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Young femininity in Iceland and its discontents

Young femininity in Iceland and its discontents

Title: Young femininity in Iceland and its discontents
Author: Jóhannsdóttir, Ásta
Date: 2018-06
Language: English
Scope: 17-30
University/Institute: Háskóli Íslands
University of Iceland
School: Félagsvísindasvið (HÍ)
School of Social Sciences (UI)
Department: Félagsfræði-, mannfræði- og þjóðfræðideild (HÍ)
Faculty of Sociology, Anthropology and Folkloristics (UI)
Series: Psychology of Women Section Review;1(1)
ISSN: 1466-3724
Subject: Young women; Iceland; Femininity; Makeup; Slut-shaming; Body image; Radical feminism; Postfeminism; Konur; Kvenleiki; Förðun; Femínismi; Róttækni; Póstmódernismi
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11815/1562

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Ásta Jóhannsdóttir. (2018). Young femininity in Iceland and its discontents. Psychology of Women Section Review, 1(1), 17–30.


Despite Iceland’s outstanding performance on global indices measuring gender equality, young women report higher levels of depressive symptoms than young men. This suggests a more complex situation than what appears in public discourse, where Iceland is sometimes referred to as a feminist paradise. This paper attempts to unpack how young women and men define and understand young femininity. The theoretical framework draws on feminist and affect theories. The data was collected between 2012 and 2014 and consists of eighteen semi-structured interviews with young women and men and group interviews with five young women based on co-operative inquiry. The analysis shows that the young women in the study attach negative affects to their feminine practices and feel that their bodies do not measure up to acceptable femininity; their bodies are either too much or not enough. Their feelings of anxiety, insecurity and shame are not irrational as they are confirmed by the young men who are quick to shame female bodies that do not fit a narrow ideal of feminine beauty. Somewhat surprisingly, the widespread image of Iceland as the most equal country in the world does not invite a conversation about the paradoxes women face and thereby diminishes possibilities for young women to place their experiences in particular contexts.

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