While surfing the net I sometimes run into the craziest words. Take mansplaining for example.
You know. ‘No, that’s not how it’s done honey. Let me do that for you.’
A whole blog is dedicated to the phenomenon, with loads of hilarious stories of men showing us how it’s done.
My mom and I had it on holiday in Greece once, when the car rental guy started showing my mom how to use a clutch. ‘Look, that’s how you put it in first, second, third. You see?’
She must have had her driver’s license for some twenty five years then.
I sometimes have it when I change my old-timer’s oil. As soon as I open the hood, they come running, the chivalrous gentlemen who are dying to teach me where to put the oil exactly.
As a woman, you could get angry with them. Show them that you know how it works, a clutch, a dip stick, drill or whatever tool it is you have in your hands at that particular moment.
Or you can laugh about it, real hard, which is what I try to do. Cause let’s be honest: aren’t they funny, those macho meddlers?
And before all you guys start protesting.. we women do it too, I’ll be the first to admit it. Maybe not when it comes to drilling or cars, but with babies for example, or in the kitchen, or when cleaning, or doing the laundry. ‘No honey, you’re doing it all wrong. Let me show you.’ I don’t believe there’s a word for that as of yet, but I am sure you could easily fill a blog with those stories, too. Boy oh boy, do we know better. Maybe it’s about time to let it go, all of us that is. Cause whether it’s a guy or a girl doing it, mansplaining is soooooo last season.
While surfing the net I sometimes run into the craziest words. Take mansplaining for example.
“Sagan squeezes ass podium girl”, read the headline of an article on AD.nl. My eyebrows frowned. A new cycling scandal? Or an early April Fools? Curious, I continuous reading. “Peter Sagan came in second in the Tour of Flanders, behind an untouchable Fabian Cancellara. Fortunately, the Slovakian had not lost his sense of humor. On stage he squeezed the blonde podium girl’s butt while she congratulated the winner.” There were two pictures accompanying the article. In the first picture we see the Slovak eye the blonde’s bottom while Cancellara gets a stereo kiss by the two podium girls. “So, he gets the kisses, I get the buttocks”, Sagan must be thinking. On the second picture he smiles at the camera, his hand now firmly squeezing the blonde’s butt. “What a king!” writes AD colleague Arjan Schouten on Twitter. A king? Humor?? I hope that our new king has a better sense of humor. Since when is butt squeezing funny? Fortunately I’m not the only one who does not get the joke. Immediately after the publication of the picture, there’s a storm of criticism on Twitter. Sagan hurries to his apologise. “Was not my intention to disrespect women today on the podium. Just a joke, sorry if someone was disturbed about it.”
What the blonde podium girl made of the whole thing? We can only guess, but I very much doubt that having your buttocks squeezed was part of her job description. Maybe she did indeed think it was funny. I for one can’t help but wonder what would have happened if she had pinched back (although there is obviously not much to squeeze in a stringy cyclist’s ass). Would people have found that equally funny? I would. But apparently, I have a strange sense of humor.
Good times for the Vatican-watchers among us. Who will be the new pope? Maybe an African? Or maybe an Italian? One thing is certain: it will be a man. An old man, you can rely on that. And that like his predecessors the new pope will be against gay marriage, abortion and condoms, I’d bet my money on that too.
The 115 old men who will retire in the Sistine Chapel during the next days (average age: 71) do not have an awful lot to choose from. Because the main criterion for becoming pope is apparently still “testiculos habet et bene pendentes” (he has balls and is well hung). So what those men in dresses need to discuss all those days? It’s a mystery to me.
Fortunately, Dutch broadcaster RKK keeps us informed with a daily Pope journal, bringing us the latest news from Rome.
Meanwhile, the Holy See is not sitting still. God’s messengers are currently busy lobbying in New York, where the annual UN Commission on the Status of Women is being held. In an ad hoc coalition of countries like Iran, Russia and Syria the Vatican is hoping to stall a number of international agreements on women’s rights or, even worse, turn back the clock.
Not surprising, for an institution that prides itself on being an old boys’ network. But does that really keep the chimney smoking in the year 2013?
Fortunately even within its own constituency there are ever louder calls for change. “We need a pope who listens to women,” says the progressive organization Catholics for Choice. Rightly so. In order to remain relevant in a world where women, young people, gay men and lesbians together form an absolute majority, it might be an idea to look beyond old men. Or I am trying to be more Catholic than the pope here?
“Why are we still celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8th?” people sometimes ask me. “We’ve got equality now. What’s left to fight for?”
It always makes me think of my gran, who is almost 94 years old. She was born in March 1919, the year in which Dutch women got the right to vote. But most women did not have a lot to choose. My gran could not finish her school, since she had to look after the house after her mother passed away. And from the moment she got married she was legally “incapable”: according to Dutch law (which was only abolished in 1956!) women had to ask their husband for permission to withdraw money from a bank, get insurance or to travel alone. Untill 1971 the husband was officially the “head of the household” and women were bound by law to oblige.
In the mean time, my gran has seen her daughters and granddaughters graduate, seen her son marry a man and universal suffrage, something her mother could only dream of, is common in most of the world. Two generations and nearly a hundred Women’s Days later, we’ve come a long way. I travel the world all by myself, earn my own living and don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to withdraw money from the bank. But we’re not quite there yet. Women still earn about 18% less than men. Women are still underrepresented in politics, business, academia and media. And one out of three women is confronted with violence. In other words: plenty of work left to be done!
For me, International’s Women’s Day is a day to commemorate the progress made by our mothers and grandmothers. But also to keep fighting for the opportunities of our granddaughters. Why? We’re worth it.
“Are you surprised you were harassed in Cairo, a woman on such a busy square. You were kind of asking for it, weren’t you?” some people told me after hearing about last week’s groping incident on Tahrir Square, Egypt.
Asking for it? Really?
I wonder whether the suspects in India’s horrendous rape case, who pleaded not guilty last weekend, are using the same argument. That the 23-year old student they left bleeding on the sidewalk after gang raping her, was asking for it? That she should not have been on that bus at that time?
The same was said in Germany last week, after a journalist wrote about a prominent politician coming on to her during an interview. Her breasts would look good in a Dirndl dress, the former Minister of Economic Affairs had told her. But in stead of the utterly out-of-line politican, it was the journalist who caught flack. “She had no business meeting him at a bar at night.” was one of the comments in German media. “That’s asking for trouble.”
It sparked an unusual Twitter storm in Germany. Over a hundred thousand tweets were sent over the past days, using the hashtag #aufschrei (outcry), reporting all sorts of everyday sexism. From doctors who couldn’t keep their hands off little girls, to parents blaming their teenage daughter for being sexually assaulted. “You shouldn’t have worn such a short skirt.”
People, it’s 2013. Isn’t it about time to start blaming the doers in stead of the victims? Cause let’s be honest: WHO is asking for trouble, really?
And there we were: fresh off the plain, on Tahrir Square Cairo, the night before the second anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution. It was pitch dark on the square, except some fires burning in the distance. “You may want to cover your face”, said the hotel receptionist who offered to escort us. “Police are firing tear gas.”
I first visited Egypt in December 2010. At the same time, people in Tunisia were taking to the streets to demand justice after the death of street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire out of frustration with the corrupt regime. When I told my Egyptian friends what was happening in Tunisia, they reacted with a mix of surprise and disbelief. “That will never happen in Egypt.”
Two years later, Tahrir Square is full of people. Families with children, students, hooligans and old men and women: ordinary citizens who all came out to demand justice, but also celebrate the anniversary of the revolution of 2011. Their revolution, and not that of the regime, as people keep telling me. “Leave, leave, leave!” the growing crowd is chanting. “The people demand freedom!” After the teargas and riots of the night before, the vibe on January 25th is surprisingly peaceful, festive almost. People are waving flags, wearing the national colours on their face. A little girl hands me an Egyptian flag. “Welcome to Egypt” she smiles.
There are lots of women on the square, some with their children, many of them carrying banners demanding justice. “Aren’t you afraid?” I ask a group of giggling girls wearing hijabs. “No, not afraid. But it is tough out here for women. There is always the risk of being harrassed, groped, or worse.”
A bit later, I get to experience that myself. When the square gets even more crowded and the sun is setting in the Nile, I decide to return to my hotel to finish my article for Dutch daily AD and watch the rest of the demonstrations from my window. As I am trying to find my way through the thousands of protesters, someone grabs me from behind. It’s way too busy to see who it was. A young photographer rushes to apologise for his fellow-countrymen. “We have a lot to learn here in Egypt. But there is hope!”
I’ll be the first to admit it: I should maybe not talk about the stress surrounding having kids. I don’t have to worry about putting my foetus on some school’s waiting list right after the first ultrasound, nor do I have to book a child-friendly hotel during school holidays. I don’t have to drag around any strollers or diaper bags, nor do I have a child’s seat in the back of my car. No bottles of milk, no sleepless nights, no running from school yard to football practise or piano lessons. But most of all: no spending thousands of euros a month on childcare.
So yes, easy for me to say that it’s a shame if working moms quit their jobs “because they spend their entire salary on child care” now that subsidy is cut dramatically, starting this January. That getting their old job back, once the kids are in school, may be more difficult than they think, and that they are likely to earn a lot less. That child care is not a women’s issue, but both mom and dad’s. That over one out of three marriages end in divorce, and therefore women should carefully consider giving up their financial independence to become a full-time mom. They are absolutely right, those moms who tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about. Cause who am I to have any opinion about having kids, being an as-of-yet-childless-single?
Don’t get me wrong: being the daughter of a working mom I know how hard it is to do it all: be a good mom, a respected colleague and a fun wife or partner. That is some serious multi-tasking. And of course I would not be happy if the costs of childcare were to rise. But to quite working alltogether? Hell no. Oh well. Easy for me to say, right?