Women's Day Off
October 23, 2015 7:45 PM   Subscribe

The day Iceland's women went on strike. "Forty years ago, the women of Iceland went on strike - they refused to work, cook and look after children for a day. It was a moment that changed the way women were seen in the country and helped put Iceland at the forefront of the fight for equality." [Via]
posted by homunculus (21 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite

I keep finding things to like and admire about Iceland.

A few more years of climate change, and maybe I'll be able to handle the winters...
posted by Naberius at 8:32 PM on October 23, 2015

If 90% walk off the job, the other 110% of us would soon dwindle to 100% then it's paper plates and THACO from there on out.
posted by clavdivs at 9:18 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Banks, factories and some shops had to close, as did schools and nurseries - leaving many fathers with no choice but to take their children to work. There were reports of men arming themselves with sweets and colouring pencils to entertain the crowds of overexcited children in their workplaces.


"We heard children playing in the background while the newsreaders read the news on the radio, it was a great thing to listen to, knowing that the men had to take care of everything," says Vigdis.

I guess you could say it was the day that Men Had It All.
posted by picklenickle at 10:20 PM on October 23, 2015 [60 favorites]

It's always heartening to read that this sort of thing is possible, but it always raises the question, for me, of how we reproduce similar effects on a bigger scale. Iceland has the population size of a smallish European city, and societal inertia is commensurately easier to overcome.

It seems obvious to me that, if there is an answer to this question, it involves social media to a large degree, but the question of how we can employ that tool, and in combination with what other methods, is both interesting and (sometimes worryingly) challenging.
posted by howfar at 2:11 AM on October 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was commenting to a friend the other day that during my brief stay in Iceland last year my experience was that Icelandic women have made great strides toward equality compared to the US. The couples I stayed with had a much more equal division of labor involving childcare and household chores and there was palpable expectation difference as well - the men weren't receiving excess praise for a small portion of the work like they do in the US, they just got on with their half. It was a really welcome culture shock. They did tell me about the strike day as a historical precedent, but I think it'd take more than that to make a dent in the United States' gender equality.
posted by vegartanipla at 2:31 AM on October 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Further to howfar's comment, one of the modern obstacles to gender equality is the MRAs and internet trolls. I.e., there is an active oppositional movement that didn't exist in the past. So women today are not just fighting inertia. :/
posted by Halo in reverse at 2:32 AM on October 24, 2015 [8 favorites]

I keep finding things to like and admire about Iceland.

A few more years of climate change, and maybe I'll be able to handle the winters...

Being situated on a branch of the Gulf Stream, Iceland is not as cold as is often presumed - - the average winter temperature in Reykjavik is 0℃. (It's the darkness that'll getcha!)
posted by fairmettle at 3:06 AM on October 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

This is interesting. I'd worry about health care in this context, but otherwise really cool.

One thing I don't understand is why Iceland's size matters here. If it worked for a country the size of a smallish European city, why couldn't it work in any real smallish European cities? Why couldn't it work in a smallish American city?

Why can't 90% of the women of Sacremento or Austin or Albany go on strike?
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:30 AM on October 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Why can't 90% of the women of Sacremento or Austin or Albany go on strike?

Historically this has been because organized labour got their skulls cracked by police.
posted by srboisvert at 5:49 AM on October 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Why can't 90% of the women of Sacremento or Austin or Albany go on strike?

I think it's likely that they could, and we should definitely be trying to make it happen, but part of actually doing that, rather than hoping for it, is recognising that there are a lot of complicating factors when you're talking about a local movement within a larger and more diverse population, as opposed to a movement in a country like Iceland. The vested power structures opposed to such action are larger, the cultural conversation broader (even today, Icelandic has about 330,000 speakers globally - compare this with English), the notion of community and trust is fundamentally different (I remember reading about it being considered no big deal for some Icelandic teenagers to move out in their mid-teens). These are factors that make a difference to the practicalities of making this sort of thing work in other contexts.

It's also notable that a demonstration of 25,000 people represented the equivalent of over 30,000,000 people in terms of the US population. Doing something like this on a local level would be amazing and should happen, but its impact would be diluted by sheer force of numbers - raising the need to consider ways to build and maintain the momentum around direct action.

Direct action and resistance are, I think, a vital part of all modern democratic movements, but they present particular challenges in particular contexts, so let's work on those together.
posted by howfar at 6:06 AM on October 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

Clavdivs, For a moment I could not figure out how this related to D&D 2nd edition.
posted by wester at 6:37 AM on October 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


The husband of one of the main speakers was reportedly asked by a co-worker, "Why do you let your woman howl like that in public places? I would never let my woman do such things." The husband shot back: "She is not the sort of woman who would ever marry a man like you."
From the BBC article.
posted by sio42 at 6:41 AM on October 24, 2015 [19 favorites]

From the Guardian... Is this going to happen?
But 30 years later there is also a feeling of disillusionment. Bjornsdottir, the pregnant college girl who now handles PR for the educational sector of the City of Reykjavik, is sad that her daughter has not benefited more from what happened. A statistic much flaunted these days is that Icelandic women earn on average only 64.15% of men's wages. And so next Monday, on the rally's 30th anniversary, women are being encouraged to leave work at 2.08pm, the time by which they would have earned their pay if they they were earning the same as men. They plan to raid their kitchens beforehand and bring pans and pots to work, bang them together and make as much noise as possible. Whether the authorities will hear remains to be seen.
posted by sio42 at 6:48 AM on October 24, 2015 [13 favorites]

I remember years later, my mother and other housewives were still talking about this. It was a huge deal. It's so sad that the benefits haven't lasted.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:25 AM on October 24, 2015

Even though Iceland is a remarkably homogenous island society, it's still part of much bigger societies which exert social pressures on it. This sort of reform will always be three steps forwards, two steps backwards, and you have to keep rebuilding, rebuilding, rebuilding. Revolutions rarely stick at their high water mark, and fighting the discouragement as reaction seeps back in is the hardest fight of all.

However, that the battles take place and do have an effect is very encouraging; small nations are more decoupled than large ones and can and should be real motors for change. I think that's one of the principles that fuels Scottish nationalism, for example: it's not that Britain and the English are bad with a baleful influence that should be excluded, it's that the ability to reform is in some respects greater when your national inertia is lower. In other ways it's harder - if your economy is smaller, you have fewer resources and less influence. Another equation that can never be solved... but the ability to try a different solution has to be part of the bargain.

Iceland repeatedly shows this, and that in itself is valuable, alongside the effects that any particular reform has on Iceland itself.
posted by Devonian at 8:49 AM on October 24, 2015 [6 favorites]

> I.e., there is an active oppositional movement that didn't exist in the past.

Feminist movements have always faced strong, mean-spirited pushback. This is definitely not a new thing.
posted by marijn at 11:41 AM on October 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

Interesting take on Lysistrata.
posted by notsnot at 1:42 PM on October 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

> Feminist movements have always faced strong, mean-spirited pushback. This is definitely not a new thing.

Obviously there has always been push-back, or else women's equality would have been achieved by now. I meant rather to suggest the relatively coordinated nature of the current push-back, the level of vitriol it involves (*public* threats of murder, rape, etc. against women; MRA manifestos that essentially encourage the kind of thinking that inspired the shootings in Santa Barbara), AND not only the refusal to listen to women's demands (with an amused eye-roll), but to actually threaten and instill fear in women so that they become afraid to speak not just about (so-called) women's issues, but about *anything* at all.

The internet was supposed to facilitate equality of voices but, sadly, it has served instead as a means by which misogynistic/vindictive/hateful/entitled men can find one another and use strength in numbers to threaten and silence women. And I repeat again: in public (the internet is the modern-day Athenian agora). And most of modern society just shrugs its shoulders, like, what can ya do? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by Halo in reverse at 3:38 PM on October 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

While the modern pushback certainly has its own characteristics and problems, I am not sure it is any more despicable and violent in its public character than misogynist patriarchy always has been. I offer you this example from John Knox's First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstruous Regiment of Women, published in 1558:
I feare not to say, that the day of vengeance, whiche shall apprehend that horrible monstre Iesabal of England, and suche as maintein her monstruous crueltie, is alredie apointed in the counsel of the Eternall; and I verelie beleue that it is so nigh, that she shall not reigne so long in tyrannie, as hitherto she hath done, when God shall declare him selfe to be her ennemie, when he shall poure furth contempt vpon her, according to her crueltie, and shal kindle the hartes of such, as somtimes did fauor her with deadly hatred against her, that they may execute his iudgementes. And therfore let such as assist her, take hede what they do. For assuredlie her empire and reigne is a wall without foundation: I meane the same of the authoritie of all women. It hath bene vnderpropped this blind time that is past, with the foolishnes of people; and with the wicked lawes of ignorant and tyrannous princes. But the fier of Goddes worde is alredie laide to those rotten proppes (I include the Popes lawe with the rest) and presentlie they burn, albeit we espie not the flame: when they are consumed, (as shortlie they will be, for stuble and drie timbre can not long indure the fier) that rotten wall, the vsurped and vniust empire of women, shall fall by it self in despit of all man, to the destruction of so manie, as shall labor to vphold it. And therfore let all man be aduertised, for the trumpet hath ones blowen.
posted by howfar at 3:52 PM on October 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

The standard CIA World Factbook comparison is that Reykjavik is the size of Peoria (120,000) and Iceland is the size of the Peoria metro area (300,000). So you'd have to convince a whole female Peoria area to strike.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:03 PM on October 24, 2015

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