The well-being of women in Norway, perfect egalitarian Norway, is imploding.
It’s been exactly 60 years since the rise of second-wave feminism. The results should serve as a stern warning for everyone.
READ MORE from Hannah Spier: The Dark Side of Norway’s Social Democracy: The Alarming Rise of Disability Claims and Entitlement Culture
For over half a century, one policy to create gender equality has been piled on top of the next without waiting for the side-effect report. In the medical field, no medicine is ever rolled out without proper testing, and, even after its release, there is a process of recording the side effects. Scientists try their best to find the appropriate drug culprit for the reported side effect. Oftentimes, when psychiatric patients are in treatment for years with different professionals and clinics involved, one patient’s list of medications can evolve like a complex Lego tower. Suddenly, those involved lose track of which drug has caused which negative or positive effect.
The state of women in modern Western culture is akin to this patient who has countless medications and is getting sicker by the minute. The doctors continue to blindly prescribe new medications every election cycle.
It’s reasonable to expect that women’s satisfaction would have risen as they have moved out into the workforce and away from raising children at home. Instead, women in the Unites States show signs of being exhausted and disappointed with life. In our waiting rooms, the 41 percent of women with burnout sit next to the 18.4 percent of women with depression.
It’s called the paradoxical decline of female happiness. The commonplace culprits for this phenomenon are a lack of childcare and an unfair distribution of domestic labor.
No country is more egalitarian than Norway, where it has been made easier than anywhere else for women to “do both” and have it all. Women in Norway have limitless opportunities and childcare that is the envy of the world.
If the mother of modern feminism, Simone de Beauvoir, fantasized her ideal world, it would look much like Norway today. Her famous quote comes to mind:
No woman should be authorized to stay at home to raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one. It is a way of forcing women in a certain direction.
And yet 22 percent of all women in Norway went to their family doctor in 2020 because of psychiatric symptoms. In addition, a new Norwegian report stated that sick leave due to psychiatric disorders keeps rising and was at 25 percent for women in 2022.
The country is also struggling to keep women in top executive positions and as business owners, a phenomenon known the Nordic gender equality paradox. The country is, however, top ranked when it comes to having the most women in the workforce.
The logic of de Beauvoir, who wanted to force society in a certain direction, shows up in the foundation for the Norwegian mandatory paternity-leave policy. The policy was extended in steady increments from five weeks of leave in 2005 to 15 weeks of leave in 2018. In effect, the money was designated to the father at the expense of the mother.
Norwegian researchers lament that the policy has not advanced equality on childcare and call for still greater measures.
Returning to the analogy of the sick patient: Instead of prescribing new medications to ease symptoms of unknown origin, decreasing dosages of one drug at a time while monitoring carefully will provide better long-term results. It would shine a light on cause and effect and give us a chance at correction and adjustment.
As Noble laureate Milton Friedman said: “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results. We all know a famous road that is paved with good intentions.”
Let us make sure that the treatment fits the disease before we declare this patient terminal.
Hannah Spier, M.D. is a Norwegian psychiatrist based in Switzerland, the author of the Substack Psychobabble, and the mother of three small children. She has a degree in psychotherapy from the University of Zürich.