Post 13 of #GPCat25: Gillian Rose and the Importance of Everyday Experiences of Women by Dalia Bhattacharjee

GPC@25The thirteenth post in our series celebrating Gender, Place and Culture turning 25 (#GPCat25) is authored by Dalia Bhattacharjee, a doctoral candidate at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Mohali, India. Her work is an ethnographic inquiry into the lives of the women working as surrogate mothers in India. Adopting Feminist Geography as the framework of research, she acknowledges surrogate mothers as active agents in this industry, and not mere victims.

To find out more about #gpcat25, please read this post and email gpcat25 [at] gmail.com if you would like to contribute. Please also follow us on Twitter and Facebook and include the hashtag #GPCat25 on related posts. 

***

Documenting the everyday experiences of the respondents in my doctoral work remains the central objective of the dissertation. As an ethnographer of commercial surrogacy in India, listening to the experiences of the women working as surrogate mothers has taken the center stage in my research. The stories documented in my fieldwork has directed my work to comprehend commercial surrogacy as a form of “intimate labor”; and it is in this direction that I propose the term “reproductive laborer” in my dissertation to refer to the women working in this intimate market. Through such a perspective, I challenge the construction of the reproductive laborers as disembodied human agent by highlighting on the everyday negotiation of meanings in the spaces of the surrogate house, a controlled and surveilled space where the women are supposed to stay for the entire gestation period. Highly inspired by the approach in feminist geography to capture the everyday activities of women and other marginalized groups as the basis for knowledge production, I work towards paying special attention to the multiplicity of the experiences of the women working as surrogate mothers in the Indian commercial surrogacy industry.

Feminist geography has developed into the field of human geography in a social and political context which has had a considerable impact on the topics chosen for enquiring and the methods used for the same. It argued that the domination of the discipline of geography by men has serious consequences both for what counts as legitimate geographical knowledge and who can produce such knowledge. Gillian Rose’s book Feminism and Geography (1993) plays an important role in critiquing the existing process of knowledge production. She refers to a range of feminist theory to develop her claim that hat “to think geography – to think within the parameters of the discipline in order to create geographical knowledge acceptable to the discipline – is to occupy a masculine subject position” (p. 4). She goes on exploring the ways in which feminist scholars might adopt a strategy in order to resist and move beyond the masculinity of geographic knowledge production, which is characterized by the absence of women’s voices.

Gillian Rose examines the approaches in geography that have attracted feminist researchers as well. She takes into consideration time geography, which implies tracing everyday lives through time and space in order to account for social life in its spatial setting. Feminist geographers have been naturally attracted by the highlight on routine and everyday behavior. However, as noted by Rose, the assumption of time geography “that space can always be known and mapped”; that space is “absolutely knowable” (p. 38), clearly silences what is certain about the one who claims to have that knowledge. This masculine subject position has been described by her as “social-scientific”. She further argues that this biased outlook makes it clear why feminist geographers’ attempts to consider time-geography to examine women’s lives have been proven as incompatible to capture the important dimensions of everyday life, namely “the emotional, the passionate, the disruptive, and the feelings of relations with others” (p. 28). In her writing, Rose especially urges to understand the everyday life of women because the seemingly banal and trivial happenings of the everyday are shaped by power structures which restrict and confine women.

Thus, walking on the road shown by Gillian Rose, I base my dissertation on the embodied and emotional experiences within the inter-subjective context of gestational commercial surrogacy in India. These narratives of surrogate motherhood as shared by the reproductive laborers in this research assign meanings to their own lives. It is of utmost necessity to take into account women’s everyday experiences in feminist research because these experiences lead us to understand the nuances which work towards highlighting the ways in which women navigate the power structures in their day-to-day lives and attain a sense of empowerment with whatever they achieve at their disposal. These experiences otherwise remain overshadowed by the dominant narratives which only display the helplessness and victimhood attached to the lives of the women, often implied as the subordinated “other”. Feminist geographers like Gillian Rose and others have helped emerging scholars like me to embrace the voices of the women as the highlighting factor in research than merely referring to malestream and mainstream Euro-American theories which continue to take major space in academia.

Therefore, the major focus of my PhD dissertation has been to highlight the voices of the reproductive laborers, which otherwise remain hidden beneath the discourses which stigmatize these women and perceive them as perpetual victims at the hands of the capitalist economy and patriarchy. My research acknowledges the choices made by the reproductive laborers in India, who are willing to make use of whatever market can provide in pursuit of her own vision of a better future, or, celebration of her self-worth. To conclude, I would like to quote one of my key respondents, whose words remain the motivated factor behind my writings and inspires me further to continue writing. She says,

Please write a book on us. The society doesn’t understand us and we all we have to go through for survival. They think that we have chosen the easy path. I want them to know that it is never easy to be a surrogate mother. They think we sell babies for money; and we sleep with other men. I wish they had the heart to believe us and accept us as much as they accept any other men who work for money. Please let our stories be heard!

Advertisements

Gender, Place and Culture Welcomes New Interim Managing Editor: Dr. Margaret Walton-Roberts

Today’s post comes from our new Interim Managing Editor, Dr. Margaret Walton-Roberts.  Please join us in welcoming her and thanking her for taking over the role until June 30th, 2019.

***

20170816_104845

As of the beginning of this year, I assumed the role of interim Managing Editor at Gender, Place and Culture (GPC). I volunteered to take over from Pamela Moss, who was in the position for two years, until our new Managing editor Lena Grip takes over in July.   I am sure you would all support me as I thank Pamela for her tireless work, especially since she oversaw our celebrations of 25 years of GPC. The journal’s celebration of this wonderful milestone is testament to the work of feminist scholars who have volunteered their time over the years to promote feminist scholarship in geography and build a legacy for feminist geography within the discipline. Please take some time to look into the journal over the coming months to read some of the wonderful research and review articles and interviews that will be appearing.

I have been an editor with GPC for the past one and half years, and in that time I have come to appreciate the importance of the journal for feminist geography. I must thank Kanchana Ruwanpura,  Katherine Brickell  and Özlem Altan-Olcayas who are fellow editors, Marcia England and Nathaniel Lewis as Book Review Editors, and Anna Tarrant and Lisa Dam as Social Media Editors. I am also very grateful to the staff at Taylor and Francis, including but not limited to Marizon Calapano and Sarah Bird, who help us keep things moving along.

Under Pamela’s leadership the journal has introduced new publishing formats: Interventions, Book Review Essays, Dissertation Précis, and Multimedia Contributions. General Descriptions of each can be found here. Interventions are similar to Themed Sections, but the contributions are shorter and organized around one problematic. Book Review Essays can either be an author reviewing more than one book or a group of authors engaging with one book. Dissertation Précis are descriptions of recently completed doctoral dissertations and their contributions to the wide ranging fields of feminist geographies. Multimedia Contributions are alternative formats for academic work, including for example, photo-essays and videos, with accompanying text.

Even with these changes, the journal will continue to be organized around what previous editors have seen as its central, most basic value – generating a supportive and intellectually engaged environment for publishing feminist work in geography. Editors seek out leading scholars to provide critical readings of manuscripts. These scholars deliver informed and detailed reviews that assist authors in developing and enhancing the scholarship manifest in the submissions. The feedback, nearly always offered in the generous spirit of intellectual expansion, gives the authors some direction during the revisions.  We deeply appreciate the vast and detailed intellectual work accomplished by GPC reviewers. We understand the demands made on your time, and as a peer-reviewed journal we depend upon your contribution and are always grateful when you say yes to our requests (and submit your review!!).  Editors support authors through the review process, especially those going through the process for the first time or are early on in their careers. As Editors, we are also committed to mentoring junior scholars as reviewers.

GPC has been a very important space for emerging scholars globally. The journal publishes in English. We have been working toward expanding contributions to the English-speaking scholarly community by finding ways to promote scholarship from outside of the Anglo-American sphere. If you would like to submit to GPC please be sure to check out our publishing advice. If you ever have a question about the journal, the review process, or your aspirations for publishing, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am happy to be part of a conversation. While I am interim managing editor until June 30th 2019, I will remain on as an editor with GPC, and look forward to working with you.

Let me close with an invitation. On behalf of the entire editorial group, I invite you to submit your work to GPC. For you – all of you – are key in continuing the strong tradition that has made GPC what it is today.

 

Post 12 of #GPCat25: Girl Separatism for Gender Equality in Public Places by Gubb Marit Stigson

GPC@25The twelfth post in our series celebrating Gender, Place and Culture turning 25 is authored by Gubb Marit Stigson, who graduated in human geography at the master’s level from Lund University. The author has specifically focused on gender in urban planning and transportation and has also looked at gendered vulnerability and resistance in rural areas in Sweden. Drawing from the girls and trans separatist skate group Tösabidarna in Malmö as an example, this post discusses how separatist activities can enable girls to claim public spaces.

To find out more about how the journal is marking it’s 25th year, you can read Managing Editor Pamela Moss’ post here. Please also follow us on Twitter and Facebook and include the hashtag #GPCat25 on related posts. If you would like to contribute to the series, please contact us at gpcat25 [at] gmail.com.

***

A few years ago in Sweden, urban planners saw a trend in planning for public places designed to motivate spontaneous outdoor activity. All over the country, from the bigger urban centers to small towns and villages, outdoor gyms, climbing walls and skate parks were popping up like mushrooms. Along with this development, planners discovered that these places were often dominated, sometimes completely, by boys and men. Girls and women seemed to go missing, and this was identified as a problem as gender equality is often an outspoken goal for politicians and urban planners in Sweden.

Male domination in spaces outside the home is not a new phenomenon, as the tradition that home is the women’s sphere, and public places are for men goes way back in history[1]. In Malmö, the biggest city in southern Sweden, planners figured that the problem might not lie in the lack of place designed for “girl activities”, but rather that the lack of girls in public places was due to an alienation of girls from the planning process. Malmö municipality therefore employed a group of girls from the area Rosengård to redesign a local parking lot into a place for outdoor activities. The result is “Rosens Röda Matta” (The Rose’s red carpet), with a stage, Bluetooth music player, a climbing wall and other elements picked by the girls[2]. Still, a few months after the finishing of the project, the organization Add Gender evaluated the gender equality among visitors to Rosens Röda Matta and found that boys were in absolute majority[3].

Pierre Bourdieu, the sociologist that developed the theory of habitus and field[4], and Torsten Hägerstrand, the human geographer that developed time-geography, and the theory of components, projects and domains[5], both argue that individuals and groups move in time-space, restricted or enabled by different characteristics, assets and capital. Bourdieu sees social life as field, in which certain rules, and the actor’s social, symbolic, cultural and economic capital determine the position of actors in the field. In the case of public space for outdoor activities, capital can be friends and role models, fashion, tradition and ability to buy equipment. Bourdieu argues that despite the position in the field, girls and women are almost always disadvantaged in relation to boys and men, due to the long tradition of male domination in public space which has enabled the group to strengthen its position in the field.

In Hägerstrand’s theory, projects, consisting of individuals with tools that need a certain amount of time and space, compete against other projects for cells of time-space. This is done either by competing against the weaker, or adjusting to stronger projects, and the ability to do this is determined by the strength of the project’s components, and the creating of domains which can consist of laws and culture that decide who gets access and when. In the case of girls taking time-space in public places, restrictions suck as weaker tools, problems in connection of tools, or that a space is inaccessible due to power restrictions, can explain why so few girls use public space. Lack of friends that hang out in skate parks fail a connection of tools, and male power domination make the space inaccessible.

With male domination in public space, and the lack of tradition of girls and women to engage in outdoor activities in public spaces calls for action. In my bachelor thesis, I wanted to study girl separatism as a means to strengthen girls as a group in the field or domain that is public space for physical activity. I thought that by creating what was always given to boys as a group, undisturbed access to public space, girls would get a chance to create their own culture and tradition around it. I turned to the girls and trans separatist skate group Tösabidarna in Malmö to hear about their experiences of separatist skateboarding. I found that the group spoke of exactly the things that are mentioned in Bourdieu’s and Hägerstrand’s theories. The separatist sessions create a safe space for girls to learn to skate, to make friends and find role models. The leaders often saw how girls coming to the separatist sessions started coming to the park at other times as well, as they made friends with other girls and learned the basics in skateboarding and hence felt more at home in the park[6].

I also created a focus group of women with experience of working in organizations that either were separatist or worked with separatist projects. In our conversation, most witnessed that the separatist activities had positive effects. The room felt safer, and the participants didn’t have to relate to male participants that tend to dominate if the activities are open for all. Again, the importance of having a safe space to make friends, and have the ability to create or strengthen a tradition of taking space and speaking up, were mentioned as the aim of the activities. Even if criticized for being counterproductive or even discriminating, all participants in the focus groups agreed that separatist activities, if contextualized and motivated properly, are positive for girls and women as a group[7].

My study found that girl separatism in spaces for spontaneous outdoor activities can help strengthen the group in a space marked by tradition of male dominance. The dedicated time-space enable girls as a group to gain capital, and strengthen and connect tools with one another, which in the long run gives girls a better position to compete with other groups in the field and for cells of time-space.

This text is an extract of the bachelor thesis Frihet, Jämlikhet och Systerskap (Freedom, Equality and Sisterhood) (Stigson, 2015)


Footnotes:

[1] Schough, Katarina (red.)(2002) Svensk Kulturgeografi och Feminism: rötter och rörelser i den rumslig disciplin. Univ. Inst. för samhällsvetenskap. Karlstad

[2] Plan. (2013) Rosens Röda Matta – stadsplanering på tjejers villkor. Plan. Nr: 5-6. 2013. Föreningen för samhällsplanering. Stockholm s

[3] Add Gender (2013) Konsten att ställa rätt frågor – En studie om Jämställdhetsintegrerad stadsplanering i Malmö stad. Malmö

[4] Bourdieu, Pierre (1999) Den Manliga Dominansen. Daidalos. Göteborg

[5] Hägerstrand, Torsten (1970) What about People in Regional Science? In: Chorley, Richard J. (red.)(1973) Directions in Geography. Methuen & Company Ltd. London

[6] Participatory observation. Bryggeriet skejtpark (2015-05-04) Malmö

[7] Focus group conversation (2015-05-07) Lund

Post 11 of #GPCat25: Gender and space in the neo-liberal academy? Reflections from a feminist geographies summer school

GPC@25

The eleventh post in our series celebrating Gender, Place and Culture turning 25, is about the “Gender and Space” summer school organized by members of Arbeitskreis Geographie und Geschlect (“Geography and gender” working group), a landmark academic association of feminist geographers in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. The summer school was also a way of celebrating a 30-year anniversary of the grounding of the association. It provided an opportunity for more than one hundred students and scholars to engage with key feminist theories, concepts, research, and methodologies. A group of its participants collectively wrote this contribution for our blog. 

To find out more about how the journal is marking it’s 25th year, you can read Editor Pamela Moss’s post here. Please also follow us on Twitter and Facebook and include the hashtag #GPCat25. If you’d like to contribute to the series, please contact us at gpcat25@gmail.com.

What does it mean to succeed or to fail in today’s academia? How do these expectations contribute to our day-to-day working culture? Is there a feminist way of being a professional, a student, a teacher? How do we create more caring and ethical spaces for teaching, researching, and writing? The questions of academic labor at the changing and increasingly neo-liberal university were a recurring theme among more than one hundred students, researchers and scholars that participated in the first German-speaking feminist geography summer school. We got together for five days in September this year in the middle of the Swiss idyllic countryside with the aim to foreground, consolidate and challenge feminist geographical scholarship and activism in German-speaking countries. The summer school galvanized interest of large numbers of young scholars. It was especially exciting since feminist geography, until recently, has been on the fringes of the discipline within the universities of Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Many geographic departments are often missing in-depth courses where young scholars have the opportunity to deal with feminist research topics.

The “Gender and Space” summer school was organized by members of Arbeitskreis Geographie und Geschlecht (“Geography and gender” working group), a landmark academic association of feminist geographers in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. The event was also a way of celebrating a 30-year anniversary of the grounding of the association that continues to gain prominence, especially in the last couple of years. The summer school offered an opportunity to dive deeper into key feminist theories and concepts, engage with feminist research methodologies, discuss trans-disciplinary political and activist positions and interventions. Academic labor and its discontents was one theme that we grappled with as students, teachers, supervisors and activists. To address these challenges, the summer school opened up a space of reflection and care in innovative and inspiring ways. Here, we would like to give you a glimpse into some of these conversations that were part of the creative method of Berufswege or “vocational journeys”. Heidi Kaspar and Muriel Côte developed the method as a walk through the Herzberg forest interspersed with questions about failures, successes, inequalities and pressures of academic work. Below is an excerpt of the walking contemplation undertaken by Katha, Joshua, Alev, Eva, Sunčana, Stephanie and Renata, seven people who mostly did not know one another. We encountered the following five questions in our walk through the idyllic forest.


Berufswege
Question 1.
A question about work/life balance… “Women can have it all!” (i.e. “career” and family) What does this mean? Do you find this important/desirable?

figure1
Figure 1: Berufswege start (Photo taken by Alev Coban)

“No I do not want to have it all, if that means engaging in toxic power play and competition, and defending supposed academic kingdoms/queendoms :)…”

“Work/Life balance is super important for me. I try to see my academic work as labor which has boundaries, e.g. timewise. Reading books for my PhD is working time and I am reluctant to work at the weekend.”

“Academia is also just a job! Not a ‘mission’ and not more important than what other people do!”

“Do questions of ‘work/life balance’ only to refer to women with children?”

Berufswege Question 2.
A question about our dreams and successes… What is the ideal job for you?

figure2
Figure 2: Forest question (Photo taken by Alev Coban)

“Ideal job: less hierarchical, less institutional and bureaucratic impositions, working less hours…”

“Solidarity network, inside and outside academic life, which gives like a base of people and relations where you connect with different people for different projects. Also sharing perspectives within academia and outside academia.”

“Working in a diverse surrounding where different forms of knowledge and capacities are valued (not just being able to understand or write complicated texts based on white masculinist thinking).”

“I agree. The idea of pure individual work feels harsh for me.”

Berufswege Question 3.
A question about our failures… What do you consider a failure in your work?

figure3
Figure 3: Failing in academia (Photo taken by Alev Coban)

“It feels like a failure that I have not completed my PhD during the three years of my scholarship. Due to the support of my supervisor, I don’t have to finish writing my thesis while handling the bureaucracies of being formally unemployed. I got a 50% contract for one year at the university where I’m doing the doctorate. Nevertheless, the time limits of scholarships and usual contracts at the university, do make me feel too slow for academia.”

“I feel responsible for what is happening in ‘my’ classroom. I have various experiences in teaching when it was important to support students in their situation, in their position, in their knowledge. I am not always able to do that in the ‘right way’ or to react in the moment. This also includes my way of rejecting positions when intervening into student discussion that involve racist, sexist, ableist, classist… comments. Sometimes I really feel helpless and angry with me not being able to handle these situations…”

“I feel like I cannot express clearly my analytical ideas and I have trouble in producing something within academic patterns. I wish there were other patterns we could follow that could count as scientific knowledge.”

Berufswege Question 4.
A question about activism… Is there a feminist way of being a professional, a student, a teacher?

figure4
Figure 4: Berfuswege flowers (Photo taken by Alev Coban)

“I do understand feminism more as a praxis than as a theory. So for me it is more about how to establish structures within everyday professional routines that open up space for doing things differently, for sharing emotions, for caring about each other, for supporting other people in saying NO (or YES). This also includes developing strategies for sharing privileges, supporting marginalized positions and sometimes being a killjoy… (yeah Sara!)”

“A feminist methodology means thinking about why and how I am doing things and how far this is inside a patriarchal and white male structure and pattern. Through this method I can always try and find new ways to develop my projects with a caring collective perspective and therefore consolidating the idea of feminism for me.”

Berufswege Question 5.
A question about work culture… What is for you a masculinist work culture? What do we do about it?

figure5
Figure 5: Cobra in Herzberg (Photo taken by Alev Coban)

“Masculinist work culture: taking space without the feeling/need to legitimize/justify that you take this space.”

“A masculinist work culture is a competition space where I have, by means of my status, to impose what I consider as true. “

“A masculinist work culture consists of people who take space without feeling the urge to justify it, e.g. having a specific knowledge, etc.”

“For me this question leads to everyday experiences at my department, e.g. when two of my white male doctoral colleagues insisted that at our department there was no sexism and started explaining to me why. And then later confronting one of them with their own sexist behaviour.”

“One possible method is to amplify female voices in meetings and conferences by referring to and repeating other women’s ideas and contributions, and ensuring that their name is heard.”

“I never heard of the ‘amplifying female voices’ strategy and think it’s worth trying it out in conferences and smaller meetings at our institute. Nevertheless, I think it’s important to not only raise women’s awareness about unequal vocal contributions, but also men’s awareness and support in amplifying female voices.”

“Typical masculinist behaviours are being loud and assuming the ‘Cobra’ body position.”

“It is our task to find out how to deal with different ways of communication, especially with oppressive communication. I would scrutinize that the adaptation of masculinist forms of communication, e.g. taking the Cobra body position, is a desirable solution.”

Finally, we hope these forest conversations and other summer school events and encounters encourage further ways to challenge dominant academic work cultures. We also find these issues extend across different spaces. What are your experiences with obstacles and opportunities of academic workplaces? Share your thoughts, ideas and suggestions in the comments below.

We would like to thank all the participants and organizers, as well as to Gender, Place and Cutlure for co-sponsoring the summer school. For more information about the Gender and Space summer school visit http://humangeographische-sommerschulen.de.

Post 10 of #GPCat25: (In)Accessibility of reproductive health care in rural Sweden, by Gubb Marit Stigson, Ninni Wallström and Bonnie Dahlström

GPC@25

The tenth post in our series celebrating Gender, Place and Culture turning 25, is authored by, Ninni Wallström, Bonnie Dahlström and Gubb Marit Stigson.The authorial team are all human geographers and activists, who participated in an occupation of a local birthing clinic in Sollefteå, Sweden for three nights in August 2017 in protest against its closure. This post reflects on how access to healthcare for women is constantly at threat in Swedish society where women are still considered to be Others, and need to fight hard to have their rights taken seriously. 

To find out more about how the journal is marking it’s 25th year, you can read Editor Pamela Moss’s post here. Please also follow us on Twitter and Facebook and include the hashtag #GPCat25. If you’d like to contribute to the series, please contact us at gpcat25@gmail.com.

 

In our home country, Sweden, we often complement ourselves for being progressive, gender equal and safe. We have a government that proudly call themselves feminist, claiming to let feminist values characterise all decisions and campaigns run by national politicians. However, in recent decades there has been a gradual dismantling or privatization of public welfare services, especially in rural parts of Sweden. Every fifth emergency health care unit has closed since the beginning of year 2000[1], leaving rural citizens around Sweden with increased travel time, reduced safety and increased insecurity regarding their accessibility to healthcare. This inability to maintain basic health care services in rural areas has happened simultaneously with a general shutdown of service facilities, and urbanization as rural dwellers choose to, or are forced to move to bigger cities in order to find a job or secure better access to public services. Almost exclusively, this dismantling is explained by a strained economy, as the political administrative units that are responsible for public healthcare in Sweden always seem to struggle financially. In order to deal with a struggling economy, decision makers are increasingly turning towards reasoning aligned with masculine rationality[2] in order to “take responsibility” by cutting down on women’s health care.

Evidently, these cuts in the welfare sector do not affect all people equally. A report written by Sveriges Kvinnolobby (Sweden’s Women’s Lobby) shows that since the year 2000, no less than 13 birthing clinics have closed around the country, almost all of them in rural regions, making access to maternal and reproductive healthcare worse for those already poorly served. The report also states that in times of economic crisis, women’s healthcare (healthcare specialised for people with uteruses) is the first to go. This is due to the male norm that historically and presently characterises medical practice and theory, constructing women’s healthcare as a luxury that can be withdrawn when times are rough[3]. Consequently, rural women are especially hit by the dismantling of women’s health care as it predominantly affects the rural parts of the country. Thus, rural women face a two-pronged punishment, both as women and as rural dwellers.

The fight for a “living countryside” is a hot topic in Swedish politics. Recently the government appointed a Landsbygdskommittée (countryside committée) to investigate the cause of the rift between rural and urban, and present suggestions for a prosperous countryside in the future. In the 300 page report, and the 75 concretized suggestions, gender equality is mentioned twice, and never in relation to healthcare services and employment. In fact, throughout the report, accessibility to hospitals and maternal healthcare is not mentioned once. Instead, the main focus is on enabling private business and supporting infrastructure such as post offices and internet access[4]. The neoliberal solution leaves public welfare increasingly dismantled. In turn, the lack of state support in rural healthcare weighs heavier on women’s bodies as hospitals and care centres are workplaces heavily dominated by women[5]. Consequently, women’s ability to access safe employment is also undermined.

However, in the last couple of years there has been a popular rise against the dismantling of services in the Swedish countryside. In the town of Dorotea, activists occupied the local care centre for more than three years before it was reopened, and in Sollefteå, a massive occupation movement started as a reaction to the closing of the local birthing clinic in January 2017[6]. In October 2016, almost 15 000 people marched against the healthcare dismantling in Västernorrland region. In the summer of 2017, we visited Sollefteå to participate in the occupation of the hospital birthing clinic. The closing was a result of budget cuts, and has led to increased travel time for people in delivery, whom are forced to drive on roads in bad condition, with bad cell reception and heavy traffic, to the two remaining birthing clinics in the region, now suffering from overcrowding and lack of staff.

The occupation can be seen as a reaction to the lack of supporting infrastructure that lead to restricted personal freedom for people in Sollefteå. In contrary to the political actions, the resistance mobilised through the occupation, and the placing of vulnerable bodies in a certain space, characterised admitting the vulnerability caused by destructive rural politics, and was an attempt to step out of the binary of vulnerability and resistance. The resistance in Sollefteå also puts a finger directly on the problematic report written by the countryside committée, where a lack of intersectional feminist analysis resulted in suggestions that cemented an oppressive and exploitative system rather than challenging and changing it. Moreover, these actions of protest are relatable to a theory formulated by Judith Butler, Leticia Sabsay and Zeynep Gambetti, saying that there is potential for resistance in admitting vulnerability. The authors argue that there is a feminist action to step out of the binary of vulnerability and resistance, and to rather see the potential of mobilising resistance through vulnerability. This opposes the authoritarian, masculinist resistance to vulnerability as a manifestation of power. Instead, vulnerability is used as a means to demand change and the fulfilment of human rights[7].

However, politicians in the county council of Västernorrland (administrative unit for healthcare services in the area) argue that there was no other option, and instead of admitting their vulnerability in a broken system (rural areas in Sweden produce energy, forestry and food for urban centres, but taxes and profit is sent to the state and does not benefit the local community. Still, rural areas are constructed as “too expensive”, “too inefficient”, and in need of “support”) they try to claim power by dismissing it, and following the rite of passage for a “good politician” in patriarchal capitalism.

A politician in a Sollefteå municipality, My, told us that the counties in Norrland (the north land, 58% of Sweden’s total land area, inhabiting 11-12% of the population) need to ally and manifest their vulnerability in order to claim their rights. As Carina, one of the occupation founders, says: “Healthcare must be allowed to cost money, especially with the distances we have here in Norrland.” (my translation)[8].

Footnotes

[1] SVT (2018) Dokument Inifrån: Den stora sjukhusstriden. Sveriges Television. [Online] https://www.svtplay.se/dokument-inifran-den-stora-sjukhusstriden [Accessed: 2018-05-06]

[2] Plumwood, Val (2001) Environmental Culture – the Ecological Crisis of Reason. Taylor & Francis Ltd

[3] Alm Dahlin, Johanna (2017) Med Rätt att Föda – En granskning av satsningar på förlossningsvården i budgetpropositionen för 2018. Sveriges Kvinnolobby

[4] SOU (2017) För Sveriges landsbygder – en sammanhållen politik för arbete, hållbar tillväxt och välfärd. Statens Offentliga Utredningar. Elanders Sverige AB, Stockholm 2017

[5] SCB (2016) Inom vården finns Sveriges vanligaste yrken. Statistiska Centralbyrån. [Online] https://www.scb.se/hitta-statistik/sverige-i-siffror/utbildning-jobb-och-pengar/sveriges-vanligaste-yrken/ [Accessed: 2018-05-21]

[6] http://www.adalen17.se/

[7] Butler, Judith. Gambetti, Zeynep. Sabsay, Leticia (red.)(2016) Vulnerability in Resistance. Durham: Duke University Press

[8] Carina, personal interview, 2018