What really stood out about last year was the solidarity on display, along with more people joining in the gender equality discussion than ever before. In the past, people’s only option for sharing their experiences publicly were books and magazines, where editors decided whose voice was worth being heard. As the public in ever greater numbers takes to platforms like Twitter—where people retain complete control over their voices—more are being heard than ever before. Some of those voices are being heard for the first time.
The whole of 2015 was dedicated to the celebration of the centennial anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in Iceland. The City of Reykjavík staged one hundred events to mark the occasion, which is an absolutely massive undertaking. Many of them were very memorable, including one where former president Vigdís Finnbogadóttir—the world’s first democratically elected female head of state—unveiled a statue of Iceland’s first female MP, Ingibjörg H. Bjarnason, on the centennial’s exact date, June 19.
In April, Icelandic women flocked to Twitter with their nips out, proudly proclaiming that it was high time to #FreeTheNipple. The movement began as a show of solidarity with a local high school student who had been cruelly mocked by boys her age upon baring her nipples in an online discussion about women’s right to bare their nipples. Sigh. While a few older people were shocked at the campaign, a great number of young women proudly partook in it, both online and on the streets. Personally, the movement opened my eyes to a double standard that I hadn’t much considered prior, as I’ve never needed to breastfeed in public, and Reykjavík never gets hot enough to warrant topless sunbathing. Now know that I can.
#konurtala and #þöggun
These two hashtags were born from the women-only Beauty Tips Facebook group—women took to social media and wrote articles about being silenced and ignored when speaking out about sexual violence and sexual harassment, ranging from smaller annoyances to very serious issues.
The fifth edition of the Reykjavík SlutWalk was the most powerful yet. While we don’t have verifiable numbers of how many actually showed up for the event, estimates place the number at around 20,000, compared to 11,000 just a year earlier. The energy that poured into the march and the participants’ enthusiasm were incredible to witness.
Leading up to the event, we hung posters all around town displaying portraits of 27 different women from all walks of life under the caption: “I’m a slut.” We then crafted a template for others to easily make their own “I’m a slut” portraits, but by the time we started distributing them many had already made their own versions, posting them on places like Snapchat.
It really feels as though we have done what was always a big part of the mission, taking the word “slut” and transforming it into something positive. People don’t feel bad about calling themselves sluts anymore, which means others can no longer use the word as a weapon against them. And that is awesome.
The fall’s hashtag campaign, #6dagsleikinn, opened up a lot of discussions, highlighting sexism and sexual harassment in society, pointing out things that go on in women’s day-to-day lives that many men had never heard of or considered prior, much the same way as #everydaysexism did. Many men partook in the discussion, stating that they had really never known how common these instances were, and how shocked they were to learn about them—a lot of people’s eye’s were opened. Amazingly, #6dagsleikinn is still going strong on social media, too.
This feminist group, comprised of people with disabilities, did outstanding work in the year 2015, protesting and sharing their experiences in a public forum. The group has been outspoken for a number of years about the issues disabled people face daily. One of their main focal points is violence against disabled women, both sexual and non-sexual. They really shook up the discussion, and I really hope to hear more from them in the coming year, as they deserve more attention for all the great work they’re doing.
Bright Future deputy MP Heiða Kristín Helgadóttir opened up an important discussion while acting as an MP, about the state’s taxes on tampons and sanitary pads, which averages out at 65,500 ISK per year per woman. The dissenting voices were hilarious, to say the least, with some calling repealing the tax a “cosy privilege.” Let me be clear: getting your period is neither cosy nor much of a privilege—repealing the tampon tax has nothing to do with granting women a state-sanctioned privilege; rather, it serves to even the playing field by ensuring women don’t face additional expense due to their gender.
Hagaskóli wins Skrekkur
At annual junior high talent show Skrekkur, a group of teenagers from Hagaskóli staged a spoken word dance performance about the gender-based pressures that girls are subject to from an early age. And they absolutely killed it! I get goose bumps just thinking about it! I was reduced to tears at work when I first saw their performance. It’s so encouraging to see such young kids join in, realising that they don’t have to play along with a system they do not like.
Sunna Ben is an activist, DJ, artist, photo editor, and a SlutWalk organiser.
As told to Gabríel Benjamin.
SlutWalk Aims For Record Breaking Year
In the months following Sanguinetti’s statement, SlutWalks appeared transnationally—in Asia, North and Latin America, and in Europe. Their purpose: to call attention to social, cultural, and legal issues surrounding rape, and rape culture—notably the fallaciousness of victim-blaming and slut-shaming. Iceland’s first SlutWalk occurred on July 23, 2011.
Liking, Tweeting, And Sharing For Women’s Rights: The Role Of Social Media In Feminism
From the outside looking in, Iceland may appear to be a rocky little utopia of feminist ideals (and elves). It has been ranked again and again as one of the best places to live as a woman, as it has the smallest gender gap in terms of salary, education, healthcare, and political representation.
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