As a child, Cecilie Nørgaard, recognized the different expectations boys and girls face. Her interest in gender is still present and today she’s one of Denmark’s most recognised communicators of gender research.
What turning points have defined you?
From an very early age I realized that my surroundings expected me to act and play in a certain way because of my gender. Luckily, I was an independent child who wore the clothes I liked. I didn’t put up with being labelled “incorrect” just because I chose other stuff over playing with Barbie dolls. I didn’t want to deviate, but in a sort of “self-experiment” I tried to broaden the boundaries for the ways to be a girl. I don’t know why I didn’t just end up being overwhelmed by the norms - instead it started a fire in me. It infuriated me and I got into unravelling the different expectations boys and girls encounter.
What does a typical workday look like?
Most days I’ll go to my office houseboat Elsa. Turn on the heat, it’s freezing cold in the winter, make myself a cup of coffee, start my computer and work on different projects. I started my business in 2008 and today I employee a small staff. We find ourselves involved in many different projects at the same time. I’m an entrepreneur and good at getting ideas, but I don’t always have the resources to bring them all home. The key to our work at Mangfold is to convey knowledge on gender and diversity – especially when it comes to educational practices. Gender stereotypes are fostered among children and young people and therefore it’s very important to clarify myths about gender to counteract stereotypical upbringing and socialization.
I spend most of my time working on development projects, writing and giving lectures, but I also work as a publisher, consultant and I function as a national expert in EU-funded and Nordic research projects. One of my latest and more creative projects is a colouring book for adults called Facing Gender Diversity. I asked 30 national and international artists to produce new artworks that challenge gender stereotypes. I’m extremely pleased with it – it’s sold at Colette in Paris among other places.
What’s important to you?
It’s essential that the things I do allow me to evolve and I find them meaningful. I like moving forward. What keeps me going is the notion that what I do will subsequently make a difference. On a general level the goal of my work is to create awareness about gender and diversity, and to prevent gender expectations from creating undesirable barriers.
When do you feel challenged?
As most people, I guess, I sometimes feel challenged by life itself. I’m probably, what somebody would call existentially sensitive. At times, I am imposed by life, death, anxiety and the welfare of my children. It’s the least manageable things that become the most challenging. Everything I can’t control and all the things that are facts of life. When it comes to my work I feel tested if my communication fails. In many ways, my field of work is so complex and unfortunately, it’s not always I’m successful in conveying my points effectively. And of course, I can feel challenged if I have too much work. Luckily, I’m good at being offline while on holiday. I can almost forget what I do.
Have you met someone who made you look at things differently?
My relationships have made me look at the world differently. But the one who has influenced me the most is of course my husband Mads – primarily because of his character which is tolerant, inclusive and generous. His approach to the world has also affected the way I interact with people.
My children really make me view the world differently. Nova, my daughter, is my biggest critic. She’s like a mirror that tells me if I’m successful and if I’m using the correct words in accordance to my work. She’s sometimes like: "How can you say something like that – doing what you do? Are you, seriously, as a gender sociologist being sexistic?" Haha, I love that my kids are now so clever, that they possess the gender awareness to correct me when I fail. Which I do - as everyone else.
What tends to annoy you?
Trust is the key to my way of life. Actually, I have a hard time tolerating someone breaking an agreement.
Do you cry easily?
My family will properly say so, but I don’t think it applies to me. But what affects me and can sometimes make me cry is somebody’s ability to understand other people, contribute to them and embrace their differences.
What does your gender mean to you?
Biologically my gender was of importance giving birth to my children. On a more abstract and cultural level my gender functions as a marker, which I play my identity up against. I, as everybody else, perform gender. It’s something I continually negotiate in my relationship with my surroundings and something I think about a lot - both in my work but also in my private life.
What does love mean for you?
It’s everything! I met Mads when I was 21 years old and we have been together for 20 years now. Probably none of us had seen that coming. Of course life also happens to you, and you need to compromise and fit in to all your relationships, but I would never be able to compromise on love. I don’t think of myself as a person who can’t be on my own. I feel comfortable in my own company, but I’m also very social and need the things only my loved ones can give me.