Tag Archives: feminism

Erfdochters van Suze

8 Nov



Op 7 november 1918 hield Suze Groeneweg, het eerste vrouwelijke Kamerlid, haar maidenspeech. Een eeuw later inspireerde zij kunstenaar Ward Warmoeskerken tot een bijzondere creatie, die ik mocht tonen in de Oude Zaal van de Tweede Kamer, op dezelfde plek waar Suze’s speech 100 jaar eerder had geklonken. Dit was mijn speech:

Mevrouw de voorzitter, geachte aanwezigen,

Het is een zware last die op je schouders rust als je de eerste bent. De eerste vrouw, in dit gebouw. En de enige. Jarenlang de enige. Tussen 99 mannen. Door mannen gekozen. Altijd op je hoede. Want oh wee als je blunders maakt. Dan wordt er meteen geroepen dat vrouwen het niet kunnen. Dat we te emotioneel zijn. Ongeschikt. Niet in de wieg gelegd voor politiek.

Ja, er werden grappen gemaakt. Er werd gelachen. Gegniffeld. Maar daar moet je je als vrouw niks van aantrekken als je de wereld wilt veranderen. Alles voor de vooruitgang. Zonder verandering geen vlinders.

Stug? Onvriendelijk? Onbuigzaam? Geen katje om zonder handschoenen aan te pakken?Ach, dat was de buitenkant. Maar de binnenkant toonde een ander gezicht. Vrouwenrechten. Zwangerschapsverlof. Onderwijs. Alcoholpreventie. Ontwapening. En natuurlijk de rode rozen van de SDAP.

Ja het waren roerige tijden. Als eerste vrouw, in dit gebouw. En de enige. Tussen 99 mannen.

Ik moet vaak aan haar denken, aan Suze. Wat had zij ervan gevonden dat we 100 jaar later nog maar met 49, en sinds vanmiddag zelfs 48 vrouwen waren, van de inmiddels 150 Kamerleden?

Maar ook: hoe was dat voor haar? Als er speciaal voor jou een damestoilet moet worden aangelegd? Als je jezelf continu moet bewijzen? Als er gegniffeld wordt als je het woord vraagt?

Ik? Ik heb vrouwelijke collega’s om samen mee te lachen, me samen mee te verwonderen, solidair mee te zijn, naar op te kijken. Maar Suze? Suze was jarenlang helemaal alleen.

Alleen daarom al is ze een heldin, onze Suze. Dochter van een landarbeider uit Strijensas, met een rood onderwijshart, voorvechtster, voorvrouw, voorbeeld.

Dus natuurlijk zei ik meteen ja, toen kunstenaar Ward Warmoeskerken me vroeg een door Suze geïnspireerde creatie te dragen. Een mantel is het, die zwaar weegt, net als de druk op Suzes schouders. Die wat stug is van buiten, maar kleurrijk van binnen. Met rode rozen, en met 49 kralen. Die 49 kralen, dat zijn wij. Khadija, Pia, Monica, Lisa, Dilan, Leonie, Lilianne. De erfdochters van Suze.

Dat Suzes erfenis ons allen mag inspireren om onze stem luid en duidelijk te laten horen. Want zoals Els Borst al zei: politiek is veel te belangrijk om aan mannen over te laten. En daar zou Suze het vast roerend mee eens zijn geweest.








We decide*

15 Apr

’99 – 51.
Does anyone know what that is?
It’s the ratio of men to women in the Dutch House of Representatives today.
In 2018 only one out of three of my colleagues is female.
Exactly one hundred years after the first woman was elected to the Dutch House of Representatives. And that is a shame. A really big shame.
Because, as I am sure I do not need to tell you, the future is female.

Last week, I had three 10 year old girls visiting me in The Hague. These three little feminists interviewed me for a school project about gender equality. They asked me some of the best questions ever.
‘What does being a feminist mean for your career?’ ‘Why do some people not agree that women and men are equal?’ ‘What can we do to change that?’

I told them I think it all starts with equal representation. Because only when women are equally represented in positions of power, we can make a difference and let our voice be heard. Nothing about us without us!

I don’t know about you, but I personally believe that investing in gender equality is the right thing to do. I mean, come on. We are 50% right?
But a growing pile of research shows that it’s not just the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do.
Because gender equality is not only good for people, it’s also good for countries. Countries where women have access to reproductive health care perform better than countries that don’t. Communities where a bigger percentage of women participate in local government invest more in sanitation and education, and show lower numbers of corruption. When girls go to school, they are healthier and live longer.

It’s not rocket science: development starts with women and girls. Unfortunately, not everybody agrees.
On the contrary, there is a groing group of countries where gender equality is considered controversial. They obviously missed the memo. Cause I hate to break it to them, but the future is really female.

Did you know that at the annual Commission on the Status of Women at the UN, we are negotiating to keep the agreed language that’s already there, in stead of negotiating steps forward? Conservative countries team up with the Holy See and lobby against sexual and reproductive rights, or even the use of the word gender. In Russia, domestic violence is no longer a criminal offense. And the US and their global gag rule have had a huge negative impact on women’s right to choose worldwide.

People without wombs and vaginas deciding on policies affecting wombs and vaginas. And they’re getting away with it.

So that’s why we need equal representation. But we also need solidarity, sisterhood and a strong civil society to raise awareness and put gender on the agenda. And that’s where you come in. Cause it’s only in cooperation with NGO’s, activists, journalists and human rights defenders that we can build a better and more inclusive world. We’re stronger together. There’s more of us. And we decide.’

*speech delivered at the 2018 Africa Day, during the session ‘She Decides in Africa’, on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

It’s still a man’s world

9 Nov


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!

Long live feminism 4.0!

8 Oct

Making yourself known as a feminist is no walk through the park, as I know from experience. The reactions to such a coming out vary from stupid (‘do you actually shave your armpits?’) to scary (‘feminazi’s like you should shut up’). But mainly, as a feminist, you have a lot of explaining to do. Whether that whole ‘women’s thing’ is still necessary. What I think about the debate for gender quota for positions of power. Whether I believe women are better. And what all of that means for men. Not to mention the reactions from feminists themselves. Because just like any other ideology, feminism has liberals and orthodox too. Who, just like the Remonstrants and the Contraremonstrants in the history of Dutch Protestantism, love to tell each other who is right and who is wrong.

An older lady once told me I was a hypocrite for wearing nailpolish and lipstick, and calling myself a feminist at the same time. Of course those were mutually exclusive. Was that what she and her sisters had been fighting for all those years? What was I thinking!

Today, self-proclaimed feminists such as Miley Cyrus and Beyoncé are being blamed with the exact same hypocrisy. Performing in a sexy outfit, dancing in front of a sign that says FEMINIST in huge neon letters? According to the orthodox that’s like cursing in a church.

But I think it was exactly what feminism has been lacking for years: a popularised version, a translation in everyday language, which has made its ideas and legacy – unfortunately still relevant as ever – accessible for a much wider audience.

And that audience is eager for a new feminist sound, as was proved once again at De Balie in Amsterdam this week. I got to interview Naomi Wolf, rock star of the so called third feminist wave, during a programme called Feminism 4.0, which sold out in no time. There even was an online black market for tickets. A full house with enthusiastic young women (and a few brave men) proved it once again: feminism isn’t dead. It’s very much alive and kicking.

It was touching to see them waiting in line, collecting names and emails after the show, to hold on to the energy of that evening and turn it into action. Inspiring to see how a new generation of women is making femimism their own, with lots of room for difference.

Interesting questions were asked, that evening. Whether transgenders are allowed to join the conversation about the female body. How we get men on our side. And whether there is enough space for other stories than those of white, western women.

If there is one thing that the new feminists have in common, it’s the fact they don’t want to be put into a box. They make a strong case for intersectionality: thinking about different forms of exclusion at once. And they’re right, those feminists 4.0. Because it’s no longer about who’s right. It’s about people still not having equal rights.

Have you met The Why Girl?

16 Apr

I have.. and here’s what happened.

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