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Why did #metoo hit the Nordics differently?
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Why did #metoo hit the Nordics differently?

| Text and photo: Björn Lindahl

Two years after the #metoo movement exploded in social media and became a global phenomenon, Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir will be hosting an international conference on the issue in Reykjavik from 17 to 19 September.

“The #metoo conference is part of Iceland’s Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers, where we focus on gender equality and violence towards women. Parallell to the conference, the Nordic ministers for equality will also meet in Iceland,” says Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

Many well-known feminists will be attending the conference, including Angela Davis, known for her membership in the Black Panthers in the 1970s. Researchers and activists will be discussing what has happened after millions of women came forward under the hashtag #metoo to speak up about the sexual harassment and violence they had experienced.

“We will also be talking about why the #metoo movement had different impact in the different Nordic countries. When you compare the countries you can see in which sectors the movement has had the greatest impact. We will look at both similarities and differences, as well as what can be learned from all this.”

Shocked by the volume

Katrín Jakobsdóttir says Icelanders were shocked by the volume of assaults reported by women, be it anonymously or not. 

“Iceland has been top for gender equality globally for five years. We are considered to be a gender equality paradise, and then we had all these stories!

“Many women from theatre and politics came forward, but the most striking thing was all the women with foreign backgrounds living in Iceland who experienced double discrimination." 

The conference will be held in the Harpa Opera House in Reykjavik, and is open for anyone who wants to register. 

“So what can we learn from #metoo?” asks Katrín Jakobsdóttir rhetorically.

“In Iceland there was a very strong reaction from the trade unions, but also from employers. Soon after the #metoo movement began, Iceland hosted a large conference where the government and local authorities met employers and trade unions to discuss what could be done.”

Changing the culture

“Nearly two years on, we see that companies and institutions have prepared rules for how people should behave. This did not exist before.

“To use my own party as an example, we have formulated new rules for how to behave, but the most important thing has been the discussion around the rules, not the rules per se. There are so many negative things buried in our culture which we never talked about before.”

Are you the only prime minister in the world who is also responsible for gender equality issues?

“There aren’t many others in any case! This was a change I brought in because I realised that gender equality issues must permeate the entire system, a bit like climate change. These are two major causes that I engage with, but I of course cooperate with other ministers on both.”

How much of your time is spent dealing with gender equality?

“I bring gender equality to the table no matter what I am talking about. You have to do this. You have to talk about gender equality when talking with the trade unions, or with employers, or when talking about the climate. Gender equality is not something to hide away!

“So I actually think I spend 100% of my time talking about gender equality!”

What do you hope will come out of the conference?

“I hope that we can strengthen the Nordic cooperation in this area. Together we will have more power to change the culture.”

Metoo Conference

On 17–19 September 2019  Reykjavik will host a Nordic/international conference on the impact of the #MeToo movement. The conference is a part of the Icelandic Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2019 and is organised in collaboration with RIKK, Institute for Gender, Equality and Difference at the University of Iceland.

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