From Iceland — What is the significance of Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir...

What is the significance of Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir…

Published February 6, 2009

What is the significance of Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir…
It is very significant. It is interesting to note
how much attention it has received from the international media, while
their Icelandic colleagues barely mention it. If they do, they try and
go around it. They only really mention it when reporting that it has
been reported upon internationally, if you can believe that.  
Having an openly gay Prime Minister is very important for gay people of
all nationalities. This is why it’s causing a stir. There seems to be a
shyness about it over here, however, even a form of suppression. Either
the Icelandic media has a problem using the words “hommi” (homosexual)
and “lesbía” (lesbian) or they find the subject uncomfortable. I also
think heterosexual journalists often don’t understand the significance
of her appointment. The appointment of the first openly gay PM is about
as significant for the gay community as the appointment of Obama in the
U.S. was for that nation’s African-American community.
And it’s strange to note that the Icelandic media has been constantly
repeating the fact that we now have our first female PM, while they
don’t mention a word about us having the whole world’s first openly gay
PM leading our government. There’s something off about the fact – they
seem to be almost hiding it.  
And I am not sure it has anything to do with how “liberal” we are. I
think it has more to do with a specific shyness or suppression – even a
suppressing shyness, if you will. It is a fact that Iceland hasn’t had
many openly gay politicians, and openly gay people have also been
mostly absent from leading roles in society, except for in the arts.
Even Iceland’s academic community, liberal as it is, it’s only very
recently that its members have become open about their sexuality. This
is very unfortunate, because there are a lot of children and teenagers
out there that need positive role models, and while the media remains
in the closet about these issues, people will, too.
In a way it can be compared to how the Icelandic media didn’t really
cover the awful position the Icelandic banks had gotten themselves
into, unless they were reporting on the coverage of the international
media. No reports on the banks, but if the international media reports
something, they post reports on those reports? This is absurd. Can’t
they just deal with matters in an honest, open way?
Baldur Þórhallsson (born 1968) is professor of Political Science at the
University of Iceland and holds a Ph.D in the subject from the
University of Essex, England. He regularly comments on Icelandic and
European politics in the Icelandic media and is a respected voice on
matters concerning the EU. Baldur is openly gay.

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