Feminist Initiative (Sweden)
|Founded||4 April 2005|
|Youth wing||Young Feminists|
|European affiliation||European Feminist Parties Coordination Board|
|European Parliament group||Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats|
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|European Parliament|
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Feminist Initiative (Swedish: Feministiskt initiativ, abbreviated FI, Fi or F!) is a radical feminist political party in Sweden. The party was formed in 2005 from a pressure group of the same name, and has since taken part in every election to the Riksdag and the European Parliament. The party won its first elected representative in 2014, with Soraya Post taking one seat in the European Parliament.
Fi received 3.1% of the vote in the 2014 general election, the best result in its history, and won seats in thirteen municipalities in the 2014 municipal elections - including in Sweden's largest cities of Gothenburg and Stockholm where it became part of governing "red-green-pink" coalitions.
Support for Feminist Initiative dwindled, however, and the party only managed to obtain 0.4% of the vote in the 2018 general election. The party lost seven seats in the municipal elections and did not gain any county council seats.
In October 2018, Gudrun Schyman announced that she would be stepping down as leader of the party at the next party congress.
The original pressure group was presented at a press conference in Stockholm on 4 April 2005. The announcement was preceded by a large number of rumours of a new feminist party. In particular, the rumours were concerned with the growing feminist movement around Gudrun Schyman, a former leader of the Swedish Left Party and at that time independent member of the Riksdag.
Schyman is one of Sweden's most prominent political feminists and had attracted attention when she in 2004 asked how society and men would take responsibility for the violence against women. This question came in the form of an investigation, which was dubbed "man tax" by Swedish journalists since they assumed that was how the problem would be resolved.
At the press conference the founding members stressed that Fi was not yet a political party. The question on whether or not to stand for elections was postponed until further notice. In 2008 it was stated that the organisation was a political party that will stand for elections. In 2009 Feminist Initiative stood for the European Parliament election and got 2.2 percent. In 2010 they stand for the national, regional and local elections.
Becoming a political party
Following the introduction of the pressure group, things happened quickly. Six days later the Fi website announced that the association now had more than 2500 members. Regional and local groups of Fi were announced on the website regularly. Fi's first annual national conference was to be held in Örebro on the 9–11 September 2005 and some 200 motions were submitted.
The inaugural assembly gathered some 350 members (still lacking a formal structure the participants choose to regard themselves as independent members rather than delegates from regions or local groups). The agenda included three major decisions: the establishing of a political party, formulation of a party agenda and organisational matters (notably a decision on chairperson). On 9 September 2005 the decision was taken to organise as a political party and stand for the parliamentary general election 2006. The party's first Executive Committee included Ann-Marie Tung, Anna Jutterdal, Cecilia Chrapkowska, Gudrun Schyman, Helena Brandt, Lotten Sunna, Maria Jansson, Monica Brun, Monica Amante, Sandra Andersson, Sandra Dahlén, Sofia Karlsson and Tiina Rosenberg.
Media also focused attention on what came to be called "the decision to campaign to abolish marriage" and the current state-recognised cohabiting partnerships, and instead introduce a new Cohabitation Act (Swedish: sammanlevnadsbalk) which would encompass a new legal status for private relationships between more than two people, irrespective of gender, thereby possibly opening up for polygamy. In reality, the decision was to enlarge the marriage law, so as to include any form of voluntary cohabitation.
Regarding the organisational matters, the conference decided to appoint three executive committee members as their spokespersons (Swedish: talesperson). So far it has, however, not been made clear to the public what the powers and functions of these spokespersons are. It was also decided that men can hold offices within Fi, upon which two men were elected to the executive committee.
Government money for feminist research projects has been questioned and Professor Tiina Rosenberg was accused of plagiarism by political scientist Johan Tralau, citing a 2000 book review of Rosenberg's "Byxbegär" ('Wearing the trousers'). After a review of the alleged errors in the book, Rosenberg's faculty at the Stockholm University deemed the matter unnecessary to investigate further. Rosenberg left Fi October 2005, citing media attention and criticism directed toward her research and person as the reason, claiming to be the target of a deliberate antifeminist campaign instigated by right-wing lobbyists.
Some of the statements attributed to Tiina Rosenberg, such as "women who have sex with men are traitors to their sex" were criticized as too radical for the party by some other leading Fi members like Susanne Linde and Ebba Witt-Brattström as well. This led to worsening personal conflicts within the party, with both Linde and Witt-Brattström distancing themselves from the party.
On 1 March 2006, Liberal People's Party's MEP Maria Carlshamre defected to the Feminist Initiative, while remaining within the liberal ALDE group. She explained her defection with “a lack of consideration for feminist issues among her former colleagues.”
In 2005, Jane Fonda and Eve Ensler supported Fi by joining the election tour in Sweden. Fonda also donated 400,000 Swedish kronor for the campaign. In the days before the Swedish election on 17 September 2006, Fonda again came to Sweden to support the party's election campaign.
In July 2010, the party burned 100,000 Swedish kronor ($13,000; £8,500) in a protest against unequal pay. Fi wanted to draw attention to its proposal for a government fund for equal pay. The money that was burned had been donated by the advertising agency Studio Total, and the event got major publicity around the world. In 2010, the Swedish electro group The Knife also donated money to the party.
In July 2018, Feminist Initiative member Oldoz Javidi was strongly criticized in Swedish media for anti-semitic remarks made during a Ship to Gaza voyage. Javidi stated in an interview that the Jews living in Israel should be moved to the USA, a remark that made journalists draw comparisons to deportations during WWII. Javidi left the party following the criticism.
Gudrun Schyman announced on 28 October 2018 that she would not seek re-election as party leader at the next FI party congress, although she remains on the voting ballots in case of a snap election. She will remain a member of the party.
Public support and election results
According to surveys[which?] made in 2005, as many as 10% might[vague] vote for the party. In the 2006 general election, the party received 0.68%. The reason for Fi's drop in popularity is believed by some[by whom?] to have been a result of increased radicalism in its platform and its activities. A party needs 4% to get into the Riksdag (Swedish parliament). In the 2009 European elections the party improved its result, getting 2.2% of the national vote. This was not enough to get a seat in the European Parliament. It has been speculated[by whom?] that one reason for the improvement was the one million kronor donation made to the party by former ABBA member Benny Andersson.
In the 2010 election Fi saw a slump in support compared to 2006, falling from 0.68% to 0.40% of the vote. Fi became the third biggest party in the southern municipality of Simrishamn with 8.9% of the votes, giving them 4 seats in the city council.
The 2014 European Parliament election proved to be the party's most successful election so far; it attracted 5.3% of the national vote in Sweden, with Soraya Post taking one seat as an MEP. In June 2014, the party announced that its single MEP would join the Socialists and Democrats group in the European parliament.
They appeared in the 2014 Swedish General Election on 14 September. In its campaign, the party was supported by American recording artist Pharrell Williams and by Benny Andersson. Despite missing the electoral threshold, the Fi received the largest share of votes outside of parliament. It also greatly increased its share of representation in municipalities, gaining seats in 13 municipalities.
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Starting with an analysis of how (radical) feminism came to the fore in the policy battles of election campaigns in the early 2000s, which resulted in the establishment of a new political party called Feminist Initiative, this chapter explores how the Swedish political landscape turned feminist.
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The first party conference organized by FI, however, led to large-scale defections from the party, as well as steep decline in voter support, given that many framed FI as a platform for radical feminist ideas that did not resonate with the larger public
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...the party is often criticised in Sweden as little more than a vehicle for Schyman, a maverick politician who combines radical left-wing politics with brilliant skills in self-promotion and debate.
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- Feministiskt initiativ (In English)