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Dear America,

4 Nov

In a few days, you’ll get to decide which breaking news the world will witness: the first female president in the White House, or a man who reduces women to their bodies and ‘migrants’ to their religion, lineage or colour of their skin. Yes, ‘migrants’ between quotation marks. Because Mr Trump with his Scottish-German ancestors and his Slovenian wife is just as much a migrant as the ‘bad hombres’ he says he wants to keep out. But that’s another story.

A diabolic dilemma, you say? Choosing between two evils? See, I just don’t quite get that. What is so hard about choosing between an experienced, intelligent, competent woman, and a man who only last week called an African American supporter a thug, and had him removed from the venue. A man being accused of sexual violence by an ever longer list of women and brushes off his own bragging about it as locker room talk. A man who wants to ban muslims from entering your country and wants to build a wall to prevent Mexicans from entering. Should I go on? The list is long, very, very long.

Honestly, I don’t get how this guy of all people made it this far. Someone who filed for bankruptcy several times, who justifies tax evasion and is not afraid to openly question the legitimicy of the elections. Has America really sunk so low that this is the best you have to offer to the world? America, that always knows best what’s good for the rest of the word. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya; you were the first to intervene, in the name of freedom, human rights and democracy. Not always quite successfully, but let’s not talk about that now. Now, we’re talking about power. And that goes far, very very far. In some countries it’s even easier to get a bottle of Coca Cola than clean drinking water. That’s how far it goes.

Why doesn’t she mind her own business, you may ask. Indeed, why don’t I. After all, we’re only talking about the next president of the United States, the self-proclaimed leader of the free world. With over 2 million troops and reserves and thousands of nuclear weapons, a few of which are even said to be stashed on Dutch soil. But hey, who am I, and those 7 billion world citizens within firing range of your weapons of mass destruction, but without voting rights in your country?

But what about Hillary Clinton and her e-mail issues, you may say. Her relations with Wall Street, dubious donations to the Clinton Foundation, her foreign policy? Not so smart, not so pretty, not something to be particularly proud of. But is it reason enough to call on people to vote for Trump, because you actually wanted to see Bernie Sanders in the White House? Really? Are you serious?

The land of the free and the home of the brave’. I really hope that turns out to be true next week. That you really have the courage to write history.

Dear America, please make America great again. But I mean really.

Kind regards on behalf of the rest of the world,

Kirsten van den Hul

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Why bother?

11 Apr

Do you know that feeling, that you’d rather not watch the news? Because all it seems to bring are tales of sorrow, suffering and shameful selfishness? Bombings, refugee crisis, Panama papers, abortion debate, US elections.. sometimes it seems like we are not moving forward at all, but rather flipping back through the darkest pages of history.

And the weird thing is: the truth is often more absurd than the most far fetched conspiricy theory. So sometimes, it seems a whole lot easier to become a pessimist or an escapist than a pro-activist. To think: ‘why bother’ and go shopping instead. Been there, done that (and have the closet to prove it). But does it change anything, really?

Fortunately, I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by lots of optimists, who, like me, believe that change does not just occur; it’s a verb: you have to just do it. Like the people behind the amazing ‘Harmony for Peace‘, whose annual concert at the Peace Palace in The Hague I will be hosting this month, with talented kids from all over the country performing together in the name of peace and cross-cultural understanding.

Or my wonderful coachee Saskia Stolz of the Power of Art House, who developed Moving People, to give refugees a face and voice, which she is presenting at Harvard, Yale and Columbia this week. You GO girl!

Or gender equality expert Jens van Tricht, founder of Emancipator, who will join us at the Gender @ The Lighthouse programme at Haagse Hogeschool for the Gender for Dummies event this week. Tell me: how often do you get the chance to hear a MAN talk about gender equality?

And speaking about gender equality, I will go back to my home town later this month, the lovely village of Bathmen, where I will join Vrouwen van Nu to talk about my book (S)hevolution and what we can do to change the world ourselves. Because isn’t that the best remedy in days of despair and devastation: being the change we want to see in this world?

And to the sceptics, who doubt whether all this will make any difference, who still say: why bother? Let me ask you this: when did doing nothing ever change anything?

Without change, no butterflies!

The same question each year

5 Mar

Around this time each year, I get asked the same question.

‘International Women’s Day, is that really still necessary?’

I always give the same answer. YES!

Unfortunately, it still is.

Why? Because men and women still do not have equal rights, equal access, equal power, equal representation, equal safety.

Some examples:

This week, the Inter-Parliamentary Union reported that in 2015, only less than a quarter of MPs worldwide were women.

So much for representative democracy.

The representation of women in conflict resolution is even lower: only 8% of all participants in peace negotiations between 1992 and 2011 were women. And only 3% of all peace treaties was signed by a woman.

Speaking about representation: last week, waiting at an Amsterdam bus stop, I took this picture of an ad campaign:

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Suit Supply campaign in the streets of Amsterdam

 

Wrong on so many levels, that I don’t even want to begin to explain why.

Fortunately, the massive outcry that followed did lead to cities removing the campaign from their bus stops altogether. But the damage was already done. How about scrutinizing campaigns before putting them up?

Yes, sexism is everywhere – yet often so hard to acknowledge. ‘Aren’t you being a bit over-sensitive now?’ or ‘Don’t go all feminist on me darling’, or even ‘You must be having your period’ are only some of the reactions I got while trying to discuss sexist situations in daily professional life. That’s why I wholeheartedly support the #geengrapje (no joke) campaign by the Dutch Young Socialists and said yes when they asked me to be in their campaign video:

 

But that’s not all I do this Women’s Day.

On March 7th, I host a Transgender Seminar at The Hague University of Applied Science,

On March 8th, I host an intergenerational panel on feminism then and now,

within the framework of the amazing Mama Cash project More than a Muse,

And on March 12th, I host the FNV (Dutch Federation of Trade Unions) Women’s Day event 

(for more upcoming events, have a look here)

As American poet Audre Lorde said: ‘We‘ve been taught that silence would save us. But it won’t.’

Happy International Women’s Day!

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