Dutch women marching towards election day

Last week was international women’s day. Next week is election day in the Netherlands. Today was the Women’s March in our capital, Amsterdam, as well as in other cities like Nijmegen and Groningen.

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I vote: against hate, for diversity, against racism, for equality

I went to the event in Amsterdam, all though I must admit I just barely made it, and was only half out of couch-potato-mode when I caught the train. The two friends I had planned to go with had already cancelled… Periods… go figure…

All though I could dedicate an entire blog purely on the irony of that fact alone, I’ll try to focus on today’s event and how it made me feel.

Let me start off by explaining that I don’t particularly like Amsterdam.

It’s pretty and all, in a big-spender bombastic kind of way. It’s our country’s main tourist attraction for good reason but it lost its spirit in the process. It’s a well known phenomenon, I suppose. The ugly side of tourism: downgrading unique characteristics into bite-size stereotypes, chasing prices of everything up to ridiculous Disneyland levels without improving on the quality of anything…

Damrak.jpgBut I was heading to Amsterdam anyhow. The Women’s March was planned to start off on the Dam square, which is near to Amsterdam Central Station, connected by one straight street called the Damrak. And trust me when I tell you; this is the most awful little strip of the city (maybe even the entire country), where everything I dislike about Amsterdam is crammed together in such high levels, that I prefer to avoid it when at all possible.

What I decided to do, was head to another train station and join the march on the final stretch, right before its final round up point: Museumplein, or Museum Square. This is a big green lawn with the impressive Rijksmuseum building on one end and our fancy shmancy concert hall on the other.

17212193_1826231944286446_3491047008598282718_o.jpgBecause I was skipping out on about 90% of the actual march, I decided to dedicate my thoughts and the choice of my music to relevant issues. I focussed on inequality of women in particular but also in the broader spectrum of human rights in general.

And without having planned it this way, my own personal march towards museumplein led me through a street where women in very intimate apparel “showed off their goods” to bald headed white men casually walking by. Of course I know that Amsterdam has a reputation for its stance towards prostitution, but I know it to be as something typical of “de Wallen” which is an area quite close to that same Damrak area I spoke of earlier. Finding it where I did was something I had not anticipated but it did kind of fit…

I wondered if it would be offensive or encouraging to these women to know where I was headed to… I wondered if the actual women’s march had considered leading their protest rally through the red light district. I wondered if I should look at them and smile or look the other way, to give them some abstract sense of privacy… Complicated thoughts, I can tell you!!

Anyhow… As I approached the museumplein area, I could hear chants in the distance and saw police officers on bikes and horses patrolling the area. What did they think of all of this? Who would they be voting for next week? Where were all the female cops?

When I saw the crowd I must admit I got goosebumps all over my body and even got choked up a bit. So many had shown up! Fifteen to twenty thousand, as it turned out later. I walked the last stretch with the group and found a nice spot on the museumplein lawn to listen to the speeches that were planned for that afternoon.

When the first speaker grabbed the microphone I was kind of surprised by the tameness of the crowd in general… There was some applause, some cheering but… but…. I didn’t really feel the conviction behind it… I missed some sense of… something. Anger? Passion? I wondered why nobody else seemed to have trouble holding back their tears. And I wasn’t even on my period!

I have been at rallies before and I realized what was different now… This crowd consisted mostly of women… But then I thought of the youtube video of the incredibly moving “I can’t keep quiet”-song at the Women’s march in Washington DC and realized it wasn’t just the fact that it was a female crowd that made the vibe so mellow… It was the fact that they were DUTCH women.

We have grown so complacent here. Lacking nothing. Wanting nothing. Needing nothing. Not really. We may feel we NEED something from time to time but this usually comes up when a new iphone is revealed or something of the sorts.

Yes, I think I was disappointed. I was disappointed by the fact that I feel more passion and willingness to fight for a cause when I go to a soccer match than when women’s rights are at stake. I am sad that the wonderful ladies that showed up on stage spoke true words but didn’t manage to fan those flames. I wished they had gone to see a soccer match first!! Or at least watched a Beyonce concert (btw, did you guys see her at the Grammys? OMG, right?).

So… we will be voting in four days…

What I need is the BFG to cook up some life changing dreams for my fellow countrymen and -women and motivate them all to; a) show up , b) vote with their hearts open. Oh, how I fear what’s in my compatriots’ minds…

Gender – dogmas and taboos

This morning I came across a touching Indian commercial:

It brought several things to my attention;

  1. Apparently, Hindi does not have it’s own equivalent of “proud” or “sorry”, which I find interesting…
  2. Feminism is still relevant, but it only counts if men get on board too (and no Caitlyn, you don’t count).
  3. Sharing the load when it comes to laundry would be way welcome in my book as it is one of my least favorite chores (and one that I always tend to postpone a bit too long)
  4. Oh look, it’s Ariel… where have I heard that name before… water…. bubbles… mermaids… princesses… Oh wait, didn’t I get all worked up about an Ariel in my previous blog on transgender kids? Time to go back and get that follow up blog done!

Recap

So let’s  go back to that previous blog of mine and summarize it, real quick. The issue I discussed there was transgenderism in kids, illustrated by the examples given in an interesting documentary I saw. The fact that these kids declare that their body’s gender does not coincide with the gender they feel they truly are, is not a choice. Everything from that point on, however, is. And they’re big choices, too.

Some of the dilemmas I faced in the face of theirs:

  • Is it cruel to let a child go through puberty and feel their body change into the thing they dread or is it a necessary thing they must experience in order to be sure this is not what they want?
  • Should we block puberty for a while so the kid and its family have more time to make up their minds?
  • How do we know we aren’t blocking other forms of development in the process?
  • Should these kids be allowed to make this decision at all?
  • When has there been enough psychological help and can there actually be determined that crossing over is the only way forward?
  • From what age should cross hormones be made available?

In a conversation I had in regards to all of this with my great friend and champion in thought provoking remarks, Zeefje, she asked me straight up if I had something against transgenderism in general or just the fact that children were being allowed to make decisions about their gender at such an early age. It is a question I have not really found the answer to yet either, or perhaps I haven’t really dared ask it. I’ll see if I can come up with something resembling an answer in the course of this blog and if we’re lucky maybe even put it into words in an understandable way…

Puberty

So, imagine a kid; 5 years old, without being burdened by notions of what society expects or how gender roles are divided in the world, but very clear about the fact that they may have been born one way, but are most certainly the opposite.

puberty_growth.jpgAnd then as they edge closer to those pre-teen years they become self conscious. They realize what they are feeling is actually very odd. They are, as I have now learned, in the phase of “gender-non-conforming”. They may already have run into a bully or two. They change. They were bound to change anyhow, because puberty is on the doorstep.

Puberty is turbulent enough as it is. It is a phase in life when we all doubt ourselves as we start to  form our own identity and claim our spot in the world. Our bodies change. Our emotions change. Our relationships change.

Kids struggling with their gender can now take hormones blockers to stop the process of transitioning into their biological gender. This is obviously a temporary solution. I guess it buys time. It gives the gender-non-conforming child the chance to witness the changes in the bodies and behavior of gender-conforming peers and decide how they feel about this.

Boxes and gray areas

boy-girl_91.JPGAnd now I’m getting to one of the things that bugs me in all of this. I guess I feel that the real curse is the fact that we have certain expectations of a girl and other ones for a boy. These are often opposite and not supposed to be mixed up. I feel that if the box labelled “boy” and the box labeled “girl” weren’t so sharply defined some of these kids would have a lot more wiggle room to figure out who they are and may not feel the need to cross over at all.

I have this feeling that these boy-girl labels are weighed down more by stereotypes in American society than on this side of the pond. No, I have no hard evidence to back this up. It’s just a feeling.

My point is that if you grow up in a household and society that is laden with taboos, where “that’s just the way it is” is a legitimate answer, I can imagine a subtle feeling of discomfort with your own body can get out of hand real quick. You may feel that if you don’t fit in box A, that your only choice is to transition into whatever box B is.

Don’t sell your soul

I can go on about this for a lot longer and I do feel there is still more to say about all of this but Zeefje already talked me through a lot of my frustrations and confusion and I think I’m not doing anyone any favors by elaborating more.

To conclude this topic I want to go back to Ariel. The girl in the Frontline documentary gave herself that name and I though it was ridiculous at first. I saw it as an another sign she was just a confused child, trying to live a delusional dream. She chose the name of a Disney princess… Silly silly, right?

Wrong. It is actually the strongest and most symbolic name a child in her situation could ever choose and it gave me chills when I finally figured it out… You go girl. Find your feet. Spread your wings. Just make sure you don’t lose your soul in the process.

SDG’s – tell everyone you know!

There are seventeen SDG’s and you need to know about them.

I know, it made me think of some sort of icky disease at first too, but they’re actually a good thing! The disease may actually be us, but it turns out, we are also the cure.

Looky here:

Spread the word!

PS I’ll be posting some blogs on the Sustainable Development Goals over on my other blog in the coming weeks (I’ve been telling myself this for months now, but this vid was just the kick I needed)