Tuesday, November 08, 2005

More on the Iceland Women's Walkout

Sometime in the last month I heard myself tell a group of mothers that our issues weren't ones to march over, that much of our work can be done behind closed doors. After, I wondered if that were true. Actually, I wondered if I hadn't directly contradicted the positions I take here. It's always easier to be more visionary in writing, for me, anyway. In person, don't we often speak to the crowd, encourage people to start where they are and move from there. I remember my visit in March to Durham, NC. A woman executive from a large pharmaceutical company told me that she wanted all the women at her company to strike for a day so that men would realize how much they do and stop taking it for granted. Her tone was serious, but she also said it would never work, that women wouldn't go along with it, they'd be too afraid for their jobs.

So we need models of what this looks like. Each day I get more reports from moms in the workplace. It's not getting any better for us out there. Where's the political and cultural pressure going to come from to prevent us from losing ground, especially when we not only want what we got in the last women's movement--access, but this time around we want more, we want the workplace to shift its values to accommodate parenting and caretaking.

In the meantime, Alda from www.IcelandWeatherReport.com emailed me to give me more info on the walkout (I do love the blogging/internet age we live in, and the info that gets past our borders of language and nation). I'm going to repost those here.What amazes me is the support the women got, from their government, and from their workplaces. Can we ever imagine that happening here in the United States? We must begin to talk more, to have more difficult conversations, convincing friends and coworkers that our issues really matter. That's the first step toward change. Enjoy the report from Iceland, here are excerpts, for the entire posts, and her fabulous blog, go directly to Iceland Weather Report .

It's Women's Day Off
Today, 24 October, is Women’s Day Off here in Iceland.

On this date 30 years ago, 25,000 Icelandic women walked off the job to call attention to the importance of their contribution to society. Many also took the day off from the household chores. No cooking, no cleaning, no laundry, no women’s work. Instead they headed downtown in droves for an outdoor rally and general all-round celebration of strength. Women’s Day Off has been celebrated each year since, but rarely with as much energy as it is set to be today.

One woman who was faced with a particular conundrum on this day 20 years ago was then-President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir [the world’s first democratically-elected female President]. Icelandair stewardesses had gone on strike the day before and all Icelandair planes were grounded as a result. The government was in an uproar and on the 23rd they drafted legislation to order them back to work. As with all Icelandic legislation, it had to be signed by the President [the Head of State] for it to become law. President Vigdís was put in the difficult situation of having to choose between signing the bill and incurring the wrath of the general female population, or not signing the bill [which she would have preferred, she has said] and facing a governmental crisis. Apparently the all-male cabinet had whipped itself into a frenzy just at the possibility of Vigdís not signing, and ministers were already threatening to resign. [In a later interview she said she had marvelled at the fact that no-one had actually asked her if she would refuse to sign the bill. Which I think is pretty hilarious, really, seeing as they were prepared to flush their careers down the bog.] Anyway, in the end her very diplomatic solution was to wait several hours to sign, or as long as she possibly could, which allowed her to make her point without absolute mayhem resulting, yet giving women the feeling that they were heard.

… Because a recent survey shows that women in Iceland – despite their supposed independence and autonomy – still earn a mere 64.14% of men’s salaries. [If overtime is factored in, it works out to 72%.] At 2.08pm women will have worked 64.15% of a normal 9-5 day..... (More at Iceland Weather Report .)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Happy WDO
One of the great things about being part of a small nation is that when something is going on, you really feel part of it. The spirit of the event permeates everything, everyone gets caught up in it, and an enormous amount of energy is created. It’s sort of like the feeling you get at a rock concert – very energizing.

Such was the spirit of yesterday. Everyone seemed to get into it – young and old, male and female. Even though it had a serious undertone, there was, on the whole, a sense of harmony. There were no militant speeches or hateful declarations or resentful victimization. Nobody felt threatened. Instead there was a sense of a collective effort and agreement that things are not as they should be, and change is needed.

As predicted, most women nation-wide stopped working at 2.08pm and headed downtown, or to some central meeting place in their respective towns. The protest march in Reykjavík was supposed to be from Hallgrímskirkja church down to Ingólfstorg square, but by the time the rally was to begin – and the square was packed full – there was still a throng of people stretching to the place where the march had begun. It is estimated that around 50,000 people were in town – mostly women, but also a lot of men...(Again, for the full post, and to experience Iceland Weather Report and its wonderful writing for yourself, head over to Iceland Weather Report .)

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