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For the last ten weeks or so I have been living mainly in Reykjavik, Iceland.  Iceland’s political system and egalitarian being were at the core of the travel proposal I made last fall when applying for the particular scholarship that would provide the opportunity.  I knew that it couldn’t be as perfect in reality as it was on paper, but that didn’t stop me from building up my own personal North Atlantic utopia.IMG_1842Iceland has ranked #1 in the global gender gap index for the last three or four years. They’re #1 in literacy. They are #1 in the global peace index and have been #1 in 3 out of the last 5 years with an interesting break in 2009 following the economic collapse.  The population is under 350,000 people which for my anarchist friends probably makes plenty of sense.  They have universal healthcare, tuition-free education at the University level and no standing army.  They politically engaged and informed about current events and host voter turnout rates usually in the 85%+ range.  This year’s election had a turnout rate of 81% and everyone is freaking out about it being so low….you see what I mean? For some context – the US presidential election saw a turnout rate of nearly 54%.

100_1427Oh and MAY I MENTION they have a limited prison system.  And by that I mean they have one prison.  And it’s not like the US prisons. It’s a rehabilitative prison and the folks there have access to real medical care and therapy.  I’ve heard people complain that they are “too comfortable” but I imagine if you have a wide ranging social infrastructure that provides for basic needs and seeks to actively eliminate poverty you won’t see people committing crimes just to get three squares a day, amirite? Yes. I am right -because Iceland also has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.  And besides, when the prison is full (it holds around 60-70 people), and it rarely is full, people just wait until someone gets out to serve their sentence.  Oh and there’s no death penalty. Oh and the maximum sentence is 16 years.

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YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN? DO YOU!?!!?!?

Siggh…..in addition to all of this they are quite LGBTQ friendly, though the whitest place I have ever seen in my life.  They passed a marriage equality bill unanimously in 2010 almost as an afterthought….they were all chilling being white and having an excellent tolerance to the cold when someone said “oh – hey – everyone’s talking about gay marriage. We should probably do that, show we’re on board.  I mean, there’s not a lot of economic advantage to marriage in a socialist country, but all the same, let’s spread it on.”  And then everyone was all like “aye.”  And that’s it.  Until this summer their Prime Minister was a legally married radical lesbian.  Boom.

IMG_1155It doesn’t even end there, though. Iceland is a geological anomaly.  It’s situated directly on top of the mid-atlantic ridge (that’s how it formed at all, way out here in the ocean) and exists halfway on the N. American tectonic plate and halfway on the Eurasian plate.  As a result – VOLCANOES EVERYWHERE! But mostly under glaciers (lots of flooding).   And because it only recently (compared to other masses) emerged from the ocean, everything is still wild.  Recent (1700s) giant eruptions still have large percentages of the land looking like the lunar landing.  Lava fields as far as the eye can see!!!  They’ve only recently started putting on heavy moss and lichen coats, so the soil in these areas is thin to nonexistent.  Apparently there were some trees in Reykjavik around the time of settlement (870 +/- 2) but SOMEBODY harvested them all (I’m looking at you, original Norwegian Vikings).

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There are some reforestation…or…forestation efforts, rather, but the only viable spots are around the edge of the island as the interior is nothing but highlands and hidden volcanoes waiting to bring forth new basalt.

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And I mentioned the glaciers? And there are a lot of sheep. It’s great. Except the daylight is all kooky through the year.  Like midnight sun in summer and 4 hours of daylight in the depths of winter. But whatever – they eat a lot of fish and that helps. Also they have astounding rates of alcoholism. For coping with that SAD shit, it seems.

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Did I mention the President and Prime Minister are in the phone book and that everyone is called by their first name?

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But ALAS, my friends.  Things haven’t turned out to be quite as lovely as I had hoped.  Everything I say is true but there’s still probably some racism. I can’t be sure because I’m white as hell, too, but this old woman uses the n-word to describe people with dark hair and eyes, like me.  Someone tried to explain how it isn’t the same because it’s like…some…derivative of a word that means black and dark….uhhhhhh……but….I haven’t been able to find an expert on the matter, so…there’s that. Also, as a general rule, where there are white people there is white privilege and racism.

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There’s no history of oppressing people of color specifically in Iceland as far as I know, but they sure as hell cash in on that European whiteness and whatnot (i.e. not being invaded and ruled by US and UK from 1944- 2004, but instead just hosting bases and receiving the benefit of lots of US spending on infrastructure (Keflavik airport).  Call it a hunch, but I feel like if they were an island nation of brown-skinned people with no military they’d be a U.S. territory alongside Puerto Rico.

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The other thing is that for the most “feminist friendly” place on earth, they sure do have a lot of rape.  Iceland has the highest rate of rape of all the Scandinavian countries.  It’s lower than the rate in the US but the rates of official reporting and prosecution are as bad as anywhere else in the world.  In addition there is a similar breakdown in “types of rape” that function to make the rape of someone who is unconscious termed “abuse.”  The penalty for rape (has to be “violent enough”) is the maximum sentence – 16 years – while the penalty for “abuse” is 6 years.

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While this is a stouter punishment than the US typically doles out (though we know harsher punishments don’t prevent crime…), prosecution rates render this effectively meaningless.  I mean, the US used to consider rape a crime punishable by death – if you were the “right kind of father’s property” and not just some white lower class woman….and don’t even bother if you’re a woman of color of any class. It’s symbolic of a false ideal.

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I’ve heard ONE GUY make light of it to the tune of “well we were settled by Vikings, what do you expect?”  and while it’s true that 62% of the women in the original class of settlers were mostly stolen women from the Hebrides and forced into marriage, I mean is that the kind of thing you want to compare yourself to?

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So I bring this up as an interesting contrast point – with the exception of the story I am going to tell you in a minute, I have not been catcalled, grabbed, ogled, groped, hit on inappropriately, “accidentally” brushed up against, or even leered at from a distance…probably.  It was one of the strangest sensations of my life, sadly, to be completely free of that constant worry.  I didn’t have to watch my drink or hang onto my bag for dear life or anything.  It’s so straightforward.  And the people are super-sexually active.  No sex-shaming and slut-shaming.  People just fuck all the time. Safely.  They have real sex-ed.

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So why the high rate of rape? I don’t know.  But I read something that suggests that an unusually large percentage of these rapes involved children under the age of 16 and that rates of rape with male survivors are higher than those of peer nations.  So I’m not really sure what’s going on.  Money isn’t put into researching the crimes and probably half or more of folks who seek help with rape crisis center don’t trust the system enough to press charges and don’t want to go through the ordeal with which we are all so familiar.  I don’t know what the typical reaction to a rape survivor is in this society, but I suppose we could imagine that it’s not exactly welcoming.

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Icelandic Feminist Activist  Hildur – famous for being constantly banned from facebook for publicly posting death threats made against her has a Tumblr called: Men who hate women.  On it she posts misogynistic comments made specifically by Icelandic men.  It was pretty devastating to my whole “Iceland is perfect” theory, but I’d rather know the truth, I guess.  It’s why I started investigating rape in Iceland, so I’m very happy I found it.

http://karlarsemhatakonur.tumblr.com/

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Please enjoy the rest of these photos!! I am so ashamed of how bad of a photographer I am….but I highly recommend seeing it for yourself if you can someday.  You’ll see what I mean. This waterfall is called Skogafoss

IMG_2168This one is called Gullfoss – it means Gold Falls

IMG_2550This is the glacier lagoon – a glacial tongue that leads out to sea.  It’s called Jokulsarlon

IMG_2816Famous lava fields with some excellent layers of snow – in mid-September

IMG_2855Selfoss Waterfall

IMG_2922Basalt sea cliffs near the town Vik — called Reynisfjara

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A bit of glacier melting — It’s called Solheimajokull.

You know what I don’t get enough of??  Harassment.  JUST KIDDING.

As a radical feminist who rejects normative standards/ideals of femininity and has spent the last two years creating their own definition of queer woman-personhood? I’ve gotten quite a share.  It’s been a really interesting experience in terms of facing one’s own privilege and attempting to reject what pieces you can, etc. and lemme tell ya –  as a former henchperson of the right-wing, I used to do that whole “woman” thang RIGHT.  The constant feeling of discomfort aside, I was really good at being white and embodying features of ideal womanhood.  I did it so right, in fact, that I blended right in – I never made anyone the slightest bit uncomfortable.

I guess that has changed now.  I think that I honestly believed, at the time, that it wouldn’t make a difference, ya know?  Like…how I looked on the outside wouldn’t – COULDN’T – possibly ever affect how I was treated by others.  But I noticed the difference right away. I had no choice.  Mostly because I was suddenly being SCREAMED at by drunken college-aged men on Franklin st., but also because of the staring, the oddly frequent AUDIBLE questioning of my gender/sex by perfect strangers at bars, etc.

*NOTE: I am never upset by children who do this.  It is the sweetest, most innocent questioning of their little realities, and is never malicious.  Even when it’s just a statement – like the innocuous “you look like Justin Beiber – I have a Justin Beiber toothbrush!” that I got last week.  I love it. Teachable moments, y’all.

So that was one way I challenged myself and the powers that be, but what accompanied that physical change was obviously (I hope this is obvious…) something greater happening within my dome piece – that lovely sack of membranes known to us as “the brain.”   So changing my physical body was a visible piece of resistance – it made people uncomfortable and causes tension to this day,  elicits interesting responses, and in general makes particular kinds of people feel suddenly entitled to an opinion about my body practices.

But the more awesome thing here is that brainy change…that interest in challenging people’s conceptions, to whatever degree of civility, as resistance. That sudden (or was it gradual? I have no idea who I was then anymore…) need to call out sexist and racist and classist BULL SHIT on the spot.  That point when my fear of confrontation and of my own overwhelming anger were pushed aside for the sake of something bigger.  And OH the responses.  OH the depravity that a few words rubbing against their finely woven grain can inspire!!!

SO what this was all leading up to is perhaps a bit anti-climactic but nonetheless rage inspiring and I wanted/HAD to share it with someone lest I EXPLODE.  It’s that time of the semester.  SO – in the name of the awesomely bad ass Hildur Lilliendahl, I present to you, my experience the other day.  Double click or triple click or something to enlarge, and then feast your eyes.  The first red circle is the message to which I was responding – DON’T ASK WHY – I am not sure why I would feed so many trolls at once!  Either way.  The exchange went like so, I have blocked the names of those who weren’t involved.

The second red circle serves as a reminder to us all (because we needed one) that people like HIM exist in this world.

And the third red circle…well…

SPOILER ALERT: I won a veiled rape threat. 

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SO for those of you who do not know, Hildur Lilliendahl is an Icelandic feminist who has gained a certain level of infamy in the woman-hating circles for her screen shots of their misogynistic comments – LITERAL WOMAN HATE – that she collected in a facebook album for the world to see.  After receiving death threats and continued harassment, facebook chose to do the right thing and disabled HER account.  Excellent.  She has moved the album to this tumblr http://karlarsemhatakonur.tumblr.com/ if you are interested in taking a look.  It is mostly in Icelandic, but you know how to operate the google translate.

I write this particular post with Hildur in mind.  I reported those scum buckets for their harmful/harassing/creepy as shit comments, but the truth is that this sort of behavior is terrifyingly common and there is no real recourse for those targeted by said scum buckets (the joys of anonymity!)  Instead, people like Hildur and the women who admin the Uprising of  Women in the Arab World (http://www.facebook.com/intifadat.almar2a) are censored and punished for their actions while groups that exist solely to “joke” about inciting violence against sexually active women or raping their girlfriends while they sleep are protected as free speech. Feminists never want anyone to have any fun.

At any rate – that’s my share for the day.

READ THIS GREAT ARTICLE: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/11/does-facebook-hate-all-women-or-just-feminists/

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