Icelandic Women Stood Together To Create World’s Most Feminist Country
When women refused to work or perform household duties Iceland had no choice but to take women’s issues seriously
40 years ago, Icelandic women were underpaid, overworked and under-appreciated. When they raised the issue, they were shrugged off by the men in their country and government, who failed to understand the issue.
More on that later. For a moment, let’s talk about women’s current state in America.
In America, women make 77 cents on the dollar their male counterparts make for doing the same job.
Women are also poorly compensated in fields that are made up primarily of women, such as those who work with children, the beauty industry, and as caregivers. While uneducated men are fairly compensated doing “male work” in construction and service, uneducated women don’t have the same options. To be frank, women’s time and effort isn’t considered valuable if the job isn’t of value to men. The median wage for a day care worker, which is extremely trying, exhausting work is just $9.38/hr in this country. Entry-level construction laborers start at $14.02/hr.
Women are put at further disadvantage when they have children. American women are not guaranteed maternity leave, and if they are given time off, it’s often unpaid time off which isn’t affordable to many women. When they return to work, they aren’t guaranteed childcare and shell out hundreds of dollars per month for childcare. In fact, the average cost of child care in this country is $972 per month. Women have children, that’s just a reality, and many families can’t afford to leave the mother at home to cover child care because that’s one less income in the household.
And if a woman becomes a stay-at-home mom, they are left depending on spouses or significant other’s to bring in the bread. This leaves the male feeling like he is the sole provider in the family without realizing the work his wife puts in, which leads to power struggles. Being a housewife, is not about kicking back and watching TV all day, there is work involved and it often goes unnoticed. It’s also not compensated.
We live in an age where prices are rising for milk, rent, and gas — yet, women’s wages remain low and stagnant.
Even educated women are feeling the pinch, as they are passed over for promotions or raises, known as the “Glass Ceiling“.
Women are critical Components to America’s economy and labor force.
Republican politicians sneer at women who want reproductive rights, yet want little to do with making their financial situations more comfortable. They scoff at the idea of subsidized childcare or parental leave. They rattle off excuses of why women are paid less, rather than make a law that guarantees women are paid fairly. It’s inexcusable.
This brings me back to Iceland.
Icelandic women were experiencing much of the same problems within their own small island country that women are facing in America today. Housewives were unappreciated because their husbands had no idea the kind of work they put into the household. Teachers, factory workers, clerks, and nurses were fed up watching their male counterparts take home larger paychecks.
A feminist group called the Red Stockings within Iceland devised a strike in 1975. The men shrugged it off as a joke at first, with a “who cares” attitude. Then the day came and women across the country took the day off. One-tenth of the country’s women refused to go to work or perform any household duties. Needless to say, men got the point.
It worked. Within a year, the Gender Equality Council was formed and passed the Gender Equality Act, which outlawed gender discrimination in school and the workplace. Within five years, in 1980, Iceland elected its first female President, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, who presided over four terms until 1996. During President Finnbogadottir’s term, childcare became heavily subsidized, and every parent was entitled to three months paid time off to care for their newborn. Ultimately, the gender pay gap was not entirely closed, but they boast a smaller pay gap than any other country. They are known as the most feminist country in the world — out of 133 other nations. Is Iceland perfect? No, but the point is they are well ahead of America in terms of groundwork laid to chip away at inequality between the sexes.
While America is not Iceland, our country would be brought to a halt if a large percentage of women were willing to strike for equality. Female protesters brought women the right to vote, among a host of other rights, in the early 20th century; it goes to show when women stick together we’re capable of gaining victories for ourselves.
We are living in a time when religious groups are fighting to keep women firmly in the 19th century. When I hear Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker unapologetically say that abortion should be illegal, even if the mother’s life is at stake, I know that the Republican party has no interest in upholding the rights of women because our lives and rights don’t even outweigh a fetus’. When I hear Dr. Ben Carson say that women gaining important rights has led to a “me generation” I know that Dr. Carson doesn’t understand the issues women face in their lifetimes as Americans — and currently Dr. Carson polls under Donald Trump who cherishes women like they’re an oil painting or a nice pen.
But even if a Democratic candidate is elected to office in 2016, it wouldn’t be enough. The country would still collectively make a wanking motion every time women’s issues were broached; women would vastly benefit if they demonstrated to the country their importance.
American women could really learn from Icelandic women.
Featured image via pinterest.
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Jenna lives in the bowels of the disgustingly hot state of Arizona among Tea Partiers, gun nuts, and racists. She is an activist, writer and politics junkie who is optimistic that stupid, can indeed, be fixed.