Transnational Historical Perspectives on Social Policy
Edited by Pauli Kettunen and Klaus Petersen
Chapter 8: What is Nordic in the Nordic gender model
? Kari Melby, Anna-Birte Ravn, Bente Rosenbeck and Christina Carlsson Wetterberg Gender equality – in the sense of formal equal rights – achieved increasing political support in the Nordic countries during the nineteenth century, when these countries underwent changes that dissolved patriarchal structures. Towards the end of the century, women’s citizenship was discussed in relation to legal changes concerning family and heredity. The claim for equality between men and women was introduced when the women’s organizations were established in the 1870s and 1880s. Different views on women’s rights certainly existed, but there was less principal resistance to the need for the emancipation and independence of women than in many other European countries (Melby et al. 2006a). Around 1920, women had obtained formal equal rights with men. In this chapter we discuss the meanings of these rights, focusing on the Nordic marriage reforms of the early twentieth century and arguing that these reforms represented a specific Nordic – as opposed to English or German – regulation of relations between women and the nation-state, a regulation that combined individualism with state intervention (Bradley 2000; Åmark 2001). In a comparative European perspective, we can clearly see the contours of a specific Nordic marriage model that was characterized by a scientific understanding of the formation of marriage, extensive liberalization of divorce, and economic equality between the sexes. In the Nordic countries, marriage was regulated as a modern, secular social institution. Even if there were differences between the Nordic countries – a more far-reaching liberalization of divorce in the west, more...
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