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


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.

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  1. Indeed, in Sweden, each instance of assault is recorded as a case (rather than the more common practice of counting each individual who has been assaulted as a case), with obvious statistical effects. One individual who has suffered continuous rapes and assaults in an abusive relationship during a number of years could be recorded as dozens or even a hundred cases once that individual presses charges.


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  • Official Facebook, Instagram and Youtube of Sweden.

  • and (official websites/gateways to Sweden).

General branding strategy documents

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Correspondence to Katarzyna Jezierska.

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Jezierska, K., Towns, A. Taming feminism? The place of gender equality in the ‘Progressive Sweden’ brand. Place Brand Public Dipl 14, 55–63 (2018).

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  • Nation branding
  • Sweden
  • Gender equality
  • Feminism
  • Feminist foreign policy