Mid Sweden University has to pay 25,000 crowns (roughly $2,900 USD) in damages to one of its male employees. The man, a lecturer at the university, was discriminated against because of his gender when he couldn’t apply for grants which were given exclusively to female scientists.
According to the university, female professors are underrepresented in its faculty of human sciences. Therefore, the school wanted to even out the difference by handing out money to female scholars only. The Equality Ombudsman, however, was not impressed by the university’s “good intentions,” and took the man’s case to court.
Too much equality
The Equality Ombudsman says that Swedish law allows for affirmative action as a way to make workplaces more gender equal. Yet, by excluding men entirely from being able to receive the grants, Mid Sweden University took it a step too far. The court agreed and recently came to a decision in favor of the man.
Although the university was sued for 50,000 crowns, the man will only be getting half of that amount. According to the court’s ruling, the damage he suffered was not very severe. The two grants in question, handed out during 2014 and 2015, were for 750,000 crowns each. The university says it will not continue to give grants exclusively to women.
A system rigged against men
This was not the first time that Mid Sweden University discriminated against men. In fact, it has been passing out these women-only grants for the last ten years, apparently without any qualms about them being purposefully sexist. And the school is not alone in doing it.
According to the independent organization Centre for Justice, unlawful discrimination against men is common at Swedish universities. A study by the organization, examining the last five years, shows that more than half of universities have had a similar sexist system of handing out grants as Mid Sweden University.
Centre for Justice writes that the law is “crystal clear” on this issue, and continues:
It is a serious matter when government agencies systematically violate the Discrimination Act’s demand for equal treatment and prohibition against discrimination.
In court, Mid Sweden University defended its actions. According to the school, it was working for the “entirely legitimate purpose” of creating a “better gender balance” among its professors. The school also took into account “societal values,” and demands from the government.
Since Mid Sweden University is run by the government, it needs to meet certain goals every year to receive financing. From 2012 to this year, at least 32 percent of professors hired by the school have had to be female. Many other universities face the same kind of requirements.
Of the professors hired by Södertörn University, for example, a minimum of 45 percent must be female. It is no wonder that Swedish schools practice affirmative action when their very existence, in terms of receiving their checks from the government, depends on it.
A modest proposal
So what does a male scholar have to do to get by in this Swedish climate of sexism towards his kind? One modest proposal is that he simply changes his gender a la the great role model of our time, Caitlyn Jenner. Not only would universities throw money at him—sorry, her—and treat her with as much privilege as any other female, but she would also be hailed by the mainstream media as outstandingly courageous.
Other males would then follow the scholar’s lead and soon academia would be permeated with cross-dressing, fabulous (but rather big boned) “women.”
All jokes aside, the issue of affirmative action is serious and should actually be opposed by both men and women. For men, it’s a matter of getting the job they deserve and not be discriminated for the way they were born. For women, it’s a matter of personal pride and dignity. In the case of the employer, getting the best person for the job should be his or her number one priority. Merits, not sex, are what qualify a candidate for a position.
Elsa Kugelberg, editorial writer for Dagens Nyheter, has taken a firm stance against affirmative action. In a recent column, she writes:
If you give women a special support it signals that they by definition are worse—they need to be pampered to be able to get anywhere in this world. That attitude will if anything deter women from a scholarly career, or at least attract them for the wrong reasons.
Unfortunately, not all Swedes are as fair-minded and reasonable as Elsa Kugelberg. Since she is woman, though, people will hopefully be more open to what she has to say about this subject.
Forces for good and evil
One way to see it is that this story brings both good news and bad news. First the bad news: There is institutionalized discrimination against men in Swedish academia. Lots of people know about it yet choose to do nothing in the face of actual, unadulterated injustice. Only when it’s called out as illegal do the guilty ones show any sign of regret or understanding of their wrongdoing.
Now to the good news: there are forces working for good. Swedish law is flawed, but the legal system still punishes the most outright offences. Independent groups like Centre for Justice do what they can to shine a light on cases where individuals are penalized not because they acted badly, but because they belong to the wrong group.
Yes, there are forces working in our favor. Forces that work for justice, for its own sake. That’s right: not social justice, but true justice.
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