Oct 202021

No doubt about it: There is more domestic violence (“Intimate Partner Violence” or IPV) in the Nordic countries and the UK than in, for instance, Spain, Italy and Ireland. In spite of greater gender parity!

Allow me to draw your attention to an Icelandic TV series, “The Flatey Enigma”. This is to all appearances a fairly ordinary crime story, true enough from the 70s., with a vibrant female heroin and a dull and ugly scoundrel who happens to be the investigating police officer.

However, there is nothing ordinary about the series. Just as the heroin has to revert (in 1971) to blackmail to have a particularly interesting article published in an academic journal – because she is only a woman, after all – the director of this series has had to use a “crime device” to demonstrate that Icelandic women were battered in the 1970s.

I watched the four-part series with growing dismay. I had known that conditions were hard for everyone in Iceland back then, and that women rarely had reason to laugh or even smile, but I did not know they were battered. I decided to look into the issue.

In the seventies, some very few women were fortunate or brave enough to go abroad to work and/or study. They had no trouble finding work throughout Scandinavia, because they had a reputation of being extremely hard-working. While abroad, they learned that women need not defer to men, and they learned to talk back. In 1975, back in Iceland, they were able to organise the most remarkable demonstration of female power I have ever heard of: They persuaded the country’s entire female population to go on strike for one day. How they managed, I cannot imagine! But they did.

It was a stunning affair. The country was absolutely paralysed for a whole day. No food on the tables, schools and childcare centres closed. Male doctors had to nurse hospitalised patients, daddies had to change toddlers’ nappies, planes were grounded…

After that, things changed. Everything changed, and very quickly. Vigdis Finbogadottir became president, and Iceland evolved from a miserable backwater where many people still lived in turf huts into a truly modern country. (I hasten to add that the greedy bastards who drove Iceland to the brink of extinction in 2008 were not women. Mind you, women can be greedy bastards too.)

No, Icelandic women need not bow to any man in public. BUT, in private, alas, things are still not well. An article in Foreign Policy notes:

One theory to explain the Nordic paradox is that increased gender equality fuels male resentment, creating frustrations that are channeled into physical violence—a mode of action where men can easily still dominate. Violent outbursts of this sort, fueled by feelings of injured masculine status, are so deeply psychologically motivated that they can be difficult for governments to counteract.

In the same article a link takes us to the abstract of a study carried out by the National Hospital.

Aims: The purpose of this study was to analyse the prevalence of hospital visits and nature of injuries caused by intimate partner violence (IPV) against women and associated costs. All visits to Landspitali National University Hospital by women 18 years or older subjected to IPV, inflicted by a current or former male partner during 2005–2014, were observed and analysed
…. punching (29.7%), shoving (17.8%), kicking (10.5%) and attempted strangulation (9.8%) were the most common types of aetiology. Repeated new visits were 37.8%.

I repeat: There are few Muslim immigrants in Iceland, so it’s no use blaming them.

If asked to pick one of the suggested causes of the Nordic Paradox, I would vote for “backlash”. If you impose norms on a recalcitrant group, it seems intuitively obvious to me that there will be resistance. Some will protest loudly. Others will just take private action.

Female emancipation dethrones the male. Many men have absolutely no wish to sit on a throne and be “boss”, and for them female emancipation is liberating. For many others, however, it is perceived as socially castrating and as a violation of what they consider their birth rights.

There are lessons to be learnt here for countries where female emancipation is still a matter of the future (e.g. Afghanistan). Action will have to be taken to help the male population come to terms with a new and disconcerting (for them) reality.