Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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One of the main ideas of feminists in Sweden is “genusglasögon”/“gender-(eye-)glasses”. This article will give an overview of the topic, with a dual motivation: Firstly, these gender-glasses pose a considerable danger. Secondly, they are a good illustration of how many feminists think and function (and, m.m., more than a few people belonging to other groups).

What are gender-glasses

What then are gender-glasses? There is (to my knowledge) no formal definition. Rather, it is an informal description, typically used for rhetorical purposes, referring to a particular mind-set and a particular way of looking at any given situation. It is more or less the equivalent of “applying a gender-perspective”—except that it is continuously applied to everything. (An example is e.g. “Politician X needs to put on his gender-glasses to understand how we women are still oppressed in the patriarchal society of Sweden.”, typically from the mouth of a gender-feminist or someone specializing in gender-studies.) Further, while the theory is to apply a gender-perspective, the practice is often to apply a “men are out to get us poor women” perspective.

Gender-glasses distort reality

The irony is that while Swedish feminists believe that gender-glasses enable them to see the world as it is, they are in fact the equivalent of the green glasses in The Wonderful Wizard of Ozw—they make an ordinary city look as if made of emeralds (except that the distortion is in the direction of ugly). The wearers look at the sun and proclaim it green, they look at a house and proclaim it green, they look at a road and proclaim it green. Every once in a while, they luck-out and happen to be looking at a lawn or something else that actually is green, but they would not have needed the glasses to recognize this in the first place. The city is not green and the glasses do not help the viewer in recognizing greenness—it is the glasses themselves that create the faulty impression that the city is green.

In this way, people wearing gender-glasses look at a woman staying at home while her husband works and consider it a sign of oppression, outdated gender-roles, a proof of how limited the options for women are, or, obviously, that the “Patriarchy” has struck again—ignoring the possibility that this may be a choice by common preference. They see that young girls [boys] want to be something traditionally female [male] when they grow up, and are horrified—ignoring considerable evidence in favour of biologically determined preferences. (And denouncing anyone who dares mention this as a follower of “biologism”.) They see a particular situation where a man earns more than a woman and proclaim it “sexism”—never bothering to look at other factors (e.g. competence level, experience, hours worked) or the fact that the situation is reversed in the office across the hall. They see boys and girls being treated differently, and assume that this is only because the adults automatically alter their own behaviour based on the sex of the children—without considering that the adults may just be reacting to differences in the behaviour of the children. Etc.

A particular complication is that green glasses can make some differences in color become invisible, even though the naked eye could see them—or, in analogy, blind the wearer to those areas were men have a disadvantage. Worse, those who happen to already be color-blind (having strong feminist pre-conceptions) can see their sight reduced to near blindness.


Modern green-tinted sunglasses are reasonably good at preserving color and color-differences; however, this is a complaint that should be directed to L. Frank Baum: His glasses, which obviously worked differently, may have had a different construction from modern sunglasses—color filters that do make the world green are not hard to construct.

Possibly, in a 100 years, after we have put feminism behind us, there will be gender-glasses that are non-distorting too.

Often the conclusions are patently absurd, e.g. that it would be wrong to depict more male mathematicians in a book on math (neverminding how extremely rare good female mathematicians have been)—either this is counted as a sexist exclusion of women or fears are raised that girls will loath entering mathematics through a lack of role models. (Ignoring that those few who ever show both interest and ability tend to go through with it, choose something that interests them more, or be turned of through the influence of other girls or women). Hell, I currently have the blog of one of those rare womene on my blogroll—and she spends most of her blogging explaining why the latest gender-silliness is silly. Certainly, she does not give the appearance of being discouraged or oppressed for being a woman. (She has actually denied thise, while elsewhere raising concerns that bright students, irrespective of sex, are often discouraged and hindered in the Swedish school—something largely matching my own experiences.)


There is also the interesting meta-conclusion that those who do not agree with the green-tinted view of the world fail to do so merely because they are too infected with “traditional gender-stereotypes” (or similar). In effect, either we have to agree that a problem exists—or we, ourselves, are considered proof of that problem.

What makes the gender-glasses so dangerous, however, is not that its wearers often have strong pre-conceived opinions, but simply that if one looks for something, well, one tends to find it. The same effect is the basis of e.g. numerology, as displayed in obsession with the number 23w, and is strongly related to e.g confirmation biasw and the the hostile-media effectw. In many ways, the gender-glasses systematically introduce biases where good scientists (and, for that matter, politicians and debaters) should strive to minimize them: Humans are (without exception) biased to various degrees and where we should throw water on the fire, wearing gender-glasses is the equivalent of throwing pure alcohol on it—alcohol may look like water, but the effects are very, very different.

Is there a positive side?

But is this not an unfair characterization? Is not the study of gender aspects of various topics a legitimate and potentially beneficial task—even if on a smaller scale than the feminists want?

The second question has a grain of truth in it: This could be a legitimate field of science and there are situations where it could be beneficial (even outside of science) to consider these issues. However, in practice, it is not a legitimate field of science (but suffers from strong ideological undermining, a political wish to see certain “truths” proved, and even outright quackery)—and the use suggested outside of science is both flawed and excessive.

The first question, I have to answer with a resounding “No!”.

Various issues

Ironically, many feminists (possibly due to a post-modernist mind-set) like to drag up Popperw (often in a misleading manner or with an implicit assumption that he is an infallible authority). One of the central tenants of his ideas was the importance of falsifiabilityw and the danger of gathering only (what is perceived as) confirmative evidence—yet, the principle behind the gender-glasses is the opposite, a gathering of confirmative evidence with no thought on falsifiability.

A similar problem is common in some other movements, notably where questions like race or ethnicity are concerned: It is possible to be critical of the behaviour of an individual minority member without having anything against the minority.

A central observation is that most people (irrespective of race, colour, and creed—and even of sex) are mistreated every know and then. Notably, there are many white Christian men who have a very short end of the stick. To attribute this mistreatment to some particular characteristic (in a blanket manner) will invariably lead to misinterpretations.

Another potential problem is that this over-focus on biological sex and/or social gender can, it self, make it harder to reach a neutral mindset, where everyone has the same opportunities and obligations—and are viewed as individuals. (Which, ostensibly, is what the gender-fanatics want to achieve.) How are we supposed to treat men and women the same when topics like (alleged lack of) equality, difference or sameness, different or same treatment, whatnot, are constantly brought to mind? These people create more polarization than they remove.