Iceland's strip clubs are getting the boot. With the world's first openly gay head of state as well as the usual raft of envy-inducing Scandinavian policies, it's being called the most feminist country in the world. Could it happen here?
Well, probably not. We're talking about a country where almost half the parliamentarians are female, where the banning of commercialized sexual activity (including brothels and stripping) was, in a 2007 poll, supported by 82 percent of women and 57 percent of men.
That said, there's reason to believe that Iceland's crippling economic crisis — a sort of hyper-speed version of what the U.S. went through — laid the groundwork for empowering the women's movement there to push ahead such policies. After all, the post-crisis consensus, explored most prominently in the U.S. in Michael Lewis's "Wall Street On The Tundra" piece in Vanity Fair (sadly, not online in full anymore), was that male domination of the economy had played a big role in toppling it.
One of the distinctive traits about Iceland's disaster, and Wall Street's, is how little women had to do with it. Women worked in the banks, but not in the risktaking jobs.... A few days before [Lewis met a rare female banker] for instance, she heard banging on the front door early one morning and opened it to discover a little old man. "I'm so fed up with this whole system," he said. "I just want some women to take care of my money."
But after its turbulent 2008, last year Iceland banged on women's doors in more ways than just money management. According to an Assocation For Women in Development report,
Led by Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir, the world's first openly lesbian head of state, banks were nationalized and several women were promoted up the ranks or brought in to head them. Additionally, several prominent women-led financial firms emerged, espousing a new ‘feminine' way of working that shunned ‘business as usual.'
Critics had attributed the economic downfall to a brash ‘masculine' culture that involved buccaneering, financial engineering and reckless, shortsighted decision-making by the male elite, jeopardizing the country's immediate and long-term economic stability[.]
It is in this climate that politician Kolbrún Halldórsdóttir pushed for the stripping ban, which will "will make it illegal for any business to profit from the nudity of its employees." Her reasoning: "It is not acceptable that women or people in general are a product to be sold."
Whatever you think of stripping, it is fascinating to see how Iceland's crisis has become opportunity. Given the relative lack of profound soul-searching that followed the crisis in the United States, it's hard to imagine something similar happening here.
Iceland: The World's Most Feminist Country [Guardian]
Related: Iceland, Nordics Top World Gender Equality List [Reuters]
Can Feminine Leadership Mend The Economic Crisis In Iceland? [AWID]
Iceland's Collapse Narrows Its Gender Gap [WSJ]
Wall Street On The Tundra [VF]