From Iceland — Why Doesn't Anyone Whistle To Me On The Street?

Why Doesn’t Anyone Whistle To Me On The Street?

Published April 11, 2016

Why Doesn’t Anyone Whistle To Me On The Street?
Jóhanna Pétursdóttir
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Having grown up in Belgium, where you get catcalled often, I was surprised that no one whistled or looked at me in an inappropriate way while I walked the streets of Reykjavík. This made me think about feminism in a different way.

Let’s put aside whether or not you’ve experienced catcalling in Iceland. Just the fact that I questioned myself when it didn’t occur disturbed me. I have always seen myself as a feminist, but this made me wonder: “When can you consider yourself a feminist?”

It’s easy, at least for people with some common sense—being a feminist is as simple as wanting equal rights for men and women. But for women, another question arises: At what cost will you pronounce yourself to be one?

Things like catcalling shouldn’t be seen as common, but there are other acts, expected by women and performed by men, that might appear less offensive but are still, in my opinion, rooted in inequality.

At what point does the fact that we want equal rights interfere with some of the things we now take for granted? Do you still think the guy should pay on the first date even though you want to—and of course should—earn as much as he does for the same job? To what degree will you flirt to score a free drink or any other advantage that you might get because you are a woman?

Does it still make you a feminist if you expect all the above? Or haven’t you considered these circumstances as symptoms of inequality between men and women?

The line separating men and women, identity and privileges, has blurred over the years to the point that being a feminist is about much more than facing up to the most obvious examples of inequality.

Iceland may be more gender equal than Belgium. That’s fine for Iceland, but not enough. Women can never quit questioning and never quit challenging all forms of inequality. It can be a little absurd constantly questioning yourself, but I’ve realized calling myself a feminist isn’t enough. It’s something I need to shout in the streets everyday.

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