Course Syllabus

Gender and Sexuality in Scandinavia

Draft Syllabus

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Semester & Location:

Fall 2021 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Public Policy, Gender Studies, Sociology


Deivida Vandzinskaite,

Program Director:

Tina Mangieri, 

Time & Place:

Tuesdays and Fridays, 11:40pm - 13.00pm

Classroom: TBA

Course Introduction

This is an introductory course in which we will explore the fields of gender and sexuality in a Scandinavian context. You will be introduced to various theoretical concepts, as well as current debates and discourses in Scandinavia on issues including gender equality, Danish liberalism, feminism, problematic perceptions of the ‘Immigrant Other,’ and sex education. Scandinavia is widely considered to be a socially progressive region and has a history of implementing fairly liberal laws related to gender and sexuality: lesbian couples from many countries travel to Denmark to receive fertility treatment; Denmark, Norway and Sweden were the among the first countries in the world to legally recognize same sex partnerships; sex education is a mandatory part of elementary school; and Scandinavian parents have the right to paid parental leave.

Despite important legal frameworks, public discourse in Scandinavia continues to reproduce and circulate powerful normative ideas about gender, sexuality, and identity and numbers reveal that the idealized region is not so gender equal after all. Women in Denmark, Finland, and Sweden continue to suffer extensively from violence. Iceland, Norway, and Finland are the top-three countries in the world when it comes to equal pay for equal work and yet women still earn consistently less than men. The ability of the health sector and educational institutions to reach boys and men is widely debated, as boys and men risk being left behind due to gender stereotypes and the invisibility of boy's and men’s gendered vulnerabilities. Trans people continue to face discrimination and are pathologized by the health sector. Throughout the course you will be encouraged to discuss and analyze the differences observed between the United States and Denmark regarding these issues, as well as to question policies, norms, and values concerning gender and sexuality.

Learning objectives of the course:

  • Develop an understanding of basic theoretical concepts in gender and sexuality studies
  • Apply theory to current issues related to gender and sexuality in US/Danish discourse
  • Gain a historical, contemporary, and intersectional understanding of feminism 
  • Through focusing on Scandinavia and the US, examine how societal constructions of gender and sexuality intersect with other social and political categories (ethnicity, race, class, etc.)


Deivida Vandzinskaite, DIS Copenhagen Semester Faculty
Ph.D. (Education, Siauliai University, Lithuania, 2011), focus on the cross-cultural use of service learning in higher education. M.A. (Social Anthropology and Sociology, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania, 2006). Lecturer and Senior Research Scholar, Siauliai University, 2007-2013. Visiting scholar at the Danish School of Education, Aarhus University, 2008-2012. Research experience on the national and international level covering topics related to cultural diversity and cross-cultural issues, gender and family studies, global diffusion of educational models, and voluntary participation in Europe. With DIS since 2013.

Teaching Approach

This course will be taught through a combination of lectures, group work, field studies, guest lecturers, and documentaries. Throughout, there will be a strong emphasis on participation and class discussion. Overall, the aim is to create a classroom space characterized by respect and willingness to listen/consider others’ perspectives, where it is safe to explore ideas together and individually.


Please note that the class is discussion-based and it is very important we all contribute to creating and maintaining a safe space throughout the semester. You and your peers come from a variety of backgrounds, adding valuable perspectives to our discussions – be open, curious, and respectful during your own and other’s learning processes. Remember to challenge ideas, not people.      


**To be eligible for a passing grade in this class you must complete all of the assigned work**




Percentage of Final Grade



Participation - Preparation, and your active participation, including presentations and group work


20 %



Gender & Sexuality in the News  

20 %

Deadline two days before class (articles) 

Break a Norm Reflection

20 %


Thematic Reflection

20 %


Final Project




The course heavily emphasizes your own engagement and active participation. Much of the learning in this course is dependent on how much effort you put into your own explorations and research, not least in connection with the different assignments.

The evaluation of this component will take into consideration the following aspects:

Attendance: attendance in all classes and field studies is mandatory. Note that coming late to class will affect your participation grade.

Preparation: preparation for each lecture is a course requirement. See reading list included in this syllabus. Please be aware that there may be slight changes in the reading assignments during the course and various handouts will also be distributed, but you will be provided with ample time to properly prepare.

Participation: active participation in all class sessions is required and forms an important part of your grade for this component. Participation should preferably reflect your critical capacities and knowledge of the course material. The aim should be to contribute constructively to meaningful, relevant dialogue and discussion among the group. In practice, this means that expression of one's personal views should be backed up by references to pertinent readings, materials, etc. and that other viewpoints should be considered in a respectful manner. Note the rubric for participation grades, which is a tool for you to understand what constitutes "good" participation.

Computers and phones are NOT allowed in class unless specifically agreed with the instructor. You are therefore NOT allowed to keep your phone on the table throughout class. You are expected to take notes throughout the semester in a notebook, which you yourself are responsible for getting before the course begins (cheap ones are available in e.g. TIGER). 

Please do not leave jackets and bags on the table throughout class – you are not going anywhere for the next 80 minutes anyway and we need the space to work.

Please be aware that failure to comply with these rules will negatively affect your participation grade.       

Academic Honesty

DIS expects that you abide by the highest standards of intellectual honesty in all academic work. DIS assumes that all students do their own work and credit all work or thought taken from others.

Academic dishonesty will result in a final course grade of “F” and may include dismissal and notification of your home school. DIS reserves the right to request that written assignments be turned in electronically for scanning by plagiarism detection software. Much plagiarism happens because students are not aware that they had to cite a text or idea. See the Academic Handbook for more information, or ask your instructor if you have questions. 

Class Representatives and Comfort Groups

In the beginning of the semester, two class representatives will be elected. The class reps will meet the course instructor during the semester and are responsible for providing feedback and ideas for improvement. Moreover, the class will be divided into comfort groups (3 people). Your comfort group is meant to help with practical questions and note-taking if you are ill, as well as providing a safe space for discussions and peer reviews. Please make use of these two communication channels throughout the semester.

Gender & Sexuality in the News

In each class (where we don’t have guest lectures or films), one group is asked to give a short presentation for max 10 minutes on a current gender/sexuality topic related to the class. The topic is to be found in the media and part of the assignment is to post one/two short news articles a minimum of two days before your presentation. The sources does not have to be academic peer reviewed articles but should be more in-depth than a tweet. Think about how the case is related to structural issues. These articles are optional readings for your peers. You are to provide a short analysis of the core issue, in your opinion, and how it relates to gender and sexuality. When applicable, please try to relate the discussion to a Danish/Scandinavian context.

The format is up to you – you are welcome to make a short powerpoint, show a short video clip, do a few discussion questions, etc. Part of the assignment is a short paper (max. 2 pages per group) which should include a description of the topic, short summary of the articles, and your analysis of how the topic relates to gender and sexuality, as well as a discussion question for the class. Groups will be organized and posted on Canvas in the beginning of the semester. Please note that the assignment accounts for 20 % of your final grade.

Reading Questions

Before class, you should write one question per reading on Canvas in the discussion forum - and have a look at the questions your peers post - so we cover the most interesting parts of our readings in class. This assignment is two-fold: besides writing questions yourself, you should comment on at least one of your peer's questions, too. DO THIS A MINIMUM OF SIX TIMES DURING THE SEMESTER (both ASKING and COMMENTING). Please note: the reading questions/comments account for 20 % of your final grade.

Thematic Reflections

The semester is divided into three different themes within which we will work with various topics:


When finishing a theme, you should write a short reflection on one particular concept, debate, or conflict we have discussed that you find interesting. The text is meant to demonstrate your understanding of the class material (discussions) so far. Please address following questions:

  • What concept/debate stood out to you?
  • How did the class broaden your perspective on this given topic?
  • How do you see this connected to a Scandinavian context – how is it different from the US?      

Each text should be 400-500 words and uploaded in Canvas on the stated deadline before 20:00. Chose TWO themes in total. 

Please note that the papers account for 30 % of your grade (15% each).

Academic Regulations  

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

Reading List 

West, Candace & Don Zimmerman 'Doing Gender' in Gender and Society, 1987, 125-51.  

Mottier, Véronique, ‘The Invention of Sexuality’ in Sexuality – A Very Short Introduction, 2008, pp. 25-48. 

Higgins, Andrew, ‘Norway offers Migrants a Lesson in How To Treat Women’, NY Times, 2015.

Puglsey, Samantha, ‘I Waited Until My Wedding Night to Lose my Virginity and Wish I Hadn’t’ 

Crenshaw, Kimberle, ‘Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color,’ Stanford Law Review, 1991, pp. 1241-53 and 1262-69.

Adiche, Ngozi Chimamanda, ‘Americanah’, pp. 291-95 & 346-7.  

Watch video: 'Examined Life - Judith Butler & Sunaura Taylor' 

Ingraham, Chrys, ‘One is Not Born a Bride’ 

TEDTALK - Mads Ananda Lodahl: Ending the Straight World Order 

Hearn, Jeff et al: ‘Hegemonic Masculinity and Beyond: 40 Years of Research in Sweden’, in Men and Masculinities, 2012, pp. 1-25. 

hooks, bell, ‘Feminism is for Everybody’, 2000, pp- 1-30.

TEDTALK: Roxane Gay - 'Confessions of a Bad Feminist' (2015).

Pedersen, Marie Carsten, 'What is that? It is the women's movement's newest vanguard' in Zetland, November 2016.  

Kivi, Nazila, 'Dear minority woman, do not think that you have the right to anything' in Politiken, March 2016. 

'Newly Danish feminists stand together: Joint middle finger to hymens and the idea of the nice Muslim girl' in Politiken, October, 2017. 

Lister, Ruth, A Nordic Nirvana? – Gender, Citizenship and Social Justice in the Nordic Welfare States, 2009, pp. 243-268.

Kingsley, Patrick, ‘Being Danish: The Immigrants Dilemma’ in How To Be Danish, 2012, pp. 97-119.

Amy Westerwelt - 'Having It All Kinda Sucks' 

Christen Reighter - 'I don't want children, stop telling me I'll change my mind'

Orna Donath - 'Demanding Motherhood' in Regretting Motherhood, 2017, pp. 29-40. 

Miller, Claire C., 'The Motherhood Penalty vs. the Fatherhood Bonus', NY Times, 2014.

Klinth, Roger, ‘Best of both worlds? Fatherhood and gender equality in Swedish paternity leave campaigns 1976-2006’ in Fathering, 2008.

Plambech, Sine, 'FROM THAILAND WITH LOVE: TRANSNATIONAL MARRIAGE MIGRATION IN THE GLOBAL CARE ECONOMY' in Sex Trafficking, Human Rights, and Social Justice. Edited by Tiantian Zheng, pp. 32-48. Routledge

Irvine, Janice, ‘Politics of Sex Education’

Hakala, Kate, 'Denmark Wants to Show Porn in School - and America should Take Notes' 

Andreassen, Rikke, ‘Take off that veil and give me access to your body’, in Gender, Migration and Categorization, 2013, Chapter 9, pp. 215-30

Eddo-Lodge, Reni, 'The Feminism Question' in Why I No Longer Talk to White People About Race, 2017, focus on pp. 166-172 and 175-181.  

Course Summary:

Date Details Due