Praise or Critique? Sweden’s Feminist Foreign Policy in the Eyes of its Fellow EU Members


Rosén Sundström, Malena, and Ole Elgström. 2019. “Praise or Critique? Sweden’s Feminist Foreign Policy in the Eyes of its Fellow EU Members.” European Politics and Society, September 11.

Authors: Malena Rosén Sundström, Ole Elgström


In 2014, the Swedish Government proclaimed that it would pursue a Feminist Foreign Policy (FFP). This initiative illustrates Sweden’s role as a norm entrepreneur, challenging predominant normative frames by enhancing existing gender equality norms. Our article is a first attempt to investigate how other state actors perceive the legitimacy, coherence and effectiveness of this policy innovation. The focus is on the perceptions of diplomatic representatives from other European Union member states. The article is based on a survey and in-depth interviews with officials at member state permanent representations. Our findings demonstrate that it is well-known that Sweden pursues a feminist foreign policy, though knowledge is often superficial. Overall, the FFP is positively perceived. Sweden is generally regarded as a leader in the promotion of gender norms. There are, however, also critical voices. In some countries, the word ‘feminist’ evokes negative reactions. While most respondents think the FFP has had a positive effect on Sweden’s international image, less are convinced that other states will follow suit. The current context, with nationalism and populism on the rise, is not seen as appropriate for pursuing a FFP. Sweden’s success as a norm entrepreneur in this field is thus questioned.

Keywords: feminist foreign policy, sweden, European Union, perceptions, norms

Topics: Feminisms, Feminist Foreign Policy, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, International Organizations, Nationalism Regions: Europe, Nordic states, Northern Europe Countries: Sweden

Year: 2019

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