PERSPECTIVE
TALKING MEN & WOMEN
It happened there, so everyone's shocked. It happens here. No one is.
- PT Bureau
It happened there, so everyone's shocked. It happens here. No one is.



WHAT HAPPENED in a bar in this distant Nordic island country with a population of 3.5 lakh has triggered a storm, but it happens in India on a daily basis -- at a restaurant, in our newsrooms, in the offices of political parties, at sundry daaru parties, around the table in our mushrooming industry of press clubs, and at your homes.

No one has to record these conversations secretly. You can hear them tonight, if you wish to. Live. Often even in your home.

Six people sat around a table at a bar-cum-restaurant and ordered some beers. They drank, chatted, cracked jokes and talked politics for nearly three hours. It happens in India all the time — at a bar, a restaurant, in press clubs all the time.
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It happens when a bunch of IAS officers sit around a table, and it happens when a clutch of journalists sit in their warm corner at a bookshop. Talk, loose talk, jokes, banter, references to colleagues, some leg pulling, some politically incorrect chat.
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It happens over drinks, and it happens over cups of steaming tea or coffee.

It happens when a bunch of IAS officers sit around a table, and it happens when a clutch of journalists sit in their warm corner at a bookshop. Talk, loose talk, jokes, banter, references to colleagues, some leg pulling, some politically incorrect chat.

This time it was a bar in Iceland, and around the table were the country's former Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, former Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson and a female member of Parliament, Anna Kolbrun Arnadottir, besides three others. 

What happened at the Klaustur bar two weeks ago in Reykjavik will forever live in the country's history.

A woman sitting at the next table heard the ongoing conversation, and secretly recorded it. (Many reports had earlier referred to an unnamed ‘man’, but she has come out and revealed what happened.)

Iceland is one of the most gender equal countries in the world. It has a female prime minister and consistently tops the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index. Companies and government agencies in Iceland have to actually prove that they are paying men and women equally.

Here is what the people around that bar in Reykjavik were talking about:

Mr. Sveinsson, the former foreign minister, with a reputation for being a champion of women’s rights, mocked a female lawmaker who had come forward as part of the "Me Too” movement. He also laughed at domestic violence accusations made against a former member of Parliament.

These worthies expressed a desire to sleep with particular female colleagues. 

One of them warned others about a woman who, he said, "plays on men like women know best.” They also questioned the political career of another woman, on the grounds that she was "not as hot this year” and her beauty was "fading fast.”

As women in Iceland asked where they stand on the hot-or-not scale of such politicians, many were particularly disgusted by the remarks and the mocking words about a disabled member of Parliament.

Iceland's Minister of Culture Lilja Alfreðsdóttir appeared on television after days to say: "I experience this as violence. They are perpetrators of violence." The recorded conversation featured crude comments about her toying with men and wanting to have sexual relations with her.

Now, former PM Gunnlaugsson has apologized. Of the six around that table, four were Centre Party MPs and two were MPs affiliated to the People's Party of Iceland. Icelanders are calling for the resignations of all of them. The 42-year-old woman named Bara Halldorsdottir who recorded the conversation and was earlier referred to as "a man called Marvin” wrote about it in an online newspaper Stundin – "I am the Marvin who rocked the boat.”

A survey has revealed that 80 % of Icelanders thought the men on the recording should resign, and that 74 % believed Ms. Arnadottir should also do so. The mood in Parliament is now toxic and it is hard to imagine how colleagues would move past the scandal.

People in public life in India have a lesson to learn – always look over your shoulder to watch out for who is sitting on the next table. Or next to you.
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

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