- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
Brazil’s Lula may blame “white people with blue eyes” for the global financial crisis, but in financially-crippled Iceland, many women in finance and government feel they have to clean up the mess left by the country’s boys-club power elite. One former government official who, according to Der Spiegel, runs Iceland’s only still-successful investment firm, put it this way:
“The crisis is man-made,” claims banker Halla, 40, who like all Icelanders, is only addressed by her first name. “It’s always the same guys,” she says. “Ninety-nine percent went to the same school, they drive the same cars, they wear the same suits and they have the same attitudes. They got us into this situation — and they had a lot of fun doing it,” she says. Halla criticizes a system that focuses “aggressively and indiscriminately” on the short-term maximization of profits, without any regard for losses, that is oriented on short-lived market prices and lucrative bonus payments. “It’s typical male behavior,” says Halla, who compares it to a “penis competition” — who has the biggest?
Now Iceland’s women are rising to the top ranks — in politics, too — and they want to make everything better. Writer Hallgrimur Helgason says the new star is Johanna Sigurdardottir, 66, a Social Democrat, who had previously been known to most Icelanders as an honest and unimposing politician. “My time will come,” she once railed at her opponents angrily almost 20 years ago.
Halla credits her success to bringing “female values into the financial world.”
Sigurdardottir, currently prime minister in an appointed caretaker government, is widely expected to win big in an early election this weekend. She is not only her country’s first female prime minister, but the world’s first openly-lesbian head of state.
Perhaps Iceland too — as The Onion brilliantly summed up the last U.S. election — is now “finally shitty enough to make social progress.”