Musings, politics and environmental issues

Archive for the ‘Feminism’ Category

Sexist political comments create rage amongst Icelanders

Last month, six Icelandic politicians from two political parties, the Middle Party and the People’s Party, were drinking together at a bar opposite the parliament building (where their fellow politicians were still meeting). They were there for over three hours and were making loud, derogatory, misogynist remarks about a number of their fellow women colleagues (and former colleagues) as well as boasting about corruption incidents that some of them had been involved in.

Unknown to them, another guest was so disgusted by their behaviour that he recorded the conversations on his phone and later sent them to three of the more radical media outlets, two of which – DV and Stundin – worked with the recordings.

The politicians also made fun of Freyja Haraldsdottir, a disabled activist who was an alternate politician in the Althingi a few years ago. The comments about her have enraged the disabled rights’ movement.

Two of the politicians were Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson and Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson (remember him?). While he was Foreign Affairs Minister, Gunnar Bragi had set up the Barbershop “He for She” event in New York in 2015 to support non-sexist male attitudes and behaviour between men. Rather ironic really. The national committee of UN Women has said that GBS has damaged the reputation of He for She.

The two PP politicians, who made derogatory remarks about their leader, Inga Sæland, have been expelled from their party but will still be in the Althingi because they were elected as individuals. The PP now has only two members in the Althing.

The expelled members might well eventually join the Middle Party, as that was part of the conversation recorded in the bar. They have denied this, however – or at least have said that the time is not opportune to join another party. As many people have suspected, the Middle Party say that their policies are actually very similar to those of the PP party.

Meanwhile, GBS and a fellow Middle Party politician have decided to talk a break from the Althingi for an unspecified amount of time. They were “uninvited” to the traditional celebration held by Iceland’s president to celebrate Iceland’s sovereignty over Denmark, which took place on Thursday night.  The female MP politician, Anna Kolbrun Arnadottir (AKA) has said she is considering her situation (she and SDG were at the party).

In some countries, such as Sweden, politicians resign over mild scandals. But that rarely happens in Iceland.

Icelanders are enraged at the situation and a demonstration was called at short notice for today. It was expected to be attended by over 3,000 people, but was probably attended by more. The organizers are demanding that all six resign from the Althingi and get replaced by their alternates. One person said that an election should be called, as that’s the only way to get rid of them. Stay tuned.

Anyone want an article on this?

Update, December 5: There is such a tense, uncomfortable atmosphere now in the Althingi because 4 of the 6 are still present (and AKA and SDG have now both said they won’t resign) that I predict another election because the current atmosphere is unworkable.

 

Advertisements

Education and traditional knowledge main themes of 2017 Arctic Circle Assembly

This year’s Arctic Circle Assembly, held in mid-October in Reykjavik, provided masses of information. At times there were up to 5 interesting seminars scheduled at the same time which would have been worth writing about. I had the task of writing up the event for InDepthNews, the flagship of International Press Syndicate, but it was difficult to write up the event in 1000 words or so as each session I went to could have formed the basis of an article.

Although I personally thought that the article I sent off read extremely well, I was told that it read too much like minutes of the event and my articles were usually more “journalistic”. So I rejigged it, but that meant that some bits had to come out.  The final article can be read here, but here are a few tidbits that I had to take out.

  • Some issues came up repeatably, such as pressures affecting Arctic youth; indigenous peoples, traditional knowledge and climate change; education in remote areas; sustainable development goals; energy; the South Pacific; environmental issues and the military, and fisheries in a warming climate. Some of the presentations can be viewed via the Arctic Circle homepage.
  • In July this year, the Cook Islands unanimously passed a resolution to open up a new marine reserve, the Marae Moana, to tackle environmental and economic issues such as fisheries and the new threat of sea-bed mining. The energy scenario of the Cook Islands aims for 100% renewables by 2020.
  • In her introduction to the first of the monthly discussions on implementing sustainable development goals (SDGs) in the Arctic, which will report back to the next Arctic Council meeting in September 2018, Dalee Sambo Dorough from the University of Alaska Fairbanks told participants that “We can’t preach one goal without working towards the others… Most of the SDGs are very applicable to the Arctic.”
  • Mitchell White, a Canadian Inuit now working at the Gordon Foundation, brought up an often neglected issue when he pointed out that “Third World decisions really exist at home, for instance in Inuit communities in Canada.”
  • Action appeared to be a key word at the Arctic Circle this year, as UNFCC Chief Executive Patricia Espinosa said in her speech, “The weather won’t wait for us to act,” while Peter Seligmann, Chair of Conservation International, summarized the Roadmap session by saying, “We cannot address climate change without protecting nature.”
  • Ragna Arnadottir from Landsvirkjun, Iceland’s national power company, pointed out that Landsvirkjun’s newest hydropower stations had been redesigned to increase capacity by 10% before being built, in order to take advantage of increased flow due to climate change.
  • Very little research has been done recently on the environmental effects of the military, and most of the existing literature is at least 20 years old.
  • Canadian Michael Byers from University of British Columbia gave an account of the problems caused by UDMH rockot fuel and its toxic effect on three Inuit communities.

Minimalist lifestyles – I can identify with that

Perhaps as a spin-off to the shared economy (Air B&B, Uber, etc.), a growing number of people are practising what is known as minimalist lifestyles. And going to lectures on it, as if it’s something new.

Well, it’s not new. Without giving it a name as such, I’ve been practising a minimalist lifestyle since I was a child. I had no interest in buying clothes when I was a child (which is still the case), I’ve never owned a house, my first car 30 years ago was shared with another friend and we used to let others use it for a nominal charge, my interest in buying “things” equals my interest in buying clothes, etc.

But I’m very interested in people, social issues, feminism, environmental concerns, growing food, riding horses, etc. They are what matters to me – the rest is irrelevant.

Icelandic women, social media and rape culture

My article on how young Icelandic women are using social media to protest against sexual violence and rape culture was published by Al Jazera two days ago. It’s an exciting initiative that hasn’t stopped yet and has created considerable media coverage of the issue. I suspect that the record turnout for Saturday’s Slut Walk (Drusluganga) was partly to do with the women’s actions and the ensuing publicity.

IMG_1419 IMG_1417

The photos above were part of an action on June 19, when Iceland celebrated 100 years of women’s suffrage, and was organized by a group called Activism against Rape Culture which had arisen out of the Facebook group Beauty Tips. The organizers were appalled that the Icelandic government was celebrating the centenary with virtually no mention of the battles women still face, such as lower wages. The placard held by the young girl translates as “Onwards, women” and is the title of a song which was originally composed for the 1975 women’s strike but was sung on a number of occasions on June 19 this year too.