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Feminists of Iceland

September 12, 1987

We are compelled to respond to the article "Feminists of Iceland Aim to Call Shots," by Bella Stumbo (Part I, Aug. 19). It is written with prejudices in an arrogant fashion and full of untruths and distortions.

The author seemingly set out to ridicule the Women's Alliance Party, its individual members and the Icelandic system of government. She arrogantly passes judgment as a specialist on the matter with intimate knowledge, while quotes of history and descriptions of current events are often wrong and distorted. Over and over again she stresses the need of her interviewees to consult the dictionary, while she frequently uses their statements to make them look naive.

On the question of language and the use of dictionaries: In Iceland today children are required to study two foreign languages for four years (one of them is English). We think it is amazing that all those women were proficient enough in English to be interviewed, be it with the help of a dictionary. Furthermore, any student of a foreign language will inevitably express himself/herself naively in that language until a level of proficiency is reached.

Stumbo misunderstands the Icelandic system of government, Icelandic culture and her knowledge of history, even current events, is minuscule. She states: ". . . the feminists of Iceland, who have historically startled the world with the vigor of their periodic uprisings . . ." and "As a nation, Iceland has been strongly feminist throughout most of its 1,000-year history." Throughout most of its history Iceland was a poor colonized country in next to total isolation from even Northern Europe and a totally male-dominated society in terms of prominent government and church offices and higher learning.

In describing last summer's formation of government in Iceland, Stumbo writes: "From April to July, the males of the Icelandic political Establishment courted the women with everything but flowers . . . the women . . . demanded the one thing the men refused to give--a minimum-wage law . . . the women finally walked out leaving the men to form an alliance among . . . three parties with little in common beyond mutual self-interest." True, it did take three months to form a government. But the WA Party was only briefly involved in negotiations. They did demand an increase in the minimum wage (a minimum wage law does exist). The three parties that eventually succeeded do have many things in common. They agree on most key foreign affairs issues, such as the question of participation in NATO, the presence of a NATO base in Iceland and continued research whaling.

Stumbo says that "the cost of living is so high in Iceland, that most people are forced to take two jobs to make ends meet." Once again, this is deceptive while not all together untrue. Many people work overtime to support their families. However, it is misleading to write ". . . to make ends meet." By all materialistic measures of the standard of living, Iceland ranks at the top of the list. The materialistic race is probably not as vigorously fought in many other countries.

Stumbo describes the members of the WA as: ". . . sensibly looking, casually dressed, with no-nonsense hairdos, clean faces and not a single smear of even lipstick among them." She repeatedly calls them feminists, yet she is surprised that there are not any lesbians among them. Those women do not distinguish themselves from Icelandic women in general by their casual no-nonsense look. Makeup is simply much less used in Iceland than here in America. It is misleading to call the WA feminists. Although appropriate, according to the dictionary definition of the word, it is misleading in the sense that the WA has no clear roots in the feminist movement.

We think Stumbo reaches the lowest point in the article when she gets personal and writes about the WA member's beliefs in legend and appreciation for worldly pleasures. Is it a contradiction that a politically active and aware person take pleasure in good food and the other sex, or are politically active men only allowed that privilege? How do a politician's private pleasures concern his/her party's politics? Iceland is rich in legend involving elves and trolls. We believe legends like these are common throughout Northern Europe. It used to be a common belief that those creatures exist. This, however, is no longer the case.

The article is an attack on the Icelandic Women's Alliance Party. This party is perfectly legitimate and has the support of about 10% of the Icelandic nation, by no means only women.




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