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Strong, aware, and unequal: Women's lives in Tornedalen (northernmost borderland of Sweden)

Ann‐Kristin Juntti‐Henriksson (Department of Human Work Science, Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, Sweden)

Equal Opportunities International

ISSN: 0261-0159

Article publication date: 2 May 2008




The overall purpose of this paper is to study gender and equality‐related issues by exploring gender functions in the northernmost borderland of Sweden (the Tornedalen area). The study focuses on women's views of their own lives and how local culture may shape their identity.


By analysing a large number of women's narratives through approaching feminist poststructuralism, the analysis focuses on gender relations and how women have adapted their lives according to the norms of the local society. The study involves a historical perspective from the middle to the late twentieth century. This includes transitions from an almost exclusively rural to a more urbanized life (within the countryside) and from a time when almost all women were full‐time housewives to a time when this has become a rarity.


The traditional culture in Tornedalen still existed in the late 1990s with pressure coming from the older generations to maintain traditional gender functions. From a feminist poststructuralist perspective, competing discourses affects the identity of the Tornedalen woman. Such competing discourses lead to, for example, women being impressed by masculine men who dominate the family whilst also, seemingly, expressing concern for equality issues. Many common gender identity characteristics also exist, such as (a feeling of) being strong (to be able to live in Tornedalen) and (a feeling of) being very much aware of (and claiming) local gender inequality. Originality/value – The paper provides new knowledge as to how inequality may persist in (a) local area(s) ruled by traditional norms. It also provides insights into women's lives and how identities evolve in (a) small local society(ies).



Juntti‐Henriksson, A. (2008), "Strong, aware, and unequal: Women's lives in Tornedalen (northernmost borderland of Sweden)", Equal Opportunities International, Vol. 27 No. 4, pp. 317-336.



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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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