One can‘t simply order a revolution, neither how it begins nor its trajectory once in motion. Revolutions are by their very nature spontaneous affairs; disorderly, sustained by people who unite in a common cause, demanding that society itself change.
Kvenréttindafélag Íslands, the Icelandic Women‘s Rights Association, is born of one such revolution, when women across the globe stood up and demanded full and equal access to all institutions of society through women’s suffrage. And now, a little over a century later, we are the ones who sit by on the sidelines, not idly, but cheering as loudly as we can in support of our modern revolutionary heroes, the feminist women in our high schools, our colleges, and even our middle schools.
These women live and breathe in a world that their foremothers could scarcely have imagined, a digital world, a world permanently connected online . Still, the threats that they face are both familiar and deep-seated. Online and offline, women face harassment, persecution, and sexual violence.
One manifestation of online harassment is non-consensual pornography, so-called “revenge porn,” when photographs showing individuals naked and/or in a sexual manner are distributed without consent. Today, just as one hundred years ago, the bodies of women are commodities to be bought, sold and traded. We still live in a society where women—their bodies, their images, their sexuality—are up for sale.
The revolution started by women online under the hashtag #FreeTheNipple is a revolution for sexual rights. These women claim ownership over their bodies and refuse to grant power to those who would control them. They refuse to accept that there is something inherently shameful about the naked female body.
Icelandic women, working together, have revolutionized Icelandic society over the last century, and they—we—have created a better society and brighter future for us all. Yet again, women stand together, this time online, demanding that society respect women’s agency over their own lives and bodies, demanding that the shame that women have been burdened with through the centuries be now redirected to where it belongs, to those who would lay claim over and abuse the bodies of others.
The women who have participated in the #FreeTheNipple movement will feel the awesome power of the patriarchy in the coming weeks and months. We, the women of the executive board of Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, would like to say to our younger sisters: If you face hostility, be sure that you are doing something right. We bear in our bosoms (alas, fully-clothed) love and support for your actions, and look forward to standing with you, side by side, to face the ever-diminishing patriarchy.
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