Tag Archives: women

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

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.


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.


6 Oct

Hul Shevolution

Around this time two years ago, I was about to realise a BIG DREAM. I addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations as Dutch UN Women’s Representative, where I was calling for a Shevolution, a radical change in our attitudes towards male/female imbalance.
Now, two years later, I am about to realise another BIG DREAM; on October 15, I am launching my first book: (S)hevolution, de eeuw van de vrouw (the century of woman).

Women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food, earn 10% of the income and own 1% of the property. I say: time for a revolution. In (S)HEVOLUTION I argue for a radical change of direction. Not because it is the right thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do. Investing in women pays off, both socially, economically and politically But what is needed to get this (S)hevolution started? And what can women- and men- do themselves? Read all about it in my book.

Do you want to join me at the book launch on October 15th (5-7 pm, in Amsterdam)? I have 3 spots on the guest list to give away. Want to be one of those 3? Send me a tweet using #shevolution, comment on this post or send me an e-mail (info@thechangeagent.nl) and tell me why you think this world is ready for a (S)HEVOLUTION. And who knows, we may be raising our glass on the 15th!

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