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Shame on You! (JB)

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Júlíana Björnsdóttir's picture

The annual Slut Walk was held in Reykjavík city center on Saturday. According to DV, the estimated numbers of attendants was roughly 18,000 to 20,000, the highest so far.

This year has been inspirational for the feminist movement. The new generation of feminists, the young women who’re still in the process of completing their high school and university education, are taking control of their bodies.

Earlier this year, a group of young women walked down Laugavegur shopping street in the Reykjavík city center, topless as they participated in the Free the Nipple campaign. Following their actions, a huge number of women of all ages posted their topless pictures on Twitter to liberate themselves from the reigns of a society that sees the female nipple as something to hide, something too shameful to reveal.

The conservatives criticized them for being so naive as to think that someone wouldn’t use it against them and post their topless pictures from Twitter on a website dedicated to revenge porn. These are the people who failed to understand that they were choosing to be topless, and showing the world their inner strength and bravery, an act that should earn them admiration rather than condemnation.

If I were a business owner, these are the young women I’d notice out of my pile of applications. These would be the young women I’d like to have in my team because they are brave and not afraid of standing up for themselves and their beliefs.

Then came the next phase, the phase when women in particular of all ages began to share their stories of rape, incest and sexual abuse of all kinds on social media. One after another shared their stories, sometimes telling family and friends for the first time what had happened to them. Those who dared to name the culprit were accused of slander, of accusing innocent people of a crime that had not been proven.

For some, the system had failed them by recommending them not to press charges, while others had taken it all the way and yet lost due to insufficient evidence (her word against his or her word), and some had never spoken about it to anyone or had been accused of lying and after which never spoke about the attack again.

Circumstances varied. The bottom line was that they’d spoken; they’d lifted the burden of guilt and taken control. Their rapists, whether named or not, know who they are and know they can no longer place the shame on the lives of the men and women they violated upon their own accord.

So this year’s Slut Walk was big. It was the accumulation of a revolution already changing the mindset in our society. The heroes, survivors of sexual assault carried orange balloons and those who knew someone who’d been raped a yellow one.

It was hard to listen to the speeches. Sóley Tómasdóttir, city official and a feminist with a capital F, spoke to all women and me when she said that still today we are always on guard, always aware of the lurking threat of being raped or harassed in some way.

My own stories of harassment are numerous. So many that I have lost count. I remember the really brutal ones. Being slapped for not being interested in a man or chased to a bathroom by a complete stranger while out with an ex-boyfriend who thankfully saw what was happening and ran him off. If I’d been single or had a girlfriend tried to stop him, would I have been one of the women and men carrying the orange balloon?

I have also had to run off a man who chased me down a street late at night. It wasn’t my fault. I had every right to be out. He chose to chase me down the street. His shame, not mine.

This fifth wave of feminism is breaking down the patriarchy like a tsunami. It’s a force to be reckoned with.

It wipes the shame away; takes away the shame men and women who’ve been sexually assaulted or abused feel in the aftermath of the event or events; the shame of menstruation; and liberates the nipple.

Women and men came together in Reykjavík city center on Saturday and threw the shame back at rapists and harassers who’ve crossed their paths in life or the paths of a loved one.

Sadly, it is still harder for men to return the shame of being violated. But yesterday was their day too. It belonged to all survivors; the heroes who rose from the flames like a phoenix on fire and covered the perpetrators in the ash of their rightful shame.

Let’s hope the authorities pay attention this time.

Júlíana Björnsdóttir – julianabjornsdottir(at)gmail.com

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