Skip to content

Gender equality or social equality

On one of our courses, the question was asked whether it would not be better simply always to talk about social equality. In other words, why do we need the concept of gender equality when social equality already includes gender and other power dimensions? This is a relevant and frequently recurring question.

There are historical explanations behind these concepts. Social equality dates back hundreds of years to freedom movements to end class-related differences between people and groups. Sometimes, women and feminism were part of this struggle, but were flushed away when the changes took shape. This has often been clear from the start, such as in the slogan of the French Revolution, “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité ”.

Research shows how women and women’s rights have been subordinated or obscured under the banner of equality, in both revolutions and in trade union campaigns. The concept of gender equality was created in the 1960s as a reaction to this, based on the persuasive fact that the problem needed to be actively animated. Similar patterns can be seen in other countries. Where are we now? Can we not draw a line through history? Unfortunately, it is by no means self-evident that women and women’s rights are included in human rights in 2022.

Even if Sweden’s form of government states that the public should combat discrimination of people on the grounds of gender, skin colour, national or ethnic origin, language or religious affiliation, disability, sexual orientation, age or other conditions, research shows that inequalities prevail in society.

Not everyone is treated equally, irrespective of gender, and this also affects their living conditions in different ways. Having said that, the concept of gender equality also concerns other aspects of social equality and cuts through all aspects of equality. Gender equality can accordingly not be disconnected from social equality or viewed as a narrower issue than social equality.

That gender always plays a part but that it is never the only thing that plays a part is an important starting point.