I did not realize that October 24 is the anniversary of the Women’s Strike:
On Friday, October 24, 1975, telephone lines went down; families scrounged for food; theaters cancelled performances; even the following day’s newspaper was half its average length. On an island with just 220,000 inhabitants, the country simply could not go on without the help of women.
The idea for the strike was hatched after the United Nations proclaimed 1975 International Women’s Year. An Icelandic coalition of radical women’s groups, the Red Stockings, suggested organizing a labor strike as a step further. Supporters agreed — as long as they called it a “day off,” a more palatable phrase for nervous employers.
‘The national airline had to cancel flights for lack of stewardesses and banks managed to remain open only because executives staffed the counters instead of female tellers.
Another headache was the closing of all nursery schools. With their wives in many cases streaming into the city for the rally, many businessmen were forced to take their children to work with them.
One of the strike’s organizers. Gerdur Stenthorsdottir, said the aim of the stoppage —a contribution to International Women’s Year sponsored by the United Nations —was to show that women are indispensable to the country’s economic and national life. According to the latest census figures, Iceland, with a total population of 220,000, has 60,000 women over the age of 19.
Iceland: Women Strikenytimes.com
prepare the general strike
The Women’s Day Off was originally started in 1975, and continues to this day. As the organisers of the event point out, the average wage of women in Iceland is only 74% of the average wage of men. As such, women in Iceland are on average effectively paid much less than men for an eight-hour workday, hence the call to leave work early.
The gender wage gap is not the only underlying concern, either—the MeToo movement also plays an active role, as does the experiences of women of foreign origin, who are in an especially vulnerable position in Icelandic society.
“In recent months, stories of harassment, violence and injustice women suffer in the workplace have been shared on social media under the hashtag #MeToo,” a statement from the organisers reads in part. “These stories have made it clear that our fight for gender equality in the workplace cannot only be about equal pay, but must also be about safety in the workplace. We will no longer tolerate this harassment, violence and injustice! Women should be safe at work and safe at home.”
Posted on March 8, 2015