Spring 2020

Course Syllabus


Gender, Equality, and Sexuality in Scandinavia

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Semester & Location:

Spring 2020 - DIS Stockholm

Type & Credits:

Core Course - 3 credits

Core Course Study Tours:

Uppsala & Berlin

Major Disciplines:

Gender Studies, Sociology, Anthropology

Faculty Members:

Cat McIlroy

Program Director:

Iben de Neergaard,

Time & Place:

Mondays & Thursdays, 14:50-16:10 in Room 1E-510

Description of Course

Sweden is one of the most gender equal countries in the world and is well-known for its progressive culture supported by forward-thinking laws and legislation. Legalized prostitution (but illegal to purchase sexual services), paid parental leave for all parents, a very strong representation of women in leadership positions, progressive sex education, and almost equal rights for gay people are among the hallmarks of all Scandinavian societies. However, Sweden also has one of the most gender-divided workplaces in the Western world and gender equal policies do not automatically lead to gender equal behaviors.


This course explores how concepts of gender, body, sexuality and race intersect in current debates about changing family structures, children’s rights, and new ethical dilemmas in a changing Scandinavia. For example, some of the recent initiatives discussed in Swedish media and worldwide – a gender-neutral approach to children and the recognition of a gender-neutral pronoun “hen” in the Swedish dictionary, Sweden’s first LGBTQ-certified pool, implementation of a norm-critical approach to teaching and learning, just to mention a few. We will follow public debates on various burning issues and compare and reflect on the differences observed between the United States, Sweden, and Scandinavia, as well as question norms and traditional ways of thinking about gender, equality, and sexuality.


By the end of the semester, you will be able to:

  • Employ methodologies from critical gender and sexuality studies to analyze the assumptions about gender and sexuality, which inform studies about us as individuals, societies, and cultures.
  • Focusing on Scandinavia and the US, examine how societies’ construction of gender and sexuality intersects with ethnicity, race, class, age, dis/ability, among others.
  • Be familiar with the most “burning issues” in Scandinavian debates about gender, equality, and sexuality.



Cat McIlroy (MSc in Equality Studies) is a trans activist and educator, actively engaged in LGBTQ activism in Ireland and Europe for many years. As former Co-Chair of Transgender Europe (TGEU) and Co-ordinator of Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI), Cat has worked to educate and advocate to bring about positive social change for trans people. They are a former Chairperson and one of the founding members of Trans Fest Stockholm, a community collective that strives to create positive, inclusive and empowering celebrations of trans and gender-diverse visibility, culture, and community.


Guest Lectures

  • Anne Bachmann, PhD, researcher and lecturer in film and media studies, will present on Sexual and Queer Content in Swedish Cinema.
  • Christine Bylund, disability rights activist and PhD student, will speak about the disability rights movement in Sweden.  
  • Karin Milles, PhD, researcher and lecturer in gender and language, will present on Feminist Language Activism.


Field Studies

  • Feminist Initiative (F!) at Stockholm City Council: A visit to Stockholm City Hall with a lecture from Sissela Nordling Blanco, Group Leader with Feministiskt Initiativ Stockholm, on F!'s anti-racist and intersectional political work.
  • Sex Education in Sweden: A workshop with RFSU (the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education), a non-profit organization that works for, and with, an open, positive view of sex and relationship issues.


Selected Readings

Steven Seidman (2011) Theoretical Perspectives in Introducing the New Sexualities Studies, 2nd Edition

Marie Gustafsson Sendén, Emma A. Bäck & Anna Lindqvist (2015) Introducing a gender-neutral pronoun in a natural gender language: the influence of time on attitudes and behavior, Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 893

Eva-Maria Svensson & Asa Gunnarsson (2012) Gender Equality in the Swedish Welfare State, Feminists@Law, Vol 2, No 1

Maja Sager & Diana Mulinari (2018) Safety for Whom? Exploring Femonationalism & Care-Racism in Sweden, Women's Studies International Forum, 68, 149-156

Siim, Birte (2015) Migration, Multiculturalism and Gender – a Nordic Perspective in Peter Kivisto & Peter Kraus (Eds.) Challenging Power: Equality, Culture and Minorities

Jay Levy & Pye Jakobsson (2014) Sweden’s abolitionist discourse and law: Effects on the dynamics of Swedish sex work and on the lives of Sweden’s sex workers, Criminology and Criminal Justice 

Constance Penley, Celine Parreñas Shimizu, Mireille Miller-Young and Tristan Taormino (2013) Introduction: The Politics of Producing Pleasure, in The Feminist Porn Book: the politics of producing pleasure, the Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 9-22

Kristin Shutts, Ben Kenward, Helena Falk, Anna Ivegran and Christine Fawcett (2017) Early preschool environments and gender: Effects of gender pedagogy in Sweden, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 162, 1-17

Anna Odrowąż-Coates (2015) Is gender neutrality a post-human phenomenon? The concept of 'gender neutral' in Swedish education, Journal of Gender and Power, Vol. 3 , No.1, 113-133

Janne Bromseth & Renita Sörensdotter (2013), Norm-critical Pedagogy, in Gender Studies, Education and Pedagogy, Anna Lundberg & Ann Werner (Eds), Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research: Gothenburg, 24-31







Participation & Discussion Leading


Includes attendance & in-class, field/study tour participation: engaged listening, speaking up in productive ways, participating actively in the learning activities, small group discussions, &/or group work.

You will also lead one discussion session (with a partner) during the semester.

Throughout the course

Travel Journal & Berlin Reflection Presentation


Keep an individual Travel Journal with notes, pictures, thoughts, & reflections during our tour.

You are welcome to use different styles of media for the Travel Journal, including photo collage, drawings, web page, or other creative platforms. Journals will be handed in for assessment & we will also have our Berlin Reflection Presentations in class.

 5 March



Identify & present a concept, problem, or issue you have come across during the course so far, in the format of a poster where the visual presentation as well as the written, theoretical outline carries equal weight. Further instructions will be provided.

 2 April



A 3-page personal reflection, where you respond to a class activity (reading, guest lecture, field trip) or issue. You can also use film, audio/visual montage, zine, or something else, but creative projects must be accompanied by a 1-page written reflection.

 26 April 



Further information about assignments will be presented in class.




Mutual learning atmosphere: The course is based on a student-centered approach with a strong emphasis on class discussions. My role as instructor is to facilitate the course and learning process, but all of us are responsible for creating the most beneficial atmosphere and environment for creation of knowledge. Different learning activities will occur during the course, such as group work, workshops, reflection tasks, field studies, film and text analysis and more. In addition to this, you will also be given the opportunity to add your own research and to get insights into the contemporary public debate.

Everyone’s opinion counts: Some of the topics covered in this course could be seen as controversial and sensitive. You should feel comfortable in expressing your personal opinions regarding issues discussed in class, and we are all responsible for creating the discussion climate where this is felt by all participants. In order to attain this, also be prepared to be open to other points of view than your own, and always express disagreement in a respectful and constructive way. See this as an opportunity to broaden your perspective by listening to other opinions. The concept of safer space will be addressed and a class agreement will be developed during our first class together.

Laptop and phones: Attention in class is to be focused on the learning process, on class discussions and learning activities. Laptops can be used if allowed by instructor for course purposes, but please put your phones away. Consideration will of course be taken if you have special need for a computer for note taking. In this case, please provide an accommodation letter from DIS to give to the instructor.

Format and evaluation criteria: You will be evaluated in several ways. Each assignment will let you meet course objectives. All work has to be completed in order to pass the class. Late assignments will be marked down by 1/3 of a grade for each day it is late.


Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:

 DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -

Course Summary:

Date Details