Mag
Last Words: The Subject, The Absolute, The Other

Last Words: The Subject, The Absolute, The Other

Hannah Jane Cohen
Photos by
Art Bicnick

Published November 10, 2017

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them,” says Margaret Atwood.

Yes, quite the pithy phrase, right? Auspicious, sensational, the perfect soundbite for upper middle class “Gender Studies” majors to whisper solemnly in poetry readings.

I always thought that kind of thinking was removed from reality, melodramatic, and above all else, stupid. I had never subscribed to Atwood’s assertion, and never in my wildest dreams could have imagined that the moment I did would be on the notoriously safe streets of Reykjavík. But hey, life is unpredictable.

The situation

Last Wednesday, as I walked home from work around 2:30 AM, a man started aggressively following me in his car, screaming ferociously at me to come inside. The details are too long for this short column, but the encounter ended with me sprinting down Laugavegur as he accelerated faster and faster at my side. Though I eventually found two men who escorted me home, the experience frightened me deeply. This man had malicious intent. He wanted to harm me. I was in danger.

Yet, here I was, on Laugavegur, the busiest street in Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital, which had effectively turned into a ghost town in the wee hours of the morning. The streets were barren. The shops were closed. My options were horrifyingly limited. Get home? That’s far. 10/11 on Hverfisgata? Even farther. Hide? Scream? Fight?

Fight. This sent a shiver through my soul. It hit me quickly that were this man to attack me, there was little I could realistically do. He was bigger than me, and even at peak physical condition, could I beat him? Probably not. As a biological woman, my bodily defenses were laughably pitiful. If we were in a debate, I could laugh at him, but here on the street, I could just run. The deck was stacked against me.

The solution

Now, I know my experience was unusual. Iceland is a relatively safe country. But considering the similarity of my circumstance to that of Birna Bjarnadóttir’s—who was kidnapped and murdered while walking down Laugavegur in January of this year—I now worry about walking home. In other cities, there are 24-hour shops, nighttime patrols, panic buttons. Should we adopt these? What is the solution for women against the innate biological strength of men?

Unfortunately, as my mother told me the next day, every woman has this horrifying realisation one day. It’s the tragic reality of being the weaker sex, but I should be happy I came out of my experience unscathed. Others are not so lucky.


Mag
Word Of The Issue: Olnbogabarn

Word Of The Issue: Olnbogabarn

by

Anyone who has more than one child and says they love them all equally is lying, as anyone with siblings

Mag
Word Of The Issue: Dömubindi

Word Of The Issue: Dömubindi

by

So you have a gymnastics session and you’re wearing all white. Obviously, you need something to catch all of the

Mag
Ask A Scientist: The Indestructible Aftertaste Of The Icelandic Hot Dog

Ask A Scientist: The Indestructible Aftertaste Of The Icelandic Hot Dog

by

It’s your first visit to Iceland and people won’t shut up about the famed Icelandic hot dog that you simply

Mag
Well, You Asked: Non-Traditional Hot Dogs, Immigration & The Gay Agenda

Well, You Asked: Non-Traditional Hot Dogs, Immigration & The Gay Agenda

by

Stuck in a tricky situation? Don’t worry, Grapevine’s advice column is here to help you. Dear Grapevine, I like putting

Mag
Ask A Biologist: Why Are There No Big Spiders In Iceland?

Ask A Biologist: Why Are There No Big Spiders In Iceland?

by

Spiders in Iceland seem, anecdotally, few and small. We asked Dr. Gísli Már Gíslason, Professor of Biology at the University

Mag
Last Words: Novels And TV Shows

Last Words: Novels And TV Shows

by

It would be an understatement to say that I like novels more than I do TV series. I‘m making this

Show Me More!