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Laat je stem gelden!

15 Feb

Over een precies een maand is het zover: 15 maart 2017. Verkiezingen voor de Tweede Kamer der Staten Generaal. Hét moment om je stem te laten gelden. Door bijvoorbeeld op een vrouw te stemmen, maar ook op een partij die die stem serieus neemt.

KoT

Gisteren schreven D66-senator en winnares van de Aletta Jacobsprijs Petra Stienen en ik in het NRC een opiniestuk waarin we vrouwen oproepen niet alleen strategisch op een vrouw te stemmen, maar ook zelf hun vinger op te steken. Want politiek is té belangrijk om alleen aan mannen over te laten. Geïnspireerd door de wijze lessen van Aletta Jacobs en Joke Smit roepen we vrouwen op politiek actief te worden.

Mijn oma, die er helaas niet meer is, werd geboren in een tijd dat vrouwen nog geen actief of passief kiesrecht hadden. Mijn moeder werd geboren in een tijd dat vrouwen nog handelingsonbekwaam waren en vaak zelfs moesten stoppen met werken toen ze kinderen kregen. En nu kan ze stemmen op haar dochter.

Waarom ik mijn vinger heb opgestoken? Omdat ik de woorden van mijn heldin Agnes Jongerius ter harte heb genomen. Niet stilletjes in een hoekje gaan zitten wachten, maar de beurt vragen. Omdat ik geloof dat we er nog niet zijn. Er is een boel verbeterd sinds vrouwen 100 jaar geleden kiesrecht kregen, maar is er ook nog een wereld te winnen. Bijvoorbeeld de economische zelfstandigheid van vrouwen, of het aantal vrouwen dat slachtoffer wordt van geweld. Daar wil ik me in de Tweede Kamer voor inzetten. Want het persoonlijke is anno 2017 nog steeds politiek.

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It’s still a man’s world

9 Nov

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This is not the blog post I was hoping to write today.
I was hoping to write something about smashing the glass ceiling, about women and politics and milestone moments in history. About role models and the importance of ‘what you see, you can be’. I even selected a powerful picture to go with it.*

But the people of the United States chose differently.

Yesterday, around the same time voting started in the US, some of my students presented their research around the topic of women and violence. They compared the situation in the US, France and Yemen. I asked them what had shocked them most.

‘How little I knew about Yemen’, said one of them.

‘How a lot is being done to prevent it and still, the number of cases of violence against women keeps rising’, said someone else.

‘I actually find it shocking that none of this is shocking to me anymore’, said the third. ‘How I keep reading the most horrible things about FGM and honor killings and date rape and harrassment at college and I just think to myself: that’s just how it is. It’s almost like.. normal. ’

‘It’s still a man’s world’, another student agreed.

I was really hoping that yesterday’s elections would prove them wrong. That the results would show these promising young men and women that the glass ceiling is not unbreakable, and that in 2016, a woman can be elected US president.
But yesterday’s results proved me wrong, and I had to write another blog post than I thought I would. Thank you, America.

I decided to keep the picture though. Maybe all of us who still believe in equal opportunities, in gender parity, in representative democracy, in women in politics, should print it and put it up on our walls. May it serve as a gentle reminder that it’s still an awfully male and pale political landscape out there. And that there are only two ways we can change that: by voting for a female leader, or by becoming one.

*a picture of heads of state participating in the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands, where apart from Queen Maxima and Angela Merkel female leaders were few and far between

The right to own a clitoris

3 Jun

Mayar Mohamed Mousa was her name. She was 17 years old. Just like her twin sister, who went under the knife right before her. She survived. But Mayar didn’t. Last Sunday, Mayar Mohamed Mousa died from complications in a private hospital in the Egyptian city of Suez when a female doctor surgically removed her clitoris. Mayar’s mother is a nurse.

Just let that sink in a for a moment.

A female doctor and a female nurse agreed to perform female genital mutilation (FGM) on two perfectly healthy teenage girls. Were even willing to risk the closure of the hospital, jailtime and not to mention the girls’ lives. And all that to remove their external sexual organs. How messed up is that?

And what’s even worse: Mayar and her twin sister are far from an exception. Even though the procedure was officially banned in Egypt in 2008, a staggering 94% of married women have been exposed to FGM and 69% of those women agreed to the same procedure being carried out on their daughters, according to a survey by the Egyptian Health Ministery in 2003.

Why?? Not for religious reasons. Not for hygiene. But simply because people believe this is how it should be. ‘It helps keep girls calm’, I once heard someone say. ‘It’s our culture’, according to others.

Fact of the matter is that today, according to UNICEF, at least 200 million girls and women living in 30 countries have undergone FGM. Of all those girls and women, the highest number are from Egypt: a staggering 27.2 million.

So why do people not talk about this more? Mona Eltahawy, author of Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, offers a very simple yet painful explanation: ‘Something that hurts so many girls and women is kept silent and taboo because it has to do with our vaginas and with sex. The biggest obstacle in the global fight against FGM is the reluctance to talk about the practice.’

So let’s break the silence. Let’s amplify the voices who are challenging this harmful misogynistic practise. Let’s start by remembering the names of the victims who do not live to share their stories. Let’s keep their memory alive.

Mayar Mohamed Mousa was her name. She was only 17 years old.

 

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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