Ingrid – February 19, 2018
I like to keep up with Scandinavian news, not just because I am Danish-American, but also because my visits to The Danish Home to see my roommate Lindsay’s grandfather, “Farfar,” have become more and more frequent, and I love discussing news from the homeland with him.
Recently, while browsing the Internet, one particular headline caught my attention: “It’s Raining Men in Scandinavia.” I must say, for a single woman nearing 30 with no husband yet in sight, that was most promising!
“Maybe I should move to Sweden,” I told Farfar, as the male population there in 2016 was about 12,000 more men than women. That marked a surplus of men for the first time in that country, as well as Norway, starting in 2015. Here in Chicago, there are about 80,000 more women than men.
At this moment in this post, it’s appropriate to note that there is one less man in Denmark, as Prince Henrik of Denmark passed away last Tuesday, February 13.
At present, male-to-female ratios in Scandinavian countries have balanced out a bit again, with Norway being just about even and Denmark and Finland at 98 and 99 males for every 100 females, respectively. Still, these numbers were never this close before, as women have outnumbered men in nearly every Western country in the world since demographic records started being kept in the mid-1700s.
“Wonder why?” I asked Farfar, thinking (as I often do) of my great-great-great-grandmother Olivia Rose and her fellow female founders of The Danish Home. “Let’s look it up,” said Farfar, who at 93 recently learned to use the iPad Lindsay got him for Christmas. Together, we found some interesting information.
Some researchers suggest that Nordic men lead longer, healthier lives than other men across the world because they are especially active and fit. With bicycles being a principal form of transportation and cross-country skiing a popular form of exercise in the outdoor Scandinavian wonderland, that makes sense. Others say that Nordic cuisine is among the healthiest, even more than the Mediterranean diet.
Still others posit that because Scandinavia is one of the world’s more egalitarian regions where men and women are concerned, men aren’t as predisposed to take life-threatening risks to prove their masculinity. And there are those who make the valid point that the recent influx of immigrants, many of them men, from places such as Afghanistan, North Africa and Syria have added to Scandinavia’s burgeoning male population.
Whatever the reasons, Farfar and I were even more interested in the concerns some have about an increase in men in Nordic countries. Apparently, some feminist researchers, especially in today’s #metoo/#timesup era, are worried that large scale variations in the sex ratio could threaten the egalitarianism that has defined Scandinavia for several years and undermine the gains women have made. Now might be a good time to mention Prince Henrik’s request not to be buried next to his wife, because Queen Margrethe would not name him king after their marriage in 1969.
But Annick Wibben of the University of San Francisco believes that “gender equality is so deeply embedded in Swedish society” that concerns of “hyper-masculinity” taking over are largely unfounded. And a man, Tomas Sobotka of the Vienna Institute of Demography, supposes that a surplus of men in Scandinavia “could increase the bargaining power of women when picking a partner by allowing them to be choosier.” Farfar gave me the side eye when we read that.
“I know exactly what you’re thinking, Farfar. That wouldn’t be such a problem for me, now would it?”