A Land Shaped By Women on Forbes
Original text and article on Forbes.com; words - Alana Glass
Over 40 years ago, October 1975 to be exact, 90% of Icelandic women went on strike. They took to the streets and marched for equal rights. Factories, banks, and business were forced to shut down. School and nurseries also closed – leaving men to take care of everything.
While life seemingly went back to normal the next day, the “Women’s Day Off” movement set the stage for change that would reverberate across Iceland – let alone the world.
Five years later, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, won Iceland’s presidency. Making her the first woman in the world to be democratically elected as a head of state. As Europe’s first female president, President Vigdis inspired women across Iceland and Europe to run for office. Today, the Nordic country is top-ranked for gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum, a position that it has held for the past nine years. In 2018, Iceland fully enacted the world’s first equal pay law, which requires companies with 25 or more employees to certify equal pay regardless of gender.
And, its reputation for being on the forefront of gender equality is what inspired world champion snowboarders Anne-Flore Marxer and Aline Bock to embark on a two-month Icelandic adventure and capture their journey in the documentary film “A Land Shaped By Women.”
Raised in a competitive Swiss-French alpine skiing family, first-time director Marxer chose snowboarding for its relaxed environment. But as the sport gained popularity, she soon found that equal opportunities for women would not come naturally. So, Marxer used her platform to highlight disparities between men and women, including inadequate competition conditions, lack of sponsorships, and unequal prize money.
“I understood if I kept competing and winning, I could say something about it and make a change,” said Marxer, 2011 Freeride World Champion. “To know that I could contribute to the way they were treating women was the reason why I did those competitions.”
As opportunities for women slowly changed, Marxer grew weary of the struggles associated with being a woman in board and action sports. Finding herself in desperate need of strength and inspiration, Marxer traveled to Iceland.
“I was tired of having to fight all the time. I was tired of having to justify myself as being a woman,” said Marxer. “I wanted to leave the fighting energy behind me, and I wanted to experience what I love in a different surrounding and see how it would be to snowboard in a place where it is supposed to be so much better for gender equality.”
Surrounded by Iceland’s mountain backdrops, Marxer found exactly what she was looking for: women shaping the country’s political landscape by bringing women’s issues to the forefront.
“It was discovering this positive feminist culture, in Iceland that is understood as being positive that we don’t really have elsewhere. If I talk about Europe, for example, if you are someone who wants to bring changes in your surroundings or society, everyone is looking at you as someone who is disturbing,” said Marxer.
“But in Iceland, I felt like everyone is participating in bringing changes within the country, and it is seen as positive. That was refreshing to me.”
Along the journey, Marxer interviewed women who are paving the way for gender equality, civil rights and human rights, including Katrin Oddsdottir (human rights attorney who took part in writing Iceland's new constitution), Heida Birgisdóttir (Nikita clothing founder, documented as one of Iceland's first female snowboarders and first female surfer), and Vilborg Arna Gissurardóttir (explorer, the first Icelander to reach the summit of Mount Everest).
While highlighting Iceland’s progressive policies, Marxer hopes the film shifts how women in sports are portrayed in the media.
“For the past 30 years, videos of snowboarding always have the same narrative, which I call a very male narrative. It is always a guy in front of the camera who is the big hero,” said Marxer.
“Which is a bit surprising because in snowboarding and skiing combined, 40% of the participants are women. When you always see the sport for the extreme, you push away most women telling them that it is too dangerous.”
“A Land Shaped by Women” has been recognized 13 times by film festivals around the globe for its powerful yet positive message about gender equality. The film is now available via iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox, FandangoNow, Playstation, Vimeo on Demand and VUDU. Click here to watch it on demand.