Gender Equality as a Closed Case: A Survey among the Members of the 2015 Danish Parliament

Drude Dahlerup,

Scandinavian Political Studies, vol. 41, no. 2, 2018, pp.188-209.

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Despite almost unanimous adherence to the principle of gender equality in contemporary Denmark, a society with a long historical record of gender equality policies and almost 40 percent women in parliament, are there still divergences to be found among the members of parliament concerning gender equality principles and policies? This article argues that in order to identify underlying cleavages it is necessary to pose fundamental questions that go beyond the day‐to‐day disagreements on policy issues. Based on a new survey of the members of the Danish parliament, this study finds that the support for gender equality is not just a matter of lip service insofar as few MPs hold traditionalist views on women. However, the study reveals conflicting perceptions, left‐right cleavages and gender gaps, sometimes also within the parties. A new discourse is identified, supported by a large minority that includes all of the male MPs from the four right‐wing parties; this minority considers gender equality to be a ‘closed case’ – that is, as having by and large been achieved. This may provide clues to the puzzle of the stagnation in gender equality reforms in spite of the general support for ‘gender equality’. The article discusses the possible connection between the ‘closed case’ discourse, present neoliberal trends in society and the recent construction of gender equality as an ‘intrinsic Danish value’ – an argument familiar in other countries with a harsh debate over immigration.