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Mobilisation, problem representation and silencing – paradoxes in Swedish policy around stereotypes, gender equality and free speech

Conference contribution
Authors Eva-Maria Svensson
Maria Edström
Published in Critical Legal Conference (CLC) 2016, Stream: Feminist turning points
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMG)
Department of Law
Language en
Keywords Mobilisation, problem representation, silencing, gender stereotypes, gender equality, free speech
Subject categories Law, Media and Communications

Abstract

Gender equality and freedom of expression are two core values. The purpose of this paper is to analyse policy processes in Sweden when the values are in conflict, and why freedom of expression tend to weigh heavier than gender equality. The starting-point is the ratification and the implementation of CEDAW in Sweden, where the core values are explicitly branded as hallmarks, with a focus on policy processes around article 5a, concerning the elimination of gender stereotypes. The issue is of specific interest in Sweden when it comes to legislation against sex and gender discriminatory advertising, a topic of concern for the women’s movement since the 1970s. Despite repeated government inquiries proposing legislation against this type of advertising, the perception of the impossibility to legislate due to it being a threat against freedom of expression is still persistent. The policy processes (including legislative processes) are analysed with help of theories on policy processes, and the concepts mobilisation, problem representation and silencing (Bacchi). Which actors have been active in the implementation of CEDAW’s article 5a? How has article 5a been framed? Which aspects of the article have been debated and which have been silenced? We have earlier stated that the core values are understood as colliding and freedom of expression is considered the most important (Svensson & Edström 2014). In this paper we address why Sweden has this position, a country known for its governance feminism. We see mainly two explanations, the long Swedish tradition of freedom of expression compared to the more recent tradition of gender equality, in combination with an increasing importance and emphasis on the value of the freedom to conduct a business, the core value and a fundamental right of the market economy. With the help of Wendy Brown’s theory the latter explanation will be explored.

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