Environment Minister Björt Ólafsdóttir Advertises Dress In Parliament - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Environment Minister Björt Ólafsdóttir Advertises Dress In Parliament

Published July 31, 2017

Zoë Vala Sands
Photos by
Galvan London

Björt Ólafsdóttir, Iceland’s Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources, caused controversy after modelling a dress for the fashion brand Galvan London in the Icelandic House of Parliament last Friday. After considerable criticism, the fashion brand removed the photograph from their Instagram.

The photograph is part of the company’s social media campaign and features the Minister showcasing their Carmen dress with twirl in the Icelandic House of Parliament. Björt and Sóla Káradóttir, Galvan London’s creative director, have been friends for many years.

Using her position to advertise

“It is not exactly in the spirit of heightening Alþinigi’s respect, to change its chamber into the set of an advertisement campaign. Nor does it garner respect for Iceland’s parliament, when ministers are turning themselves into advertisements” Pirate Party MP Smári McCarthy told Eyjan.

Helgi Bernódusson, Director of Iceland’s parliament said that the photograph is “very surprising” and “certainly somewhat unusual”, but explained to visir.is that “it is strictly speaking not against parliamentary procedures”. According to Helgi, photographs for private use are authorized as long as the photographer stands outside the parliament chamber itself.

Björt points out that since the photographer was situated outside the chamber, she had not defied any parliamentary procedures. The Minister mocked the photograph’s negative feedback in a Facebook post.

The patriarchy at fault

“Whoops. Next time I’ll wear a tie to parliament to encourage my male co-workers to do the same. I worry somebody might like that,” Björt wrote. “Actually, with some reconsideration. That would obviously undermine the patriarchy in its entirety.”

Björt later apologized on Facebook, describing her initial post as “very reactionary and emotionally invested”. The Minister emphasised that while she is “proud to be a woman in this position and to display femininity in parliament” she misjudged the advertising campaign as an effective platform for communicating such a message.  

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