Taming feminism? The place of gender equality in the ‘Progressive Sweden’ brand
New publication by Katarzyna Jezierska and Ann Towns in "Place Branding and Public Diplomacy"
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.