JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT Iceland couldn’t get any cooler, women across the nation join forces, en masse, in a social media movement designed to eradicate cattiness and competition between them. The U.S. needs Icelandic sisterhood; it’s game-changing.
Whenever a few progressives get together for drinks, the subject of unity often comes up. What would happen, we wonder, if we all just woke up one morning and said: “We aren’t going to take it anymore”? Sure, it’s the next step — the walk-outs and marches on Washington — that would really get shit done, but first we need that critical spark.
That’s what Iceland’s closed Facebook group, Góða Systir (Good Sister), might be. Founded by former Iceland’s Got Talent judge Þórunn Antonía Magnúsdóttir, the online community encourages women to celebrate themselves, without using celebrity hatred and body shaming to tear others down in the process. Góða Systir’s description says that the group:
was established for the purpose that it would [be a] place on the internet that women could come together and show each other understanding, respect and love, despite the diversity of life, beliefs and opinions.
Góða Systir racked up 50,000 members — about one third of Iceland’s female population — in just three days. A Facebook group in the U.S. would need 1,000 times that — about 53 million members — to compare with Magnúsdóttir’s creation. As a women’s movement, Góða Systir stands alone in recent memory.
This kind of sisterhood is nothing new for Iceland. The tiny Nordic country celebrates Women’s Day Off each year on October 24, to commemorate the planned strike that its women executed in 1975. Ninety percent of Icelandic women walked off their jobs, and 25,000 of them marched on Reykjavík to protest the gender wage gap and other inequalities. Even housewives left their families to fend for themselves.
And it worked! The “day off” was widely publicized in the weeks before October 24, but men refused to take Icelandic feminism seriously. When the country ground to a halt, the folks in power got the message.
Every few years, Icelandic feminists recreate the conditions of that original strike, to protest ongoing inequality. In 2011, women — who made 65.65 cents for every man’s dollar — marched off their jobs at 2:25 P.M., when 65.65 percent of the working day was complete. Five years later, Iceland has nearly halved its wage gap, with women bringing home 87 percent of men’s pay.
Since 2010, Iceland has topped the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report as the most feminist country in the world. The U.S. places at No. 28, behind Rwanda (No. 6), Nicaragua (No. 12), and Estonia (No. 21).
Icelandic feminists’ achievements don’t stop at wages, however. Like many countries, Iceland had its first SlutWalk — Drusluganga in Icelandic — after Toronto’s 2011 event. Within three years, organizer María Lilja Þrastardóttir says, “the media took [the SlutWalk’s] message to heart”:
[they] stopped shaming people for how they were dressed, or reporting that, for example, an “alleged” victim went to the police and reported an “alleged” rape. People in society are also more aware of the fact that their words can hurt people who have been raped.
Iceland’s women have taken calculated steps to ensure that they are appreciated by their country’s legal and social systems. Within this movement, there is no room for in-fighting and destructive behavior. Góða Systir’s popularity is a testament to that fact.
In the U.S., progressive women’s Facebook pages are filled with inspirational quotes in the spirit of Icelandic feminism. “Don’t ever compliment me by insulting other women,” one popular post commands. “That’s not a compliment, it’s a competition none of us agreed to.” Another declares: “Other women are not my competition. I stand with them, not against them.”
If you’re a woman who believes in sisterhood, listen up. These powerful statements mean nothing if they are sandwiched between posts that berate and belittle Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, and other celebrity women.
That “In a world of Kardashians…” isn’t anything more than an attempt to set yourself apart at the expense of your fellow women. I know you want to show how classy you are, by declaring yourself a “Diana” or a “Helena Bonham Carter,” but all of your supposed class goes out the window the minute you tear down another woman in order to build yourself up.
The U.S. has a toxic undercurrent, in which shared experiences revolve around hurling gendered insults at popular female celebrities. Unfortunately, this culture extends even to those who call themselves feminists. And it has to stop.
We will never make Iceland’s advances if we do not embrace Góða Systir’s ideals. We cannot unite if we believe that it is OK to shame a woman — any woman, even a celebrity — in order to build ourselves up.
Icelandic sisterhood doesn’t begin with adding all your high school bullies on Facebook. It starts with acknowledging the value and experiences of every woman, even Kim Kardashian.