Yay Iceland!

OK, they haven’t been doing so well lately financially, But they’re well out ahead of the pack on this one. They look likely to get the world’s first openly gay Prime Minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir. Hurrah!

(Of course, the confluence of economic crisis and social progress reminds me of the Onion’s great “Nation Finally Shitty Enough to Make Social Progress”. Bad Jender. Stop thinking of that.)

But back to the celebrating: Hurrah– another barrier falls! But, wonderfully, the Icelanders themselves apparently don’t consider her sexual orientation at all newsworthy.

“No one has ever talked about Johanna (Icelanders always use first names) as a gay person,” an Icelandic friend and a prominent journalist told me this morning. “She’s not hiding it either, the name of her spouse is on her Parliament and Ministry web pages, it’s just that nobody cares about it, any more than people cared in 1980, when Vigdis Finnbogadottir ran for president, that she was a woman and a single mother to boot.

“Johanna is very smart and not afraid to tackle difficult issues, and I think she can unite us,” my friend added. “Reasonable, sane people are not going to care about people’s gender or color. They just want the best person for the job.”

9 thoughts on “Yay Iceland!

  1. I’ve had a good opinion of Iceland for a long time, ever since I heard that it’s not unusual at all for women to be running the country and disproportionately heading the government. And it’s progressive in many ways. It’s a great example of women doing a great job in leadership positions.

  2. A correction: The prime-minister-to-be’s name is Johanna Sigurdardottir. Iris Erlingsdottir is the journalist. The news is positive all the same, though.

    Suetigger, I’m afraid your idea of the status of women in Iceland is rather optimistic, although we’re probably doing better than many other countries. Johanna will be the first female prime minister (although we did have a female president from 1980 to 1996), and women have never been more than a third of the government (and usually less). But let’s hope this’ll be a milestone on the road to progress.

    Eyja, philosopher and feminist in Iceland

  3. Thank you eyja– I am mortified by my cutting and pasting error, but v. grateful for your correction!

  4. Eyja, I’d be curious to know: is the article right in its suggestion that her sex/gender and sexual orientation are totally non-issues in Iceland?

  5. I’m sure there’s someone, somewhere, in Iceland who has a problem with her sexual orientation it but generally it doesn’t seem to be a big issue. I myself had forgotten about her sexual orientation until someone pointed this out one or two days ago. I’m not sure what to think of the widespread refusal to acknowledge that this is newsworthy. Obviously, Johanna’s sexual orientation shouldn’t affect her ability to become prime minister in one way or another, but it seems wrong to me to fail to acknowledge the fact that in many countries being gay does prevent people from reaching such positions and that 15-20 years ago, let alone 30 years or more ago, an openly gay person could not have reached this position in Iceland either. I wonder if people’s refusal to acknowledge this results from denial of the fact that not so long ago, they themselves might have had a problem with a gay person becoming prime minister.

    Also, I do wonder if it affects things that Johanna is not the butch dyke type and as far as I can tell she hasn’t been “flaunting” her lesbianhood. She dresses conservatively and I don’t think she ever came out with big fanfare; her being gay was something that quietly leaked out. Not that I think she has any obligation to do things differently, but I suspect that people might be less accepting of someone they felt was making a big deal out of being a lesbian. In other words, I’m not certain that we’ve reached the level of full acceptance yet although we’ve come a long way over the past couple of decades.

    Gender may be more of an issue. Gender barriers are so deeply ingrained in various social institutions that I’m not hopeful we’ll fully get rid of them any time soon.

  6. Yes, one of the important things is that Jóhanna has been a solid Social Democrat all along, through the wave of neo-liberalization that led the country, IMHO, to this mess. She has on many occasions put her political life on the line, eg, as the Social Minister, “you cut the housing assistance program over my dead body!”. She is exceedingly popular with those who feel the neo-liberal wave has left them behind (and, of course, with those who feel it has left some people, not necessarily themselves, behind). Despite this, she would not be Prime Minister if the head of the Social Democratic Party, Ingibjörg Sólrún, did not want her to be. Jóhanna is going to be the first female Prime Minister in Iceland (and, yes, the world’s first Prime Minister to be married to someone of the same sex), with the active support of Ingibjörg Sólrún, herself a woman, and the first female politician in Iceland to have the kind of broad political power that it takes to lead the country. How is that for sisterly support?

  7. This was definitely a victory for women. I have to admit that It is nice to see that Iceland is moving forward and in the right direction.

  8. I also read that Johanna Sigurdardottir made some changes last year with the leadership of the 2 largest banks in Iceland after they collapsed. She removed the 2 men that led the banks and replaced them with women. Many of the people felt that the economic collapse was brought on my the excessive risk taking by the men. So in order to keep the risk taking in check the women were appointed to run the banks. In my opinion it is a good move. Things obviously did not wok well with the banks being run entirely by men. In fact, the banks failed. But at least men were not taken completely out of the equation. There are still men filling postions directly under the women. So even though they have to take orders from women now, at least they can still provide their input and recommendations to the women for them to review. And now that the women have the final say in the decision-making process…I think it is safe to say that the days of excessive risk taking by the men are over. Which I guess is a good system of checks and balances.

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