Worlds first elected female president worries about feminist extremists

24.3.2012

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“I am a dedicated women’s rights advocate but I’m also a men’s rights advocate and even becoming more of a men’s rights advocate as I want to see gender equilibrium in our society. I don’t want men to experience what women experienced before, that women are so strong that men have to struggle in order to maintain equal rights. To me it is important that men and women have the same rights in our society.

[...]

We’ve come far and a lot has been gained but we still do not have complete equality. We all know that when we don’t see equal pay for equal work we don’t have equality. We must value the jobs of women equally to those of men. However, the golden mean is the road to travel. All extremism is bad. It contradicts the nations psyche and a social struggle that becomes too extreme is counter productive. Of course I follow public debate on this issue and I say: Show caution, extremism can ruin a good cause”.

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir

These are the words of the worlds first democratically elected female president, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, in an interview with Monitor this March 22. She is responding to questions on her views on feminism and feminist extremism in particular as well as gender equality issues in general. Vigdís was born in 1930 and was elected president of Iceland in 1980 and served for 16 years, making her the longest-serving, elected female head of state of any country to date. I think it is safe to say that Vigdís is a thought leader and she is without a doubt one of the most respected persons in Iceland.

Reactions to her comments vary as one might have expected. Not surprisingly, the usual suspects are out to deny all claims of being too extreme or even extreme at all. But others feel that her words are timely words of warning to die hard feminist extremists in Iceland that many feel have hijacked the public debate with their propaganda and sometimes absurd actions and statements. I for one, welcome her comments and would like to put them into perspective.

Iceland has long been on the forefront of countries that enjoy the most gender equality. According to a recent investigation conducted by UK newspaper, The Independent in celebration of the 101st. International Women’s Day, Iceland is the best place to be a woman with regard to politics, education, employment and health indicators.

In spite of favorable indicators such as this, feminist extremism seems to be more prevailing then ever before. That is if one looks to frequent outbursts of feminist rage in the media. Of course, if one freely expresses concerns with these outcries or any other actions of the radical feminist movement, he or she is branded as being antifeminist, chauvinist, misogynist, gynophobic or even a pornophile to effectively shut him or her up. It will therefore be interesting to see the reactions of feminist extremists to a critique from a person of this statue.

But that’s not really a tangible enough indicator of feminist extremism is it? What defines feminist extremism anyway? is it isolated to a few young radicals or does it have deeper,  more profound roots in our society? For me it’s this simple; feminism becomes extremist when a group or individual feminists demand rights for women that supercede those of men, creating a kind of reversed discrimination.

According to this criteria, let’s look at what’s new from feminist extemists in Iceland that is tangible and current, things that I believe most people are looking towards when they express worries that the radical feminist movement has lost it’s connection with the original vision of equal rights for men and women:

As is the situation in many societies that have undergone structural changes with regard to how men and women interact, one area of the gender sphere has suspiciously been left out when self-proclaimed equalitists have re-engineered our society with the aim to rule out every gender discriminating law or rule, be it written or unwritten. Namely laws on fathers rights with regard to their children.

In 2008 a committee was appointed by the then Minister of internal affairs, Mr. Björn Bjarnason. The committee made several suggestions to change the Children’s bill of rights for the better. For the first time ever, Icelandic men were seeing changes suggested that would grant them rights close to those of women that up until then had been holding all the threads when it came to their children. The single most important change suggested was that judges would be allowed to rule that a mother and father would have equal rights and obligation towards their children in case of a legal debate after separation. According to current law, judges can only rule that one parent gets the rights which almost always leads to women winning and the men loosing in the court of law, even though they may be equally fit to support and care for the child.

The National organization of Feminists (NoF) strongly opposed these changes and via it’s vigorous lobbying effort and the fact that the Ministry of internal affairs is now controlled by the left wing party (Vinstri Graenir) with strong ties with the feminist movement, these suggestions have now been removed from the current bill that still awaits processing by the Icelandic parliament.

Stígamót's latest annual report. The caption: "The sledgehammers that squash the buyers of prostitution that roam the streets"

Another thing I believe could be the reason for thinking that the feminist movement is too extremist are recent comments made by Ms. Gudrun Jonsdottir, a spokeswoman of one of the most prominent and best funded feminist organization in Iceland, Stigamot. Only a few months back, she publicly spoke favorably towards diminishing the human rights of men only. This she did by claiming that the ideology of assuming a man innocent until proven guilty is outdated in light of feminist research and therefore indicated that this cornerstone of the Icelandic justice system should be abolished. This right of people, that are accused of crimes, is clearly stated in the Icelandic constitution, The European human rights treaty and the United Nations human rights treaty and thus is not just a mere ideology.

Gudrun’s words are not an isolated incident. Other feminists have spoken favorably about reversing the burden of proof in crimes that are committed against women and the NoF cheerfully shared her words on their official Facebook page later to become the most popular record on that page ever, measured in shares and likes. One could have expected that the state funded Center for Gender Equality would utter a sound in protest to such blatantly male discriminating views but nothing has still been heard. Reaffirming the belief of many, that the Center for Gender Equality is actually a Center for Women rights only and not the least bit concerned with men’s rights.

Gudrun’s organization, Stigamot, are almost entirely funded with taxpayers money and to this date, her words seem not to have worried the Icelandic government even though Iceland is part of international treaties that explicitly state that being assumed innocent until proven guilty, should be the cornerstone of a nations justice system if it is to be considered in favor of human rights.

These are not the only cases of state level misandry  that we have seen in recent months and years. A few months ago, the Reykjavik Municipal government funded and supported a study on it’s male employees consumption of pornographic material. The person responsible for the study stated publicly that one of the key underlying assumptions was that the males working for Reykjavik city and it’s individual service units, used porn to cope with negative feelings associated with having to work under female superiors. Reykjavik is the largest single workplace in Iceland so this is a hefty proportion of Icelandic men that are under the suspicion of being unable to work with female superiors without having to resort to porn as means of coping with that harse reality and save what little is left of their masculinity – to use the researchers words.

Last but not least I want to mention the complete collapse of the Icelandic financial system that occurred in 2008. As a result of that many people have lost their jobs. However the majority of the people that have lost their jobs are men. Actually, recent statistics show that the number of women with jobs today is slightly higher than before the collapse whilst men have lost their jobs in record breaking numbers. I guess the radical feminists were on autopilot when they publicly demanded efforts of affirmative action to salvage women that have lost their jobs and create jobs for them. These have been not just young radicals but politicians and the nations most prominent Professor of Gender studies, Ms. Þorgerður Einarsdóttir.

Feminist extremist ideology has an inherent problem that will inevitably prove fatal for this movement. Feminists that can safely be regarded as extremist or militant tend to view all negative reaction to their actions as positive signs that they are gaining ground. Well, the problem with that is that negative reactions are going to grow in direct proportion to their war against men becoming more and more absurd.

To answer the questions posed earlier I think it is safe to say that feminist extremism is a very real phenomenon. If these aren’t examples of feminism that has gone at least a bit too far, then I wonder what is. This extremism has roots that far exceed just a few young radicals. It is entwined into laws that discriminate against men, it can be found in state funded feminist groups and institutions that openly advocate the discrimination of men. Ironically, men sponsor these misandric efforts with the taxes they pay that end up in the hands of these extremists. For me this is proof enough that there is reason to worry about the future for young boys.

On the positive side I believe the time will come that feminists with healthy objectives will rise against the more radical feminists that want more than just equal rights and I believe that brave women like Ms. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir will play a pivotal role in that development.

I hope that at least for Iceland, Vigdís’s words mark the beginning of the demise of feminist extremism. A demise long overdue.

Sigurdur Jonsson
sigurdur.jonsson.annar@gmail.com

Athugasemd: Ég bið íslenska lesendur velvirðingar á “frönskunni” en þessi færsla er ætluð til dreifingar á erlendri grundu. Athugasemdir á íslensku eru auðvitað velkomnar eftir sem áður.

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19 Ummæli á “Worlds first elected female president worries about feminist extremists”

  1. Yousaf Jamal, President, Rights and Rights Social Society, Pakistan. Says:

    What a realistic approach it is. I wish you each and every success in the times ahead in achieving the objective you are reflecting in your ideas.

  2. Christofer Catilan Says:

    The power to rewind modern days’ feminist extreme ideas back to the former days’ original sane feminism has to come from women themselves! Men cannot talk about equality between sexes without getting contradicted by extreme feminists who actually see women’s rights as the manifestation of compensatory advantages as some kind of male pay back in a moral sense and with seemingly high interest. Actually they announce loud and clear: “We, women, have been discriminated all times in our past and now it is your turn, men!” It is a merely revengeful idea. And pay backs will always be stored in debts and credits while time being.

    As simple as it is: you cannot make something right by doing something wrong. Morality has no compensatory dimensions in that sense. We have to choose between wrong and right, there is no any other way: men’s rights are the same as women’s rights and vice versa. They cannot be handled as two distinct collective entities for the two sexes and separately!

    That’s why I do hope and wish you all success in your work, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir. There are too many other and urgent worries in this world, things which need a great deal of efforts from all of us.

    • Sigurður Jónsson Says:

      Welcome and thank you for your comment Christofer. I totally agree with you on that sane feminists have to take action against the extremists that label them selves feminists. The more promenent people like Ms. Vigdís dare to speak out, the better.

      Icelandic feminists extremists actually coined a term for this reverse discrimination you talk about. The Icelandic Women’s Rights Association has publicly referred to this as “historical debt”.

      It’s interesting to see a commentator from another country speak of exactly the same extremes we are dealing with here in Iceland. It only goes to show how universal this ideology and its far end extremism is.

  3. quantumvaleat Says:

    Reblogged this on quantumvaleat and commented:
    Thought provoking, and in the light of recent actions by Mumnsnet, there are comparables to be drawn between the sisters the Icelandic radfems.

  4. Rm Says:

    One typo. Replace “braking” with “breaking.”

    Excellent article!

  5. Matte Matik Says:

    Thanks for a very interesting post. I’m living in Sweden and thought we had the most extreme feminists here – but it looks as if I was wrong.

    • Sigurður Jónsson Says:

      Welcome and thank you. I have been following some of the Swedish radicals and actually texted Könskriget for Icelandic audience. Amazing stuff going on there. The ideology seems to follow pretty much the same pattern between countries. Seems to me that radical feminism is very similar between the Nordic countries and we could learn a lot from each other.

      • Matte Matik Says:

        Definitely similarities, although I believe we saw peak radical feminism here after “Könskriget”. Discussion about men’s issues has begun in Sweden, although not at all on a political level where radical feminism is very dominant. However, I doubt that someone would be able to get away with statements like Jonsdottir here anymore. I noticed that she seems to be commonly invited by ROKS.

      • Sigurður Jónsson Says:

        Yes Matte. I’ve read about the reactions Könskriget got and can only hope for a similar documentary be made covering Icelandic feminism. I have suggested that our National TV station aires Könskriget and Hjernevask but I’m not optimistic.

        Gudrun hasn’t been just traveling to Sweeden on behalf of ROKS. They have been frequent guests here as well. Mainly Ireen von Wachenfeldt, Gunilla Ekberg and Margareta Winberg. Gunilla actually played a role when the Icelandic government adopted “the Sweedish way” in prostitution, making it legal to sell but illegal to buy.

        I find Icelandic feminists selection of role models disturbing to say the least.

  6. Matte Matik Says:

    Very interesting to hear. Those names are indeed some of the most extreme ones we have here, they’ve more or less disappeared from the public after Könskriget. I know you got the law criminalizing sex buyers from Sweden. Seems like they changed playground to Iceland after opinion changed here, but other names have stepped forward, so extreme feminists are definitely still in power here although they’ve had to change tactics. They can not be as outspoken as before.

    Gender science seems to be the new weapon in Sweden, and swedish gender science is almost exclusively based on the ideas of sex as a social construct and the “gender power order” (although refrased in more academic terms by Hirdman). Hjernevask has been discussed a lot on blogs here, but state television has no plans airing it. No wonder why since the effects of it in Norway have been pretty tough for gender science. Norway seems to be the country which has come longest when it comes to integrate both sexes in gender politics.

    I wonder how much the economic crash in 2008 has paved way for extreme feminism in Iceland, I read in another article that it has been common to talk about the “men who stole our money” in the public debate. I believe the economic problems seen in the rest of Europe will show up here and with crisis there are always people trying to score political points by blaming a certain group of people for it – men, immigrants or whatever… Might be good to keep the events in Iceland in mind – although I honestly believe that the gender and equality debate here has reached peak radical feminism.

  7. Sigurður Jónsson Says:

    Gender studies has a relatively short history in Iceland but closely knit with the rise of feminist extremists. I tend to refer to this as Women’s studies due to the prevailing bias towards women’s perspectives.

    It’s interesting that you mention the economic crash in relation to feminism. I don’t know if you know this but after the collapse our parliament appointed an investigation committee that investigated the causes for the crash. One addendum to the report produced by the committee was a gender studies perspective on the report. The conclusion is roughly that men are to blame. Countless feminists all the way from young radicals and up have publicly restated this and commonly talk about women being more risk averse in finance than men are. Unfortunately this rethoric has gained them points and many people seem willing to believe that women would do business in a better way since they are wired in a better way than men. Only problem is that this divinity seems to have escaped them completely when it comes to real estate investment. Research shows that women are the ones in the families that decide what house or apartment is bought for the family and a large part of the current recession is that households borrowed in other currencies than the Icelandic Krona and when ISK fell, homes ended up in a negative equity dilemma so I can’t see that women are more risk averse at all.

    This shows just how opportunistic this movement is. One day the genders are the same, just as capable of doing all things and then all of a sudden the genders are different and males are the flawed ones.

    • Matte Matik Says:

      Yes, I’ve read about that study. We have feminists here that are echoing the same words, that the financial crisis is due to men and masculinity – it would never had happened if women were in power. These ideas are well established all the way up to UN and affect the way financial aid is distributed in f.ex. the third world. Even though I can think that there might be a point to in some cultures prefer to give money to the mothers in a family these ideas stem from pretty discomforting values – men are inherently bad and women are good (although, of course, the sexes are still identical since sex is just a social construct ;-) ).

      We have charity organizations here that only help girls in the third world (Action Aid), and when I’ve read about some places in the world girls are getting better education than the boys. When you have this one sex-focus, when do you stop? Targeting girls and women specifically can be the right thing to do in many societies, but you need to build on a foundation where men and women are given the same value, and as far as UN, EU et al are concerned men are a problem.

      Interesting that you’re bringing up real estate, that’s one thing I haven’t thought of earlier, and I didn’t know that loans were taken in other currencies in Iceland. From what I know the financial crisis began with the housing bubble (Fanny & Freddy-loans) and since I also believe that women are the ones in control of the purse when it comes to housing (actually not only housing) women also contributed to the financial crisis. Wow, who would have thought women have ever contributed to anything related to the way society looks today (yet they’re still better and stronger than genetically inferior weak and dumb men). :-)

  8. Ingimundur Says:

    Matte, it is interesting to read about the parallel situation in Sweden in terms of gender issues, although from my perspective interesting may be a too positive word to use. I was pleasantly surprised to read the open discourse that developed in Sweden following the Assange case, the discourse on the “grey” line of acceptable sex behavior, the varying definitions of acceptable behavior and what approach is most likely to provide a solution of human well beeing and respect.
    Can you please suggest links to coverage of the situation in Sweden that can inform one further?
    I think we Icelanders can certainly benefit from insight into swedish affairs since we tend to pick up much of swedish policies:)

    • Matte Matik Says:

      I don’t think there is any good place to get an overview of the situation here, there are only partial pleadings. Personally I advocate equal rights (and responsibilities). I used to believe I was a feminist but am now very sceptical to the feminist movement here – since the actual results of it has in many cases proven to be outright hostile against men and boys. Feminists here say they are for equality, and I bet many of them are, but the political outcome is that feminist lobbying groups actively work against laws that give fathers more right to their children, f.ex. The same appears to be true of Iceland from what I’ve read so far. I’ve been actively following the debate the last three years and have a good idea of what is happening on my side of the street.

      This is my impression of the situation here. It’s by far not unpartial or complete, but.. ah… you get the idea. :-) There are feminists here that I think are sane but the main trait of feminism in sweden is a combination of social constructionalism, radical feminism and marxist feminism (hereby referred to as “feminism”). During the last three years the criticism against feminism has started to surface, mainly on the Internet, but it has definitely shown in public media as well. A few outspoken ones have shaped this “movement”, which is in no way organized, and have, of course, gotten strong reactions back. It is definitely NOT ok to publically criticize feminism, although most people appear to think things have gone too far long ago. It appears to be more of conflict between media and politicians vs the public, where media is actively supporting feminism and people are objecting. Investigations show that a strong majority of people believe they are equal to their partner (but believe others are not ;-) ) and while feminists are unhappy about not having 50/50 in typical male power positions (while ignoring typical female power positions) they appear to be on their own now – they don’t have public support anymore – but it’s dangerous for people with power in the public sector to be outright critical against feminism, since even if you say you’re only cricizing the extreme feminism you’re a woman hater and in the same club as Anders Bering Breivik – it has been VERY popular to publically compare feminist critics with Breivik. Feminism still has a very strong position when it comes to politics, the judiciary system and media. Publically critizising feminism in those circles might make it difficult to keep the job. At the same time, there are actually more and more old-school feminists (68:ers) who have begun to publically cricize feminism of today.

      Recently the extreme ones have begun to confront their “main enemies” in public. They’re calling to manifestations when critics are lecturing, physically showing up and actually try to disturb meetings (at least that’s what it looks like to me). There are clear connections between these feminists (who have high positions in media) to people on the far left, men who are actually sentenced for violence crimes. That feminists who critizise men and masculinity for violence use these men as bodyguards when going to their opponents meetings is… well… remarkable. This is where things are today – it’s gotten pretty ugly and the polarization doesn’t show signs to stop. It really worries me… :-(

      Posting this reply now before the computer crashes or anything. Will give some comments about the Assange case as well.

      What is the situation when it comes to feminist critics in Icelands? To me it looks as if things are actually quite a bit more extreme than over here.

      • Ingimundur Says:

        Thank you Matte for an overview of the swedish “situation”,and the varying angles you approach it from, highly informative! And I heed your warning of possible partialism:). I was very surprised to read your description of some feminists using bodyguards with violent background when attacking opponents. Must gather my thoughts on where to find a description on the situation here in Iceland. Must say though that Icelanders are more and more mustering up the courage to at least discuss the aims of feminists and their actions, even criticizing! But as in Sweden you will not find such discussions in public media. Allthough I don´t know of outspoken feminists in high roles in media, it seems as if media is afraid of discussing and criticizing the subject of feminism (and then some), and have developed co-dependency towards the subject. I mean who can be against gender equality, you don´t want to be known for questioning equality eh? I am for it, and more so equality in general.

        In terms of government the feminists have a stronghold. This should not be a problem, but is however, since they often choose to disregard criticism on the bill or disregard altogether to provide justification for the bill or its amendments and get away with it, possibly due to co-dependency or fear. I sincerely hope that Swedish laws on lawmaking are more strict than Icelandic ones, not to hopeful though:) Sadly, but perhaps understandably, the Feminists association of Iceland provided a review, – without any justification – just saying that is their perspective – objecting the option of judges to order joint custody despite recommendations. The aid of the minister of interior(himself a feminist) is former spokesperson for the Feminist association of Iceland, and many of us think this does not bode well Iceland´s children let alone fathers…

    • Matte Matik Says:

      About the Assange case and the #talkaboutit-campaign that followed there are some interesting, and disturbing facts as well. I think it’s a good idea to discuss “grey zones” of what is acceptable when it comes to sexual encounters. However, one thing that disturbs me is that the campaign was actually started by friends of one of the girls. It was initially suggested to be called #tackanna (#thanksanna). Not that it means the campaign was actually started to support the plaintiff, but it doesn’t make me feel good that a journalist starts a campaign when her friend becomes the plaintiff in a high profile sex case, in a state where noone has any clue as to what actually happened.

      When it comes to the handling (mishandling might be a better word) of the case it has definitely given feminist conspiracy believers something to point at. The prosecutor was involved as an expert in an investigation of the new law on violence against women (2001) and wrote some remarkable things when it came to keeping men in custody. It was something that sounded like it’s a good thing to put men into custody even if the man is only charged and not judged, since it gives the woman protection. There are so many strange things in that case…

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