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In Search of Forgotten Women Kings: An Email interview with Kvinnekongen, feminist blogger and mother (Norway)

Grassroots media in Europe
Parenting & motherhood
Sex and sexualities
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“Kvinnekongen refreshes parts of the brain that other blogs cannot reach”
(quote, reader of Kvinnekongen)

Jenny Gunnarsson Payne: Can you begin by telling me a bit about yourself?

Kvinnekongen: I am 32 yrs old. I am a white Norwegian woman, who lives as a single mother of two sons with two different fathers. I have a Masters degree in human geography, which in effect makes me middle class. I grew up in a working class area. My father and stepfather were/are working class, my mother, however, is middleclass. I live in Oslo, Grünerløkka, which is a typical gentrified inner city area with lots of cafés, small shops and so on.

JGP: How, when and why did you become a feminist?

KK: My political awareness came about when I was 15 yrs or so. The place where I lived at the time had a massive youth movement, which occupied a house (squatting) to create a place kids could run independently. Kids from all over the city region joined. One initiative that arose parallel to the house project was a unisex group of about 20 boy and girl activists that solely focused on fighting sexism.

JGP: What is your definition of feminism, what kind of feminism do you stand for and how have your feminist views and priorities changed over time?

KK: My personal feminism is informed by structuralism, post-structuralism, phenomenology, and existentialism.

My feminism has changed over time. At the present time, I am skeptical of how we have degraded the value of motherhood, and in what WAY we enable fathers to enter the stage of family caring. This is very evident in Norway. Norwegian women now share the nurturing practice with fathers. But in our eagerness to include fathers, we under-communicate what mothering represents: we have not investigated the skills of mothering or the premises for good mothering.

The Norwegian maternity leave is a concrete example of this. Norwegian women used to have ten months maternity leave in Norway, but today fathers HAVE TO take out ten weeks out of this leave. If they don’t, the total period will be ten weeks short. In the near future fathers are planned to own 14 weeks of this leave. Women do not object. I wonder if women in general are more critical to this though, while for feminist women the primary focus is equal rights. The goal for equal opportunities in our professional lives seems to have a higher priority in feminism, than our willingness to look at lifecycles and their challenges. Women shall not be seen more as a burden than men professionally; therefore it is an imperative to force fathers to have paternity leaves on behalf of mothers, instead of demanding their own rights, i.e. fathers own leave subsequent to the maternity period. I think it is important to share familial responsibilities, but the lack of awareness that pregnancy and breastfeeding, puts a heavier strain on mothers, is not spoken of. If fathers could argue to get their own leave without shortening mothers leave, I think we would be better off. There are no feminist groups besides Kvinnekonger that bring these concepts to the table, in Norway.

My feminism has changed over time with regards to various aspects of family life. I live in a welfare state in which I appreciate great security and extended rights. But I think we should address all civil rights on individual levels instead of hiding them in a nuclear family structure. My other perspectives on feminism have stayed mostly the same: I advocate anti-violence, anti-sexual-violence, right to choose, freedom of expression, anti patriarchal-structures, anti-sexism and a critical view on how women are re-presented in society generally and the media specifically. I do think sex- education has been under prioritized the last five-ten years and that worries me. I grew up under the HIV/AIDS period and back then there was a greater focus on sex-education, I think. There is a lot of important work to be done here. And targeting young women is as important as it ever was.

JGP: Tell me more about your blog!

KK: In Kvinnekonger (meaning ‘Women Kings or kingwomen’. Others have suggested English translations such as She-Sultan, LadyLord, SheKing, she-sire, she-sovereign, dame-dynast, madam maharajah) I try to shift perspectives and shed light on events from different feminist perspectives. Not only shed light, really, but use different feminist theories and traditions and advocate the relevance they still have, even though we look at most phenomena with different glasses these days, so to speak. I think we are too quick to disregard certain knowledge and certain perspectives which were produced in the past.

Firstly, therefore, Kvinnekonger is a pragmatic project: The main aim is to continue the search of forgotten Kvinnekonger.

Secondly, I like to throw wrenches in the machinery. Like third-wave feminists I reject essentialism. This produces juxtaposition or an intended paradox when I take aim at worshipping female assets and skills. I am worshipping stereotypical female values, for example, informed by the understanding that these are not biological truths we have to take for granted.

Thirdly, I also do just the opposite and exemplify the countless examples of women existing outside the stereotypical female frame. I try to show how it still does matter if you are a boy or a girl, a woman or a man, in many important situations in life – and I try to show at the same time it does not matter at all. You can be whatever you want to be, sort of, even a king. Some women have already achieved this. My blog shows this: the forgotten Kingwomen.

Kvinnekonger is therefore a rebellion against the re-presentation of women in our society.

The name Kvinnekonger is inspired by the hip hop culture which uses this title to advocate outstanding performance. The king is also the ultimate patriarchal phenomenon. It needs to implode or at least be remodeled.

In a job interview a woman asked me some time ago if I considered myself to be a creative or a structured person. I said those specific axes were a misunderstanding of what it means to be creative. One of the very best creative strategies is to be very, very structured. She said “Well, a lot of people would disagree with you on that”. I answered her “Well, that’s the way I operate.” Kvinnekonger is an example of a very structured process, with a presumably creative result.

JGP: How important do you think the Internet is for feminist politics (yours and others), and why?

KK: I think it offers an easy way to connect, try out your arguments and express yourself. In media in general, say newspaper comments, essays and so on – women are poorly represented. In Aftenposten (Norwegian newspaper) this summer women delivered 28% of the columns. Blogging represents a new way to put forward opinions, a way to connect with people with similar ideas and promote your ideas to people before unreachable.

Links: (Kvinnekongen blog) (Anne Aaby, a.k.a. KK, weblog)

Note: This interview is an edited version of an e-mail interview made for research purposes by Jenny Gunnarsson Payne, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, Stockholm University. The final version of the interview was conducted on the 16th of November 2009. This version is published with the consent of Anne Aaby (Kvinnekongen).

Anne Aaby, a.k.a. Kvinnekongen
Jenny Gunnarsson Payne
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