Is Burning Money an Effective Protest or Just Dumb?

| by Waging Nonviolence


Last month, the Feminist Initiative (FI), a feminist party in Sweden, lit a barbeque and proceeded to publicly burned 100,000 kronor ($13,087), to protest the wage gap between men and women in the country.

As FI leader Gudrun Schyman explained to Swedish public radio:

“One hundred thousand kronor is the amount women lose each minute when we have the system we have now, where salaries are set according to gender,” she said.

“It’s not funny to set fire to money. I know it’s a lot of money. It’s a lot of money for me, and it’s a lot of money for many others,” Schyman told a radio reporter, adding she realized there was a long list of deserving charities the money could have gone to instead.

“But Feminist Initiative is a political party. We are not a charity, we work to change reality.”

The move provoked criticism, but also generated significant media coverage, both nationally and internationally, leading some to declare it a success.

When there are so many people in need, however, is burning money an ethical tactic? My gut reaction to this story was critical. But how different is physically burning money from spending the same amount on a 30-second political ad on television or a half-page ad in a national daily newspaper?