July 28, 2021

In the country of strong women | Society

In the country of strong women | Society

Which does not mean, as they emphasize, that they live in paradise. Under the mask of equity, another hostile amalgam takes place in which sexual violence, wage gap (16%), business domes in which a tie is needed (no woman sits in the addresses of listed companies) and misogyny are mixed. It is as if the geological tensions that make up the northernmost nation of Europe are reflected in the war between the enormous feminist push and the mercurial land of patriarchy.

With the same harshness of the volcanic lava flows that cover their remote country, the Icelanders have risen since the beginning of the 20th century interpellated by the suffrage movements that traveled the world, as the director of the Icelandic Women's Rights Association, Brynhildur Heidar remembers. -og Ómarsdóttir, founded in 1907. "Our success is also due to the fact that we are in the club of the five Nordic nations, the most egalitarian, and that we live in a sparsely populated country where changes, if there is political will, are They can do it quickly. " In the municipal elections of Reykjavik in 1908, in which the majority of women were authorized to vote, a list of women was presented. They got four of the 12 councilors. In 1922, a similar formation conquered Parliament.

But the eruption that broke down important walls of inequality occurred on October 24, 1975. The women left factories and offices, left the children with husbands and sThey concentrated in the squares, amazing the world. "It was incredible to see them coming through all the streets, emerging from all sides, that sense of strength and twinning …", recalls Kristín. They asked for equality, nurseries for their children and equal salaries. The tide, orchestrated by all kinds of organizations, not necessarily feminists, on the occasion of the UN women's decade, dragged it along. That effervescence changed his life as well as that of the Icelanders.

That same year, almost free abortion was approved, in several cases; the next, a law of equality and in 1980 the country beat the main one of its feminist brands by electing a theater company director, also a single mother, as the first president in the whole world. Icelanders under the age of 50 grew up watching Vigdís Finnbogadottir on the news. Like Rósa Björk Brynjólfsdóttir, deputy for the Movement of the Green Left, or the social-democratic councilor of Reykjavik Heida Björg Hilmisdóttir. "We have very strong women as models," emphasizes the latter. Powerful. A word that always comes out when asked about the feminist singularity of a wildly volcanic country and inclement weather today adored by tourists. In the past, shipwrecks left orphans and widows who had to survive. That, tell Icelandic brands. Younger women received in 2007 the first lesbian government head of the world, Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir, who married her girlfriend on the same day in 2010 when equal marriage came into force.

Duridur Blaer Johansdottir gets up and plays at walking like a stevedore. "See, we're Icelandic," he laughs. Within the feminist hip-hop collective Reykjavíkurdætur (Daughters of Reykjavik) he phrased his strength. "We feel powerful and rap on that." The youngest are the subjects of this 28-year-old actress who lives in the corner of Europe with a prime minister, a bishop in charge of the Church, a well-known police chief in the capital and a young leader of the Confederation of Trade Unions. A country full of milestones:

1. Obliged to pay the same

Wearing a black Mao collar shirt, the CEO of Reykjavik Energy (RE) Bjarni Bjarrsson is standing at the corner of an open office. It is still night. Those around him and the rest of the 550 employees of the company owned by Reykjavik City Council charge the same regardless of their sex. The law that requires companies to show that they pay equal to men and women by means of a certificate is the last world record that Iceland beat in 2018 to tackle the wage gap. If they do not achieve the badge they face economic sanctions. In RE, which already has that seal, they started in 2011, when the inequality indicator was 7%. "We discovered that in this world, where there are apps for the most peregrine things, there was no tool for this. We had to make it. " The director of Human Resources, Solrun Kristándottir, a convinced feminist, agrees.

In the country of strong women

The IT platform measures salaries and jobs and corrects inequalities, in addition to monitoring in real time the impact that contracts and promotions have on equity. "We saw that those who work in the open, mostly men, earned more than those who were in the offices, especially women." A power point spits data: the salary gap is already history, there are 51% of managerial positions covered by women in an energy company where seven of every 10 employees are men, a gender expert was hired that changed the corporate culture, the shifts were over and … the company did not lose money.

Maríanna Traustadóttir, responsible for Equality of the Confederation of Trade Unions, has worked for 10 years in the complex development of the law. Summarizes its essence like this: "It's about paying the same salary for the same type of work. I'll give you an example, is it better to carry sand to the playground of a kindergarten or to be in charge of the children all day? The first thing men usually do, the second, women. And they earn less. "

The impact of the law is still minimal. Of the approximately 1,180 Icelandic companies and institutions have obtained the seal 73. Due to the difficulties of the application, a moratorium has been granted until the end of this year for the largest companies. All must have the stamp in 2023.

2. The conciliation

With one eye on a small corkscrew that splashes in the jacuzzi, Anna, her chin stuck in the water, is left thinking. "When I'm off for my baby, I do not know what we're going to do, maybe I'll start working before and my husband later …", says the young architect. Iceland was the first nation in the world to approve in 2003 three months of leave for both the father and the mother and three others that can be divided between them. The feminist Margrét Pála Ólafsdóttir, also a specialist in early childhood education, was one of the driving forces behind the development of the nursery network after the 75 strike. "The women wanted kindergartens to be able to go to work. That is the key to equality. "

Until the children enter subsidized day care centers, after two years, there is a long period without social protection. "There is the mother by day, who takes care of five children, but that's very expensive," protests Gudrun, secretary in a union, whose son swarms with a plastic boat through the steaming water of the outdoor pool, a classic for gatherings and meetings. "My husband is a pilot and he wins very well. We did not take the leave because we lost a lot of money. " In the permits, 80% of the salary is received with a cap of 600,000 crowns (4,400 euros).

Torsteinn V. Einarsson did take the fall. "I want to know what will happen when my daughter grows up and let's see what ties bind us," she says sitting in the university cafe. Her life changed so much that she quit her job and enrolled in a master's degree in gender studies. He even threw a hastag inviting men to talk about toxic masculinity.

Professor Hanna Björg Vilhjálmsdóttir, during her gender class at an institute.
Professor Hanna Björg Vilhjálmsdóttir, during her gender class at an institute.

3. Gender classes.

To Hanna Björg Vilhjálmsdóttir, an imposing woman with the feminist icon tattooed on her neck, many girls have told her that going to her high school class has saved their lives. Classes in which he asks:

– Who wins with the image of the woman in pornography?

-The man, responds a red-haired boy from the front row.

-And what is it that wins?


-And therefore, who loses?

-The woman.

Hanna smiles. Before her, 11 boys and 10 girls with the air between absent and shy of those who look out to adult life. He then asks them if they think that the class, mandatory in this institute outside of Reykjavik, should be in all secondary schools. Yes unanimously. In almost half of the institutes in Iceland learn about toxic masculinity, sexualization and misogyny, "which is like water for fish, we move in it", says the teacher, a pioneer in developing this 16-week program for boys between 16 and 19 years old.

4. MeToo to the Icelandic.

Councilwoman Hilmisdóttir has been left alone in the municipal office building. It dusk on one of lakes of the center of Reykjavik. In 2017, while the MeToo crossed the networks, Iceland fell back in women in Parliament: up to 38%. The also vice president of the Social Democratic Party opened a private Facebook group to which she invited other policies to share cases of abuse. They signed up for 600. Rósa Bjork wrote that a minister intended to dislodge her by telling her that she knew who she had slept with. "She told me that when she talked to me I could not take my eyes off her, because she was so good." A week later they published 136 cases: assaults in the elevator, public sex demands, rapes. Thirty more groups from other sectors were created. "Parliament changed the code of conduct. I felt very proud, "confides Rósa, sipping a coffee, two steps away from the discreet legislative building," but then came the Klusturgate. "

5. Ministers and misogynists.

Klusturgate. Ragnhildur Jonasdottir, Ragga, Another of the rappers of the Reykjavíkurdætur collective, lowers her head and hides her in her arms. A guttural sound indicates disgust. Shortly after the strike of 2018 – the Icelanders have stopped on October 24 five times since 1975 and last year they left work at 14.55, the time when, statistically, they stop charging-, six opposition MPs they were recorded in the Klustur bar, uttering rude misogynistic, homophobic and sexist comments against other comrades. "They are 10% of the parliament (Iceland has 63 deputies), and among them are a former prime minister and the extitular of Foreign Affairs, who have walked around the world presenting themselves as the champions of feminism!". Kristin says it. Rosa repeats it. The same indignation is felt in gestures and words of all. Two politicians were expelled from their party, but they left for another. Nobody resigned.

Judging by the fury that unleashes, the episode of this bar threatens to unleash the next feminist eruption in the country of strong women.

Rape stories and illegal sex

n the sofa in the Stígamot hall, a center where survivors of sexual violence attend interviews and self-help groups, await two women who look like mother and daughter. They are young and have an unhappy face. Iceland is in the top positions in Europe in figures of rape and sexual assault, according to Eurostat. A major ongoing investigation in which it is intended to interview all Icelandic women over 18 reveals that one in four has suffered a sexual assault throughout their lives. In the same proportion they have been physically attacked. "Our goal is to lose the job," says Hjálmar Gunnar Sigmarsson, one of the counselors, surrounded by posters that promote respectful relationships among children with those who will paper the institutes.

At the entrance to a "gentlemen's club" in the center of Reykjavik, a woman with little clothes and an older man talk head to head. Paying for sex is prohibited in Iceland, following the Swedish model, as well as strip clubs. Although the existence of prostitution account for dozens of ads for escorts (which do not advertise prices) and profiles on social networks. Pursuing clients is not a priority for the police, say feminists. It maintains that it needs more money to attack a booming activity facilitated by Schengen. "They would have to make public the names of those who pay for sex, that would be effective," says parliamentarian Rósa Börg.


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