‘Men Who Hate Women’: Masculinities, Violence and the Gender Politics of Nordic Noir

Katty Shaw


Gender politics is at the heart of what crime novelist Hakan Nesser called ‘the strange genre of Nordic Noir’ (quoted in Foreshaw 2012: Preface), a contemporary body of writings with historical roots in a heavy political subtext that betrays a wider dissatisfaction with both the demise of the welfare state and the ideal of post-war utopianism in contemporary Scandinavia. Steig Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2005) quickly became regarded as a key example of the emerging new genre of Nordic Noir and one of the biggest global publishing phenomena of the twenty-first century. As a result of its popular female protagonist, Lisbeth Salander and section headings featuring damning statistical data about male violence against women in Sweden, the novel has been celebrated as a vessel for Larsson’s ‘deep feminist sympathies’ (Whitelaw 2010).


Challenging claims that the novel offers a vision of female empowerment, this article instead suggests that Larsson uses his first fiction, and the wider Millennium Trilogy of which it is a part, to create and cull female characters using the men who ‘hate’ them as representations of the competing tensions between masculinity and violence in the new genre of Nordic Noir. Nordic Noir is the product of claustrophobia, of small countries in the midst of population crises, frustrated at a lack of safety promised in the post-war years and experiencing a growing lack of faith in the authorities governing them. This article suggests that beneath popular imaginaries of seemingly peaceful and equal societies, Nordic Noir exposes violent masculine authority as an expression of the relationship between the individual and the neoliberal state in the twenty-first century


Nordic Noir, Gender, Politics, Genre Fiction, Steig Larsson.

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