Place Branding and Public Diplomacy

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 55–63 | Cite as

Taming feminism? The place of gender equality in the ‘Progressive Sweden’ brand

  • Katarzyna JezierskaEmail author
  • Ann Towns
Original Article


As prior work on nation branding in Japan, Canada and Iceland has shown, gender can be an important component in nation branding. This article looks at the evolution of the idea of gender equality as a “Swedish” trait, from the initial incorporation of gender equality in Swedish state identity in the 1990s to contemporary nation branding. Based on standard discourse analysis of branding documents, branding websites and social media presence administered by the public diplomacy agency, the Swedish Institute, we show that gender equality remains a central pillar in the “Progressive Sweden” brand. In contrast with other national brands, “Progressive Sweden” is devoid of the more androcentric narratives and sexually objectifying representations of women. However, the “Progressive Sweden” narrative sports its own peculiarities, as it presents a liberal dreamscape that slides between utopian ideals and generalizations about “Sweden” as a unified actor whose population shares behaviors and goals. Discord and political struggle are written out of this narrative. Despite its rhetorical centrality in Swedish foreign policy, feminism thus disappears from view in the “Progressive Sweden” brand. The article ends with some considerations for the future of Swedish nation branding.


Nation branding Sweden Gender equality Feminism Feminist foreign policy 


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Business, Economics and ITUniversity WestTrollhättanSweden
  2. 2.University of GothenburgGothenburgSweden

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