any LEGO set but when most are pictured with boys playing them derived from movies like Star Wars that feature almost all male characters, or her cupcake sets that features girls front and center with ads all over TV. Kim Possible bares her belly button. Dora is now a princess. I like the Power Puff girls. They are not on diapers like teh Disney princesses are. I don’t know She-Ra or the Proud Family.

      It does matter what’s on TV.


      • I’d have to respectfully disagree. No matter what society says or does, my influence is more important and effective as a parent. And if it’s not, then I adjust my lifestyle so it is. If we step away from the commercialism, there won’t be as big a problem.

        • Hi Somewhatcruchy,

          I absolutely agree parents are the MOST important influnence. Yes, yes, yes! I do not think that parents are the sole influence or in control of marketing and media in a way that they can stop it from influencing their kids. I think the best thing we can do, as parents, is teach kids to be critical thinkers. Also, to protect their imaginatiosn as long as possible. But monitoring every cereal box picture and friend and sign on a bus, no.


  4. I came here to read because this link ended up in my facebook feed.

    What is wrong with girlie girls? When did it become wrong for girls to be feminine? We have 4 boys and 1 girl. She can rough house with the boys, but she loves her girlie dresses and princesses. She has been brought up with far more episodes of Batman than her favorite princess movies and way more blue than even I like.

    She was born a girl, what makes it so wrong to act like one?

    I’m just saying…

    • Hi Honey,

      I honestly don’t thing we have any idea what it means to “act like a girl.” There is so much marketing with so much money spent telling us what that is. Pink used to be a boy color (a version of the powerful red) and blue was a girl color (virgin mary, cinderella, alice in wonderland). Segmenting the marketplace is an effective way to sell products.
      I’d rather kids options not be limited and their imaginations not colonized by Disney, it limits brain growth. I’ve written about this extensively on the blog. Try reading my post “Female desire and the princess culture.”


  5. I was pondering this yesterday, actually, with your Facebook comment about sexualised advertising. We just don’t see too much of it in Australia, and the stuff we do see is for a very brief time, before it is howled down by popular opinion and a strong advertising standards board.

    But, unfortunately, the popular story lines and characters our kids are exposed to are very much americanized, with the emphasis on interesting male lead characters and supporting, soft females. Our media and literature industries basically just reflect the trends in yours. It really takes a lot of (worthwhile!) effort to seek out strong female characters. I think we need to find a Norwegian translator!!

    • Accidental Housweife,

      Yes, the American culture dominates and this is the problem, it is so powerful. It really enrages me that the “land of the free and the brave” is so sexist. We rank far behind other countries. We’ve never had a female president??


  6. I was sent this by a friend, Susan Lapointe who I met in her writing class… We had so much fun, we formed a writing group, Therascribes – therapy through writing and put it on-line, Writing Moves as a closed group. I am half Norwegian, there have been many changes in life, but today, I am retired and my granddaughter, 8-year old great granddaughter and I live together. She loves to read, and as we have four generations of “single” females, favor stories with strong, active females..

  7. I love this post so much. Our family, though very thoroughly American, never adopted America’s current twisted version of girlhood. I am so proud of the intelligent, loud, creative, silly, wild, and adventure-loving little girl I’m raising. She loves her skirts and mismatched tights….that she wears to go smash in mud puddles with her trusty dog as she pretends she’s a knight of the castle.

    No princesses here, no sexualization, and no fixation on beauty. We do childhood here.

  8. I’d definitely recommend Astrid Lindgern’s books, particularly Lotta’s adventures. I remember loving her when I was little and finding her really, really funny. 🙂

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