Co-Optation and Feminisms in the Nordic Region: ‘Gender-friendly’ welfare states, ‘Nordic exceptionalism’ and intersectionality

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Researchers often describe the core of the particularities of feminisms in the Nordic region to include references to historical collaborations between Nordic states and feminist movements. This makes co-optation a fundamental question. ‘Co-optation’ can capture the ambiguities that feminist scholars and activists simultaneously can express when considering so-called ‘woman/women’ or ‘gender-friendly’ welfare states. These indicate a feminist success and imply that the collaboration has led to high levels of gender equality. However, the Nordic states have simultaneously reinforced democratic deficits and exclusions by benefiting certain gendered groups more, while leaving others disadvantaged. Relatedly, postcolonial, anti-racist and indigenous feminists have been critical of so-called ‘Nordic exceptionalism’, in which a denial of racial discrimination and colonial violence exists alongside racism in Nordic societies. This has within Nordic feminisms led to the marginalization of mobilizations by migrant women and Sámi feminists. Critics often emphasize the usefulness of intersectional approaches. Starting from a critical perspective to ‘gender-friendly’ welfare states, ‘Nordic exceptionalism’, and different uses of intersectionality, this chapter suggests a two-dimensional approach to the study of the complex notion of co-optation - defined as controversial politics of inclusion and exclusion, in the pursuit of better strategies for feminist struggles for social justice and equality.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFeminisms in the Nordic region : Neoliberalism, Nationalism and Decolonial Critique
EditorsSuvi Keskinen, Pauline Stoltz, Diana Mulinari
Number of pages21
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Publication date2 Dec 2020
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-53463-9
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-53464-6
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2020
EventTransforming identities: Challenging Nordic exceptionalisms - Göteborgs universitet, Göteborg, Sweden
Duration: 8 May 201910 May 2019
Conference number: 2


WorkshopTransforming identities
LocationGöteborgs universitet
Internet address
SeriesGender and Politics


  • Colonialism
  • Equality
  • Exclusion
  • Gender
  • Intersectionality
  • Nationalism
  • Activism
  • Racism
  • Social movement
  • Welfare State


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