Ariane David Iceland's Women Went on Strike Oct 24 1975

Sex, War and the Power of Women United

Forty years ago the women of Iceland went on strike to protest the gender imbalance in wages and leadership.

Forty years ago the women of Iceland went on strike to protest the gender imbalance in wages and leadership, and to demonstrate the invaluable role that women played in Icelandic life.

They neither cleaned, nor cooked, nor cared for the children. They vacated their offices, factories and shops, essentially paralyzing the country.

There’s much disagreement about just how significant this event was in Iceland, but most would agree that it was a watershed moment in Icelandic history, a country with lore rich in strong courageous female characters.

Five years later in 1980, Vigdis Finnbogadottir became the first women ever to be elected President of a country by popular vote.

Finnbogadottir held office for 16 years during which a generation of children grew up associating the office of president with a women.

The gender gap still exists in Iceland today, but according to the World Economic Forum 2014 Global Gender Gap Report, Iceland holds the top spot with the smallest gender-gap at .859 while the United States is 20th at .746.

The Icelandic women’s strike was the largest women’s revolt in history, with 90% of of the country’s women participating, but the idea that women are formidable when they form coalitions goes back nearly 2500 years.

LysistrataIn 411 BCE Aristophanes play, Lysistrata, was performed for the first time under a Greek proscenium.

The plot went something like this: in the view of one Athenian woman, Lysistrata, the men of Athens had occupied themselves for far too long, killing and being killed in pursuit of conquest in the Peloponnesian wars.

Lysistrata called the women of Athens together and persuaded them to withhold their sexual favors from their men until the men agreed to negotiate a peace with Sparta.

I wonder what peace, equality, sustainability, and justice could be achieved in the world today if women stood together.

The women did and the men resisted, but in the heat of sexual deprivation the men finally capitulated, inviting the Spartans to the Akropolis to hammer out a peace treaty. Thus, Aristophanes pulled back the curtain on the power of female solidarity.

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