21:01 GMT +317 June 2019
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    'Mothers Have Wept': Will Norway's National Anthem Become Gender-Neutral?

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    After Canada and Austria, Norway may become the next nation to implement changes in its national anthem to make it resound with contemporary Nordic gender ethics. At least if a senior left-wing politician has her way, that is.

    Oddny Miljeteig, former deputy chair of the Socialist Left Party (SV) and present-day SV group leader in the Bergen City Council, has argued that "A Song for Norway," which has for decades served as the Nordic country's anthem, is outdated and gender-discriminatory, proposing that changes be made, national broadcaster NRK reported.

    Miljeteig was triggered by a conspicuous lack of female figures in the anthem, which in the spirit of pan-Scandinavism refers to Norway, Denmark and Sweden as "the three brothers." By contrast, the only time women are mentioned in the anthem is in the "Mothers have wept" verse.

    "The way I understand it, it succeeded the previous anthem 'Sons of Norway.' In that way, it was a step forward indeed. However, the women are still absent from 'Yes, we love this country.' It's the big men the song is all about," Miljeteig told NRK.

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    According to Miljeteig, it's time Norway got itself a new anthem.

    "It should put more emphasis on everyday life and on both women and men's history," Miljeteig argued. To promote inclusion, the new anthem should be made available in both Bokmål and Nynorsk, the two variants of the Norwegian language.

    "The lyrics of our national anthem are a literary text that must be interpreted in connection with its time," Åse Wetås, the director of the Norwegian Language Council, argued. "While none of the words mentioned in the lyrics, have changed their meaning or acquired an offensive undertone, it is clear that the song conveys a different attitude to gender roles," she insisted, arguing that today's anthem would have hardly featured the same pathos or a choice of words.

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    Torbjørn Røe Isaksen of the Conservative Party argued that it's impossible to re-write the past.

    "The text is written based on the Norwegian experience. Traditionally, the fathers have fought outside and the mothers have fought at home. You cannot remove anything or pretend that it has not been the case," Røe Isaksen told NRK. He also argued that any newly-written song would never reach the same popularity as "Yes, we love," which, he contested, was in no way racist or offensive.

    The text of "Yes, we love this country," also known as "A Song for Norway," was written by Norwegian writer and first-ever Nobel Literature prize laureate Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. It was first sung publicly on May 17, 1864. Although immensely popular among Norwegians across the world, the song has never been officially adopted as the national anthem, despite having long served as a de-facto state hymn. In recent years, the song "Mitt lille land" ("My Little Country") has often been referred to as "the new national anthem," after being used to commemorate the victims of the 2011 terrorist attacks.

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    Gender-neutral national anthems have become a hot topic in several countries. While Canada and Austria chose to make changes to their respective national anthems, German Chancellor Angela Merkel argued that the German one was good as it is.

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    national anthem, gender neutrality, Scandinavia, Norway
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