Current scandal hailed as gender equality milestone

Mynd: Edda Falak / Eigin konur
Ari Edwald was this weekend dismissed as CEO of Ísey Export, a subsidiary of Iceland’s biggest dairy company, the company’s board confirmed in a letter to farmers and other shareholders. The move came at the end of a week in which he went on leave over sexual abuse allegations. Another man involved in the case, the gym and fitness pioneer Arnar Grant, has been informed production of his protein drink is stopping and the product is being taken off the shelves immediately.

The two men are among five who went on leave last week following a podcast interview with Vítalía Lazareva detailing inappropriate sexual behaviour. 

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October rumours, January crunch-time 

The letter from Auðhumla says the board received imprecise information on the case in October and that it was “immediately taken seriously due to the possibility that the information was correct, and the company board has met often about the case, both with the CEO and without him”. The letter adds that the matter was still under discussion at the time of last week’s watershed. 

The “watershed” almost certainly refers to the Edda Falak’s Eigin konur podcast interview with Vítalía Lazareva, and the media coverage that followed. The letter concludes that the accusations against the CEO are “of a nature that the board felt compelled, after careful consideration, to terminate the contract with him [...] with consideration to the interests of the company, its staff and customers, and not least the said victim”. 

Striking a similar note, the Kaupfélag Skagfirðinga (KS) trading company has decided to remove the Teygur protein drink from sale. The drink was produced in cooperation with Arnar Grant, who developed the idea alongside Ívar Guðmundsson. The drink, which differs from other protein drinks on the market because it is vegan, is being discontinued due to the podcast interview, KS has confirmed. 

KS milk division head Magnús Freyr Jónsson says that the company first heard the allegations in October when Vítalía posted them on Instagram, but that he did not realise right away how serious the case was. When further details emerged last week, the decision made itself. Arnar and Ívar previously worked together on the creation of the Hámark fitness drink—then produced by Vífilfell and now by CCEP. 

Two nightmares 

Vítalía said in the interview that she had suffered sexual abuse during two trips with her lover, Arnar Grant. Once in a hot tub at a summerhouse where three prominent businessmen were with the pair. Hreggviður Jónsson left his post as chair of Veritas Capital on 6th January, and the board of Festi removed Þórður Már Jóhannesson as chair last week. Ari Edwald has now been sacked from Ísey, as discussed above. 

The second was a golf trip during which Vítalía says the media personality Logi Bergmann sexually abused her, or Arnar’s invite, in their hotel room. Logi has taken leave from his radio show but denies any wrongdoing.  

The sociology professor Ingólfur V. Gíslason believes the fallout from Vítalía’s case is one of the most significant milestones in the discussion of gender and gender equality in Iceland for several decades and that the #MeToo revolution is a force for societal change. 

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 Mynd: Samsett

Significant for future generations 

“The continuation of what happened there is that all perpetrators, or those who were identified there, need to step down. That is very significant. And it’s not just anybody who’s being accused there,” Ingólfur says—adding that it is hard to imagine at this stage what the long-term consequences will be for the men. 

“That is maybe not the main point. I haven’t noticed a strong desire for revenge among those coming forward wanting to speak out. Rather, the desire is for recognition and apologies and so forth. I don’t think revenge is top of their priorities.” Ingólfur says messages are constantly filtering slowly through society about what is and is not acceptable. “And under what circumstances the power imbalance is so great that people have to back out of the situation, as was clearly the case here.” Ingólfur says he believes this case will have a knock-on effect for future generations. 

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 Mynd: RÚV

Abuse by men is the biggest problem 

“And it was most definitely time, because the most serious problem in relations and status between men and women in Iceland is the violence that women have had to endure on behalf of men,” Ingólfur says. “Really, it is not until we have stopped that and made society equally safe for men and women that we can really expect there to be equality in Iceland.” In that regard, this particular case is one of the most important developments for decades, he believes. 

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11.01.2022 - 11:38