Leaders in Gender Enlightenment


The Scandinavian countries, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, are according to the Global Gender Gap Report the best places to have a uterus. The report ranks countries based on where women have the most equal access to education and healthcare, and where they can participate most fully in the country’s political and economic life.

Norway ranks no 3, Sweden no 4 and Denmark no 7 on the list. (Iceland is no. 1). The last report was made in 2013.

Also on the World Database of Happiness, the three countries have a good standing, with Denmark no. 2, Norway no. 6 and Denmark no. 11.

Ansgarius oreaches Christianity in Sweden (Hugo Hamilton)
Ansgarius preaches Christianity in Sweden (Hugo Hamilton)

Why could three countries, settled by Vikings, become leaders in gender enlightenment? Viking women could not be chiefs or judges and they had to remain silent in assemblies. They could, however, request a divorce and inherit property.

A part of the answer to the question is literacy. Early Christian missionaries were teaching all citizens to read the Bible. By 1842, Sweden had made education compulsory for both boys and girls. Research has documented that the more literate a society is, the more egalitarian it is likely to be.

And religion has in fact played an important role. The Scandinavian Lutherans, who turned away from the excesses of the medieval Catholic Church, were concerned about equality — especially the disparity between rich and poor. Norway has had female priests since the middle of the 20th century, and the Swedish Lutheran Church even has a female archbishop today.

However, Scandinavians aren’t big churchgoers. Scandinavia’s secularism decoupled sex from sin, and this worked out well for females. Girls and boys learn about contraception, and even the pleasure of orgasms, in school. Scandinavian women may have an abortion for any reason up to the eighteenth week, and the issue is not even politically controversial.

On the economical side, the Scandinavian countries have devoted fewer resources to the military than most countries in the world. Scandinavians established early on a social and economic system where everyone could get a job, expect decent pay, and enjoy a strong social safety net.

Striking workers organized in the Norwegian labour union UNIO
Striking workers organized in the Norwegian labour union UNIO

In the 20th century, farmers and workers in the newly populated Scandinavian cities tended to join together in political coalitions, and they could mount a serious challenge to the business elites, who were relatively weak.

Over time, Scandinavian countries became modern social democratic states where wealth is more evenly distributed, education is typically free up through university, and the social safety net allows women to comfortably work and raise a family.

Scandinavian mothers aren’t agonizing over work-family balance: parents can take a year or more of paid parental leave. Fathers are expected to be equal partners in childrearing, and they seem to like it.

Scandinavians have figured out that everybody is better off when men and women share power and influence. They have decided that investment in women is both good for social relations and a smart economic choice.

So when it comes to equality for men and women – look to Scandinavia.

Leaders in Gender Enlightenment, compiled by Admin