Icelanders are all bastards living in a feminist hell. According to some priest in Arizona at least.

This same priest (I won't write his name, I don't want to give him more 'fame') has also had speeches that inspire hate against homosexuals and Jewish people, so it's not really a speech that you (or anyone) should take seriously as a 'message from God' or a 'message of love and what's right'. (Some people really need to get their priorities right, aren't all religions fundamentally based on love for one another? Even atheism revolves around love. The more love in the world, the better!)

It's so absurd that it's pretty hilarious though!

It's disconcerting that he seems to have quite a few people listening to him (or even agreeing with him) - but mainly, Icelanders find this speech entertaining because of how ludicrous it is, and I think I can speak on behalf of Icelanders when I say we're all pretty stoked he doesn't seem to be coming over any day soon! Any non-extremist sensible person will also agree that he doesn't have a clue what he's talking about. (And I won't reply to any comments of those that support him in any way).

Oh and about anti depressants, yes, 12% of Icelanders take them. That's pretty high, and perhaps a bit of a concern. A lot of it can be explained because anti-depressants are prescribed for a number of things in Iceland, such as ADHD. A close family member of mine takes anti depressants because of Parkinson's disease. Depression is one of the things that accompanies Parkinson's. A number of people take them because they have depression (which is a disease, and not something you can shake off by being 'a happy person'). 

As a counter argument, there's a very low percentage of people seeing psychologists in Iceland (and not many psychologists available). And, this 12% includes people that have been prescribed anti depressants only once in a year, so not exactly regular users.

This is one statistic about Iceland. Another statistic is that Icelanders are one of the happiest nations in the world. And apparently some people believe in elves (I think the percentage of how many they are is constantly being made up. I'm fairly certain it's not half of the nation.)

This priest is clearly an idiot whose speeches are not worth my time. However, I find CNN's, or US interest in Icelandic family patterns very interesting, so I'm going to write a bit about my thoughts on that matter.

Iceland's 'unique view' on marriage

The priest in Arizona singled out one particular Icelandic woman, named Bryndís. She can be seen along with her fiancé, Siggi, here above, discussing their relationship and family pattern with Bill Weir in a (bizarre) episode of the Wonder List on the CNN. The clip only shows a little insight into their relationship, the full episode lets you get to know them a bit better. (I also personally know Siggi as we went to school together).

I watched the entire "Iceland Weddings" episode of the Wonder List with Bill Weir, where the (pretty awesome) couple Bryndís and Siggi discuss their relationship, their love and their family. The extremist priest in Arizona points them out in his speech (actually, no he doesn't, he points HER out in his speech) for leading a life of sin and sodomy. And calls her a whorebag. Not just a whore, but a full bag of whores. (His full sermon is quite long actually and I admit that I haven't watched all of it, maybe he mentions Siggi somewhere, but I doubt it. All sin is due to women, right? After that tree+fruit incident, right? The Bible tells us so. The Bible also tells us a bunch of other things...)

Stuff that the Bible says

This is Bryndís' epic response to this priest's rant on Facebook:

"Last summer Sigurður and I agreed to talk to CNN about our 'unconventional' family. They were making a show about Iceland, the mountains and the glaciers and all the unwed mothers, that are clearly 'the new puffin'. The episode was screened in the USA on Sunday and here's a little clip from it. The sentence "together they have four children with three partners and not a drop of shame or regret" is entertainingly loaded but I didn't realise the shock this out-of-control lifestyle of ours (mainly mine) seems to have given men around the world. The comments [I've had] cover the whole scale from us being morally degenerated and guilty of 'sodomy' (naturally), me being a redneck slut and a hopeless mother but my favourite being that I'm a fucking whorebag. Not just a whore, but a whole bag of whores. Some think I'm cute however. Congratulations world, the battle for equality seems to be over. Now shut up, dear feminists."

Oh yes, if she's cute, then she can't be a whore. There's just one or the other. Well, no-one should spend too much time thinking about what people say in the comment sections (because we all know that comment section people are crazy), but I wonder what message is being sent out with this whole episode, and I want to try my best to explain a bit about Iceland's relaxed attitude towards 'bastards'.

I apologise in advance for the intense use of quotation marks and single quote marks, and for all generalisations about the mentality of US citizens. Don't take everything I write seriously.

My thoughts on The Wonder List: Icelandic Weddings

You didn't come to Iceland for glaciers and northern lights?

Watching the whole episode was a bit startling.

What was mainly startling to me, was to see how shocked the host, Bill Weir, was. And his approach to the matter. My reactions to him coming over to Iceland to find out 'what all this single-mother-thing is about' is similar to Bryndís' in the video: - 'Really? That's why you came to Iceland? Because some women aren't married but still have kids? What about the glaciers and volcanoes (and the unmarried men, and the Northern Lights, and the equality, and the first nationally elected female president in the world back in 1980 and perhaps what attitude Icelanders have towards the US possibly getting their first female president this year and what that would mean to a more equal society in the world? Or you know, something else. But no, having kids before you put on a white dress and get drunk with your in-laws is much more intriguing.)

- Wow, that is such a freaking weird reason. It's weird that some people find that weird. And this is totally being made into something that it is not, focusing on something that doesn't matter, instead of making insightful comments and research into why people put so much focus on marriage, in different cultures. -

This is not the first time the focus is put on the amount of single, or unwed, mothers in Iceland in an interview about Iceland's people, by a US television host. It happened in an Oprah episode too, that you can read about in my blog about attitudes towards sex and nudity in Iceland.

The other day I was interviewed about Iceland and what Icelandic females are like, and the woman interviewing me asked me: 'What about the Icelandic men, what are they like? I always hear about the strong and independent women, but nothing about the men.' - It was such a good question! But I struggled to answer. Icelandic men are actually pretty awesome, and stand equal with the Icelandic women. And they want to be equal with the women. Maybe my boyfriend described them best in saying what they are not - they are not taken care of by their mothers or girlfriends, they'll do their own laundry and dishes and cook their own dinners. And they will not cat-call women in the streets. Half the reason for why the women are strong and independent in Iceland, is because the men are also strong and independent, and they support each other.

"Not a drop of shame or regret" - really? Did he really say that? Does that really need to be addressed? What is the alternative? 'They have 4 kids, with 3 other partners and feel terrible guilt and shame on a daily basis that spreads to their kids and poisons their relationship'. 

Were both of them supposed to be in unhappy relationships for the rest of their lives just because they had kids together? Can people not see how these two people are making each other extremely happy? (They come across as a very happy couple to me at least...) The host seems to celebrate their way of thinking, but the editing of the show doesn't really support that.

Description with the clip on Youtube

Above you can see the description with the clip from the episode. "Marriage seems to be optional in Iceland" - Is it mandatory elsewhere? I don't know about other people, but that sounds a bit oppressive to me...

- 'When you grow up you have to get married, then have children. No other option.'

- 'But what if...?'

- 'No if's. Wedding, then children. Free will is not an option.'

I'm pretty sure more people would be chewing on anti depressants if that was the case.

What about people that get married, have kids, then years go by and they find themselves in a (physically or mentally) abusive relationship? Should they just accept that as a life choice for eternity? Or should they get out of the relationship, and perhaps try to find love again? That's an extreme example, and obviously not the reason that most people break up/divorce. Sometimes things just don't work out and people are better off as friends than partners. In such cases, it should also obviously be the right of both parents to spend time with their kids, and the right of the children to spend time with both parents (no matter how much you may dislike your former partner).

Personally, I don't want kids nor marriage in my life. In any order. My boyfriend (whom I dearly love) isn't fussed either way. I'm a sucker for proposals, so I'd love for him to propose, preferably a few times. That just means we'd have lots of great dates, great restaurants and starry skies and romantic beaches and that stuff. The answer each time will probably be 'really?', 'maybe' or 'this was a great proposal, I'd totally say yes if it weren't for the fact that I know you'll do another great one next time.' (I've told him to propose 50 times before I say yes. Maybe he'll settle for 49 times and we'll skip the whole 'yes' bit and just go on a fake honeymoon).

Maybe we'll get married, just to throw a party. But that's the only reason I see for it, to gather friends from around the world and have a good time. And travel on a honeymoon. And maybe it's better to be married for something to do with tax or rights or something, I don't know. But then again, I don't really need a reason to gather my friends round for a party, or to go traveling (and the tax benefits can't really make that much of a difference, especially since we don't have kids) - and if I/we don't have a big wedding, then I/we have more money to spend on the travels! :) It probably goes without saying that I'm an atheist, so the religious aspect of it doesn't mean anything to me.

Why is having children out of wedlock so shocking to US mentality? Also, why is Bryndís getting all the heat from this? Not ONCE does Bill ask about single fathers, or unwed fathers.

Bill does interview the Icelandic president that mentions that Iceland is possibly the only country, at least the first one, where women have broken the glass ceiling on every frontier. Women have held all the highest offices of state and church; president, prime minister, the president of the parliament, the president of the supreme court and the head bishop. 

So Bill does skim the surface of "this country that's run by peaceful feminists". But he still doesn't 'get it'. He still asks about 'unwed mothers' and 'single mothers' - Siggi doesn't really get to say much about his kids. And then Bill asks: "How do Icelanders feel about monogamy?" Bryndís tells him that Icelanders are pretty conventional when it comes to monogamy, prompting Bill to ask if "it's not just a big orgy?", - to which she (naturally) replies with 'no'. And what does Bill think about that? He thinks "that's too bad". So, he was hoping for some sex orgy feast?

The whole episode seems to enforce this attitude that people need to marry first, then have kids and if they don't, they're somehow bizarre - or partaking in constant orgies. Why is it being turned into something extremely sexual? Is it either 'conventional getting married, having kids, staying together forever' or 'crazy sex orgies', with no other options in between?

A lot of people are in long relationships, even married, then they have kids, then the relationship fails for some reason and they part ways. Then they may find someone else to love and have another kid. It's not totally unheard of, anywhere in the world.

I've got American friends that have a kid but aren't married (gasp! Oh, the horror!) Granted, they are Canadian, not from the US.

The whole idea of a 'shotgun wedding' comes from there being a child on its way, and then pressure to get married just because of that. A term that isn't known in Iceland.

Maybe people in Iceland have so many relationships, with or without kids, because they're better than other nations in not settling for a relationship where they are unhappy? Maybe that's a part of why people are mostly happy in Iceland, being able to get out of failing relationships without some external pressure of having to get married?

Getting married in Iceland

Getting married in Iceland - picture by Bragi Þór

I understand that weddings are a big deal in the USA (mainly from watching movies and TV shows), and in Iceland it's not as big of a deal. Well, that's not really true, weddings are a huge deal, and a great celebration of love - but you can also celebrate love without being married.

Getting married in Iceland is pretty awesome though, especially since there are no specific rules people need to follow. There are obviously some customs, that some choose to respect, but no-one will blink an eye if you decide to have your wedding as a small ceremony on top of a mountain, or a huge 3 day party in a field with everyone invited, or even in a traditional church - with whoever you want to conduct the ceremony, priest, friend or someone dressed up like Thor.

Obviously this CNN TV show is made by a US channel, by US citizens and for US citizens - but does it really have to be so one-sided in its approach? Like 'co-habitation' is a term that's totally unheard of anywhere outside Iceland? Like Iceland is 'such a bizarre place, where they have this 'unique' approach to matrimony that can't be found anywhere else. Oh and, if you didn't think that's bizarre enough, then they all believe in elves too. They're clearly crazy.'

Like I couldn't go to the US and say that it's totally normal for people there to enter reality TV shows and that 8 out of 10 people believe in angels, making the entire nation look totally ridiculous?

I suppose I'm just a bit tired of Iceland constantly being marketed as this 'quirky, weird, elf-believing location that's full of single mothers'. When will it start being marketed as this 'location full of nature-loving and nature-respecting, equal people'?

The phrasing of many lines suggests this condescending way of approaching the subject, the 'supremacy' of the 'American way'* of dealing with relationships and marriage. This sentence appears as a voiceover in the episode:

"Will our values slowly change them, or could this be the first country to let go of matrimony?"

*(By 'the American way' I mean the USA way. Not all of the countries in (both) Americas have the same attitude. Also, it's so annoying when people are only talking about people from the US but say 'Americans', can people stop doing that?)

Why on earth should values of the USA change Icelandic views towards weddings? (Also, I very much doubt that Iceland is going to let go of matrimony, weddings are still very popular).

What exactly are USA values? Is getting married through a reality TV show such as the Bachelor/Bachelorette one of them? Iceland once tried having one season of the Icelandic Bachelor. It didn't go so well, and in the first episode one woman turned down the rose she was offered by the bachelor - has that ever happened in the US version? 

Why is there such an INSANE pressure for people to get married in the US, that when you choose not to do it it's treated as something weird? Is it just a cleverly marketed business model by the HUGE wedding business in the US telling little girls that their biggest dream should be to get married in the future?

Why would Icelanders know anything about their values, and what they consist of (it's also such a huge melting pot of a country with a hell of a lot of different sets of values) and why would they take them into consideration? The US doesn't decide how the rest of the world should behave. Do people in the US know much about Icelandic values? Will they change their values because other nations are reportedly doing better elsewhere?

I expect it's Christianity that's being referred to. Personally, I think Bill should do more research into Icelandic history (and learn how to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull, it's really not that hard - and he did so well with Vatnajökull!). So, here's an update on Icelandic (and US) history:

Iceland is a Christian nation. Lutheran to be exact. They've been so since the year 1000, when Christianity was forced onto Iceland and people had to let go of their 'pagan, Nordic religion' (Thor, Odin, Freyja and those guys). That's around the same time that an Icelandic guy called Leifur Eiriksson 'discovered' America. He thought this New Found Land was great, but returned to Iceland to tell his mates about it, after all, there was no-one else around there to hang out with. Then he just stuck around in Iceland or Greenland until he died.

A few centuries later, in 1492, Christopher Columbus 'discovered' America. (Obviously neither one of them 'discovered' America since it was already occupied by some natives, but that's a different story.) People started moving to America in the following years, but it wasn't until 1776 that the United States got independence, and the 4th of July 1776 is regarded as the nation's birthday.

So, my point is, Iceland has been a Christian nation for at least 500 years longer than the US (if we aim for the time that Columbus went over there). That's a couple of centuries longer than the US has been independent. In all that time I feel like we've figured out some important stuff. Some people have figured out that you can fully enjoy life without following all the whims of religion.

And most people have figured out that love, and respect, are the key ingredients for a relationship to work. And sometimes even if there's love, the relationship can fail because of other things (like pride or a grudge, such as in Hallgerður's and Gunnar's case, they probably would've been better off splitting up. If you don't know them, I suggest looking up and reading Njal's Saga, it's a classic from around the 1200's).

Maybe after a few more centuries the US as a whole will learn that people don't have to get married to have kids. Maybe sooner. Jennifer Aniston's character here above already figured it out - although (spoiler alert) - after her speech, the guy still 'gives in' and asks her to marry him. Because you know, otherwise the audience wouldn't get that feel-good happy ending, as it seems to be virtually impossible in Hollywood films for women to be happy unless they're married. I just re-watched Legally Blonde, where a woman enters Harvard law school, just so she can get a guy to marry her. She fortunately realises he's not worth her time, shows off what she's worth and aces the law school. However, that didn't seem to be enough of a feel-good happy ending -  the last sentence of the film is about her new boyfriend's plans on proposing to her that night. Because apparently that's all she really wanted anyway. (Still an awesome film). Media sure isn't helping the situation.

It's not a new idea, in the 60's and 70's (during the 'free love' period) a lot of literature suggested that in the future people would have a much more rational approach to love, as in, not necessarily sticking with the same unsuitable partner for life, just because it was a great idea in your early twenties. Also, you can stick with the same partner, just not get married. The whole wedding thing is pretty expensive I hear, you might as well just go on a trip around the world instead, and get lots of great days to remember instead of just one.

People change. Sometimes they change together, sometimes one person changes more than the other.

Any kind of relationship - between kids and their parents, or lovers, or siblings, or straight people or LGBT people works best if people have mutual respect and love for each other, and deal with problems in a fair way. That's not always how relationships go, and certainly hasn't always been the case throughout the years (weddings as we know them today are a fairly new phenomenon), but through years of experience and comparison with what people were doing elsewhere, Iceland's got some things right. We can always do better - but at the moment we feel pretty damn proud of the way things work in regards to relationships and equality. (Maybe not how things are working in government or at banks, but, at least in people's personal relationships!)

Ok, my rant is almost over. I'd just like to add: Neither Bryndís or Sigurður are single parents, they are in a very loving relationship, together. And they recently got engaged to be married. 

And as a final side note, in case anyone's wondering, my parents got married at a young age, had three kids more than 10 years later and are celebrating their 50 year wedding anniversary later this year. So I'm not a 'bastard', and have no bastard siblings - but if I was, I'd be a damn proud bastard!

Here you can read more articles about Icelandic history and culture.

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