Icelandic feminists protest outside soon to be closed strip club
In case anyone missed it Julie Bindel wrote an excellent article in The Guardian on Friday’s about the impressive feminist revolution which gone on in Iceland since the political defeat of the right after last year’s financial collapse. A few days ago the country took the radical step of outlawing all strip clubs, or rather banning all businesses from profiting from the nudity of their employees. Last year Iceland also became the world’s third country after Sweden and Norway to outlaw the purchase of sex and they’re also, as far as I know, the only country in Western Europe never to have legalised porn. The left government has in addition introduced tough new laws to tackle trafficking and domestic violence and have also imposed gender quotas within company boards.
This latest bill to close down strip clubs was introduced initially by Left Green MP Kolbrún Halldórsdóttir. As she says “It is not acceptable that women or people in general are a product to be sold.” And Guðrún Jónsdóttir of Stígamót, an organisation which has worked tirelessly against all forms of male violence for the last two decades, points out that “The Nordic countries are leading the way on women’s equality, recognising women as equal citizens rather than commodities for sale.” Within the space of just a year Iceland has, I think we can say, systematically worked to dismantle the patriarchal ideology which has gone on for thousands of years and which sees women and their bodies as being placed on this world in order to serve men.
That Icelandic women have for the first time won real political power is, of course, hardly unrelated to these radical moves. The left advance last year also saw a significant increase in the percentage of women in parliament, due to the much more equal gender balance on the electoral lists of the Social Democrats and Left Greens. Women now make up 43% of MPs in the Icelandic parliament, more than in any other European country except Sweden. And let’s not forget that they also have the world’s first lesbian Prime Minister, Johanna Sigurðardottir from the Social Democrats. Johanna is herself a strong feminist and, while her government has been criticised over some of its policies on Icesave, she cannot be said to be a politician who lacks conviction or who isn’t motivated by a desire to make things better for those she represents.
Feminism is hardly new to Iceland of course. Between 1983 and 1998 they had a feminist party, called the Women’s List, represented in parliament and which was set up due to anger over the lack of the other party’s efforts to promote gender equality and equal representation. And on the 24th of October 1975 90% of Icelandic women went on strike for the day, refusing to cook, clean or go into work. Today organisations like Stígamót and the Feminist Association regularly engage in various forms of activism and campaign work and have gained increasing political clout.
As can maybe be expected the strip club ban has received significant attention internationally on blogs and various news sites. A few people are supportive but most of the comments I’ve seen are something along the lines of “oh my god, how awful, that’s Iceland permanently off my list of travel destinations”, or “what a bunch of puritanical, sexually-repressed, militant lesbian, man-hating prudes”. Others, while claiming to be no fans of strip clubs or prostitution, cannot possibly imagine a world where they cease to exist. Well let’s hope Iceland can show that such a world is indeed possible and that sitting back and adopting a defeatist attitude to everything is never going to help us change things for the better. To be radical is to dare to take on and challenge patriarchy at its roots, not to simply manage and regulate it so as to hopefully make it just this little bit better.
Read Julie’s Bindel’s article in full at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/mar/25/iceland-most-feminist-country
Here’s also an excellent article in English titled “Women and crisis” by Left Green member Drífa Snædal: http://www.vg.is/frettir/eldri-frettir/nr/4543