Icelandic Womanhood (JB)


julianabjornsdottir_dlAs an Icelandic woman I am blessed and fortunate.

I have sailed through life on a fortress of a boat floating down a gentle river. I have been given all the opportunities in the world to succeed on my own terms and make my own decisions. I have always been encouraged to be independent and to make a name for myself for the person I am.

I was raised in a household where both my parents worked, and my mother was always one of the most successful women in my community.

My father was one of the better known faces in the athletic circles, both in the community in which I was raised and on national level, for his phenomenal success as a soccer player for the local team and the Icelandic national team.

Both my parents encouraged me to stand on my own two feet and never depend on anyone but myself for financial and professional success.

They also enabled me to pursue less “socially acceptable” lifestyle choices such as traveling the world and working low-paid service jobs as means of temporary income.

They taught me how to be a person, a character inside a woman’s body.

The let me find my own way in life, for which I am eternally grateful.

This fierce independence of Icelandic women and the notion that we can have it all is what made it all possible. We can travel the world, educate ourselves and be successful while still pursuing happiness in our private lives.

Having children and a life partner is no obstacle on the route to professional success. Whether a woman falls pregnant in her teens, her mid-twenties or late thirties, we all believe we have the same chance of succeeding in living the life we have chosen for ourselves.

Some of the most successful women I know had children in their late teens and within ten years one of them achieved more success professionally than a number of childless women like myself saw in our late twenties.

This confidence and self-belief in our character and our ambitions are probably the reason two thirds of registered students in the University of Iceland are women.

Single moms, moms in partnership with two, three children or even four children, single women, women with boyfriends, women in full-time jobs, part-time jobs and retired women all enroll to university looking to expand their mind.

The female student body at the University of Iceland is comprised of women of all ages and descents enriching their lives with knowledge.

According to the Huffington Post, Iceland is the best place in the world to be a woman, and perhaps there is some truth in it.

But the “truth” told in Bang Iceland, a recently published work by Roosh Vörek, all that matters to me is stripped away and Icelandic women are deemed “loose” and sexually “exploitable.”

The first draft of this column was in fact my response fuelled by personal anger towards the author, and disappointment that a publishing house would actually consider publishing such slander.

But then I switched my perspective and wrote this column.

The author’s disregard for feminists and women in general is no novelty to me. An Icelandic celebrity figure wrote a book about manners once and in his book he refers to women as princesses, a term I am on ambiguitous terms with these days because of its historical reference to women’s place in society.

As a princess, I am (and this is purely my impression) a decorative creature who plays a supporting role to the prince in my life. I am still to find a real-life princess who has a career of her own and more importantly, an identity outside of her title.

I have not read either one of the works by these two individuals but I do wish the invisible veil blurring their vision could be removed so that they could see women as equals, equal participants in life.

They shouldn’t solely be regarded as members of the opposite sex, or objects “who aim to please when drunk enough” and “to decorate the world with an exterior physical perfection.”

In looking at readers’ comments on the news site where I read about Vörek's work I came across comments from women who seemed to think there are a lot of promiscuous women in Iceland, women who are careless in their sexual innuendos.

Of course there are women and men who are too careless in their choice of sexual encounters.

But I think most people, men and women, who enjoy the occasional one night stand are responsible in their choice of sexual partners.

I think often enough people meet through a friend or a friend of a friend and hook up following a fun night out. I think in fact, most of us have at some point in our lives been in that situation.

To write a book about random sexual encounters with strangers on the other hand, I think is an invasion into the private lives of those women who perhaps simply enjoyed the author’s company and found themselves sexually attracted to him.

He degrades them and objectifies them even if no names are mentioned.

He fails to take into account that women too are sexual creatures and plays on the old slanting “rumors” that a sexually liberated woman is a slut while a sexually liberated man is a hero.

The fact that his book is published is a validation of the latter.

His work does nothing but widen the gap between already divided genders, and that at a time when we need to come together as individuals rather than members of a gendered society.

Full equality of the sexes is not a far-fetched dream in Iceland. We need to take the last steps in unity and break the barriers of genderism, for men and women, and that can only happen by embracing our individual selves and to be judged based on our character but not our gender.

Júlíana Björnsdóttir – [email protected]

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.