Iceland’s BSRB federation and 31 associations are organising a strike on October 24 to address gender-based violence and the undervaluing of women-dominated professions, Mbl.is reports. Inspired by the 1975 women’s strike, the demonstration places special emphasis on non-binary individuals, aiming to challenge patriarchal subordination across all gender identities.
Can’t wait any longer
While there has been progress in the fight for women’s rights in Iceland, there is still a long way to go, Sonja Ýr Þorbergsdóttir, Chair of the BSRB Federation of Workers Unions, told Mbl.is yesterday. BSRB is among 31 associations orchestrating a widespread strike of women and non-binary individuals (i.e. kvár) on Tuesday, October 24.
According to Sonja, the organisers of the strike hope that this year’s demonstration will surpass the turnout of the seminal 1975 Icelandic women’s strike when about 90% of women in Iceland ceased work to underline the significance of women in the labour market and within society.
“The seeds for holding a women’s strike this year were sown around the 40th anniversary of the Women’s List (a feminist political party that took part in national politics between 1983 and 1999.” A conference was held where the discussion revolved around the achievements so far, as well as the work that remains,” Sonja stated in an interview with Mbl.is. Attendees of the conference agreed that there was still a long way to go in the fight for women’s rights.
“Since the 1975 Icelandic women’s strike was a joint venture of women’s and gender-diverse associations, as well as workers’ associations, the question arose whether a women’s strike should be held. The answer was a resounding ‘yes’; everyone felt the same way, everyone had experienced this stagnation, and everyone believed that progress was not happening fast enough. No one wanted to wait any longer,” Sonja stated.
Sonja told Mbl.is that the main demands of this year’s women’s strike were twofold: eradicating all gender-based violence and rectifying the undervaluation of so-called women’s professions.
As noted by Mbl.is, by “women’s professions,” Sonja is referring to job sectors where women constitute a significant majority. Research has shown that the primary reason for the gender pay gap is that these sectors are paid lower wages compared to other sectors in the labour market. These professions may even be at the lowest wage levels in the labour market.
“Addressing the wage structures within these professions, correcting this undervaluation constitutes a significant stride towards obliterating the gender pay gap,” Sonja observed.
In her interview, Sonja underscored the pervasive nature of gender-based violence in Iceland, calling for measures proportional to the severity and frequency of such incidents.
“An initial focus is on comprehending the scope of gender-based violence, with data revealing that a staggering 40% of women have encountered some form of violence in their lifetime. While substantial efforts have been directed towards aiding women and trans women victimised by gender-based violence, there’s a glaring disparity in the attention towards perpetrators and devising strategies to curb such aggressions,” she remarked.
“The question remains – what steps will our society take to stem this tide, ensuring that perpetrators face stringent consequences, thereby shifting the burden of accountability from the victims to those inflicting harm?” Sonja posited.
An emphasis on gender-queer individuals
This year’s women’s strike is drawing inspiration from the historic 1975 Icelandic women’s strike, where women halted work for a full day to highlight gender injustices. “Unlike the protocol since the 2005 strike – where a specific walkout time was designated – we opted for a full-day strike to underscore our expanded agenda beyond the pay gap, prominently spotlighting violence,” Sonja explained.
A notable addition to this year’s strike is the deliberate inclusion of non-binary issues. “While an open invitation has always existed, this year marks a concerted effort to extend a warmer welcome to non-binary individuals, recognizing their shared subjugation under patriarchal norms akin to women. Despite the gender spectrum they represent, they grapple with a common gender oppressive system,” Sonja noted.
“Our aim is to rally individuals across all gender identities who endure patriarchal subordination, and that we intertwine our struggles,” she added.