Centre for Women's and Gender Research
The annual SKOK debate

How is the global anti-gender movement impacting research and activism in Norway?

The 2023 SKOK debate, organized by Centre for Women’s and Gender Research (SKOK) at UiB, SAIH and Litteraturhuset i Bergen, will focus on the “anti gender” movement.

A poster for the SKOK debate 2023 with pictures of the panelists and the moderator
Engebretsen: Private, McEwen: University of Gothenburg, Navarro: Alma Habbal, Vembe: Joakim Eide, Maddox: UiB

Main content

The so-called "anti-gender movement" is a global phenomenon intent on rolling back the hard-won rights of women and LGBTQAI+ peoples around the world. The movement claims that liberal progress has gone "too far," especially as it relates to sexual and gender freedom.

Around the globe this has produced monumental changes. Last year in the United States, Roe v. Wade was historically overturned making abortion a criminal act in many states; in Poland "LGBT free zones" have emerged which threaten the physical safety and right to queer life; in multiple countries gender and sexuality education is being suppressed. In Hungary, Gender Studies itself was removed from university education.

Away from the state level we are witnessing the pushback against trans rights from "anti-gender feminist" identified factions, and we are living through the meteoric rise of conservative public intellectuals who argue that liberal progress is ruining society, especially for young men. The push back against "gender" lies within the broader contemporary configuration of the "cultural wars" between conservative and liberal ideas. "Gender" has become a lynchpin of these contestations.

In this debate we will discuss why gender is the site of a push and pull between progress and protectionism. Who is being talked about when we use the concept "gender"? What is at stake in these contestations of gender?

We will also ask what impact the anti-gender movements, both globally and locally, are having within a Norwegian context. Norway, and Scandinavia more broadly, are often held up as places of exceptionalism, with gender and sexual freedoms being positioned at the heart of what social democracy means. In this debate we will ask whether the global pushback on gender and sexual progress is having an impact in two key areas of Norwegian democratic society: academic research into gender and sexuality, and queer activism.

To this end, we are very pleased to be joined by three panelists with personal and professional experience in these areas:

The debate will be moderated by Rowan Maddox (they/them), PhD candidate at the Centre for Women’s and Gender Research (SKOK).

The panel

Professor Elisabeth Lund Engebretsen (she, her/they, them) is Professor of Gender Research at the University of Stavanger’s Centre for Gender Studies. Elisabeth’s research focuses on gender and sexual diversities in global contexts, with particular focus on China and Nordic Europe.

In 2022, Elisabeth published the first comprehensive study of Norwegian anti-gender campaigns, titled “Scientizing gender? An examination of anti-gender campaigns on social media, Norway” in the anthology Populism and Science in Europe (Palgrave Macmillan 2022).

A special issue of the journal lambda nordica, of which Elisabeth is chief editor (with Erika Alm), titled “Anti-Gender Politics and Queer Theory” is forthcoming this spring. With Mia Liinason, Elisabeth has edited the forthcoming anthology, Transforming Identities in Contemporary Europe (Routledge, May 2023).

Dr. Haley McEwen (she/her) is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Political Science at the University of Gothenburg and a Research Associate of the Wits Centre for Diversity Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Haley has been conducting research on transnational anti-gender politics in African contexts for nearly a decade and has published several articles on the topic in academic journals and popular media.

In 2020, she authored the report Un/knowing and un/doing gender and sexuality diversity: The global anti-gender movement against SOGIE rights and academic freedom as part of SAIH’s annual campaign. Haley is also Associate Editor of the International Journal of Critical Diversity Studies.

Erwin Navarro Rapiz (he/him) is a Filipino activist based in Bergen.

He took a master in Peace and Conflict Transformation at University of Tromsø and has worked in the field of humanitarian organizations in Norway. He is currently the manager of Skeiv Verden Vest, an organization for LGBTIQI+ people with minority backgrounds.

Johanne Elise Vembe (she/her) is a PhD candidate at the Department of Physics and Technology at UiB, transgender activist and actively involved in debating the anti-gender movement in online spaces.

Vembe is also a board member of PKI Vest - the local chapter in Vestland. PKI (The Norwegian Patient Organization for Gender Incongruence) is the largest patient organization in Norway for gender-diverse people and their families/chosen families.

Did you miss the debate? See it here:

The debate was streamed and a recording made available on Litteraturhuset's YouTube channel afterwards (unfortunately, Haley McEwen was unable to make it to Bergen for the debate):

How is the global anti-gender movement impacting research and activism in Norway?

Litteraturhuset i Bergen