Over 300 Icelandic female politician from across the political spectrum have signed a petition demanding that “all men take responsibility” to stop sexual abuse and harassment. Three of the women then appeared on a TV interview the same day with state broadcaster RÚV, sharing their experiences.
“One man, who is still working in politics today, told me that after he read an article by me that all he had to do to orgasm was to think of me and what I wrote,” former Progressive Party MP Jóhanna María Sigmundsdóttir told RÚV. She added that when she started out in politics she received comments like that she needed to smile more, be cute and “not to cover up so much.”
The idea behind the petition was born out of a closed Facebook group where around 600 women who have been involved in politics discussed how they have experienced sexual harassment through their work.
“We demand that all men take responsibility and that all political parties take a firm stance on the issue and put in place a protocol to deal with incidents that might arise and promise women that they don’t need to remain silent and that they will get support,” the petition stated.
Right on cue
It didn’t take long following the interview for chauvinism to rear its ugly head. Businessman Ragnar Önundarson, who in 2011, when serving as CEO of the credit card company Eurocard was suspected of breaking antitrust laws, posted a picture of Independence Party MP Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir with a text that can only be understood as poorly veiled slut shaming. He had taken the picture from Áslaug Arna’s personal Facebook page.
“This young woman was on TV tonight talking about the sexual harassment women in politics experience. She has used this picture as her profile picture on Facebook. Some people probably think it doesn’t matter what kind of pictures people in politics use to present themselves. You be the judge.
The reaction to the post was overwhelmingly negative.
“What do you mean? Are you implying that she’s giving out a hunting license for herself with this picture?” one commentator wrote. While another took a humorous approach to the matter:
“What sort of image is this man presenting by having the top button of his shirt unbuttoned like that?”
Áslaug herself responded to the post by asking Ragnar what it is that he was trying to say, to which he replied that she should hire a PR agent to help with her public image.