Women’s History month has just come to an end and what better way to wrap it up than with a reflection post about how I have experienced Copenhagen as a woman living here.
Denmark has a rich history of equality between men and women and while there are always differences that can continue to be improved, I would have to say that in comparison to most countries I feel much more empowered being a woman in Denmark than I would in other places.
Copenhagen is one of the safest cities you can study abroad in and I have definitely noticed this in the differences between the culture here compared to the US. One of the biggest threats to a woman’s safety in the US is catcalling because it is often degrading, humiliating and can even extend to the point where one can feel unsafe. I have not once experienced any form of harassment or catcalling while here in Denmark which makes me feel very safe and empowered when walking down the street. The ability to have a positive experience when simply walking home after class or downtown to a cafe is so precious because I really feel that sense of empowerment and accomplishment in navigating this city where I’m living.
There is a really high level of respect in this country for working women which is something that is so foreign to me. I have learned through my courses about several of the major differences between the European and the US societal view and treatment of women. One of these is maternity leave. In Denmark women are given a full year of paid maternity leave that can be split between the mother and father so as to encourage men to also take time off work and look after the children. This is so excruciatingly different than the US policy that only allows women 6 weeks off (usually unpaid). There is an actual incentive in Denmark for women to have both a family and a job! I find this so fascinating because these kinds of policies allow women to really have it all in terms of building a family and pursuing their dreams career wise. As a woman, I feel so inspired by this equality based forward thinking that allows both genders to have what they want.
My advice to any female students considering Denmark as your choice of destination is to do it!! I have had such a wonderful, positive experience in Copenhagen not only as a student but also as a female. I could not have made a better choice in terms of gaining a new appreciation for all the women in this country who are being accepted as they are and being given the chance to further themselves beyond just the occupation of being a mother if that is what they want to do. My hope is that the policies here in Denmark and other European countries that represent inclusion and acceptance would be spread to the US.