"Swedish girls think feminism is associated with being very confrontational, being aggressive, not liking men, not being feminine," says Åsa Kvissberg, referring to a 1995 study by Bodil Bryntesson that surveyed 600 Swedish girls on their perceptions of feminism. Kvissberg is a Swedish artist who has traveled between Stockholm and San Diego over the past seven years. During one of her trips, she met local artist Anna Stump, and the two have since swapped opinions on feminism and how it varies within their cultures.
"We consider feminism a very big tent since everyone has their own understanding of feminism," Stump says.
To vet these various interpretations, they called on both American and Swedish women from their respective organizations, the Feminist Image Group and Krogen Amerika, to create works for the new exhibition, Feminism Now, which opens Saturday, May 14, from 6 to 10 p.m. at Gallery D (1878 Main St., Unit D) in Barrio Logan.
While some are flippant and others are stone cold serious, the pieces aim to illustrate the movement's effects on the artists' respective culture—one stark difference being Sweden's intensely negative connotation of feminism.
"What has happened to the word?" asks Kvissberg. "Why is it so offensive, why is it so scary? Do we need it? Should we name it something else? Is it something else? Rather than just saying we are fighting for this, let's talk about it."
Stump says she hasn't witnessed this sentiment to the Swedish extremity, but knows that some people, particularly men, will often shy away from discussions because of the movement's ambiguity. But Kvissberg says that a man's familial role, at least, is changing in Sweden. A new law there requires that men take advantage of 280 days of paternal leave, citing hope of newfound equality in parental roles.
"When you go to Stockholm you see a lot of dads having lattes with other dads and their baby wagons, which is a very new scene," Kvissberg says.
Some Swedish pieces in the collection, like one print by Randi Leirnes, reflect this trend, but it stops there.
"Not a single one of the American women said that at all," Stump says. "I think we've given up."
American artists, such as Daphne Hill and Prudence Horne, instead explored implications of pornography and second-wave feminism, among other topics. Still, both Stump and Kvissberg hope the show sparks conversations at home.
"For this project, it has more to do with feminism and equality," Kvissberg says. "Being treated equally with an equal chance in a work environment, or in a relationship or raising children. In just living life."
Dads on Parental Leave, by Randi Leirnes