Positive news from the Netherlands: yesterday parliament has agreed to a women’s quota of thirty percent for boards of directors. It only applies to companies that are connected to the stock market. Eighty companies in total of which fourty-seven of them to not have this percentage. Of course, a quota of one-third women is not revolutionary and it took my country years to follow Norway, Spain, France , Iceland, Germany and India in this, but still it is very good news.
It is a very
important step in the road for an equal gender balance in all
decision-making bodies in society. Not just those who are political
or who are democratically voted for. It is a crucial step in the
awknowledgement of women as equal citizens
and of the importance of their participation in decion-making. For an
elaboration of this argument, read my book Feminism
What pleases me was the overall argument in the debate. By having more women in these boards, we will get a better quality of the conversation, they said. More inclusive. More representative of different opinions, interests, qualities of people. And yes, it is all that. Not one aspect with a guarantee, for instance that one woman will represent always women’s interests or that this one woman will add feminine qualities. More modest and honest. On the whole when we get more women in decision-making bodies, the quality of our debates and decision-making will get better because they are more inclusive.
So what other decision-making bodies will follow? Universities? Hospitals? Health-care insurance companies? Banks? Courts? Military organizations? Churches? I am not kidding. They are all deciding about where and how our money, effort and opinions should be directed. Raise your voices! I hope we are looking forward to interesting times.
I went to Carnaval in Breda and I am happy to report that the
Princess is gaining power at the Dutch Carnaval. I don’t mean sexual
power. Women have had that always. So also at Carnaval. No, I am
referring to that bastion of power: the function of Princedom. In
this, someone chosen by the Carnaval’s Council of Eleven receives
the town’s key from the Mayor to rule over town for five days in a
centuries this position was reserved for men only, just like the
position of the Council of Eleven itself. Strange in fact. Because
Carnaval is about the reversal of roles. The king becomes a jester. A
reserved woman becomes a witch. The rich man is dressed up as a
beggar. An old lady is suddenly Little Red Riding Hood. And so on.
This includes the dress-ups as members of the other sex. Women have
for centuries dressed-up during Carnaval as Robin Hood, knights,
firemen and sailors. In some places like in the Belgium Aalst, men
have also done this for centuries.
In Aalst, this figure is called Dirty Jeanet and it arose out of poverty. Workers did not have money to buy a Carnaval costume, so they used their wives’ or mothers’ clothes and underwear. Yesterday in Breda I have seen an enormous number of men dressed up as Queens, Countesses, actresses and maids. Good for you: men! So sex reversals have existed at Carnaval for a long time. Except for the position of the Prince!
recently even at that bastion of power the Princess is coming up. To
my knowledge, the first Carnaval Princess appeared in the Netherlands
in 1969: Princess Bep I in Someren-Heide and ruled there for six
years. In 1998 Betke I was chosen in Valkenswaard. She called herself
Prince Betke I, because as she argued: it is a position, just like
the Mayor. And in Ossenisse, Princess Margaretha has already ruled
for 25 years, with an all-female Council of Eleven.
we see in many villages and town a Youth Princess and her female
Adjudant. And even the adult position of the Princedom is now and
then given to women. Yet, in the biggest Dutch Carnaval cities, the
opposition against this is severe. The people in power say that we
have to respect the century-old Carnaval traditions or that the
Statutes of the Carnaval clubs do not allow this.
But now something interesting is happening. In the Carnaval cities Weert and Tilburg, female members of the official city councils have raised questions in council meetings about that male monopoly and have asked a change in the Statutes at this point. In Weert they have lost, but in Tilburg they have won! Already a female member of the Council of Eleven has been admitted. So members of city councils and of Carnaval clubs elsewhere: please follow this example and pave the road for the Carnaval Princess in this way.
all: Carnaval is about the reversal of roles!
We all know that most women have been conditioned to be kind to other people all the time. Even to people who are not all kind to them or who cross their boundaries. Many men deal with the same issue. Yet what do you do about this when you, like me, are a secondary-responding person? Do you recognize this: at that moment you freeze and only afterwards at night you realize what the perfect answer would have been?
The other cheek?
If you turn the other cheek, after being hit, you’ll be hit again. If you just smile or be silent after a rude remark, there will be a nastier remark some time afterwards. And if you answer every time someone asks you an inpertinent question, they will dig even further next time.
Agression or assertiveness?
I do not argue here for down-right aggression, but for trying to feel whether someone is o.k. or not o.k. for you. And for the cases when it isn’t here are some sentences that might help women and men who struggle with this. They are not the quickest or funniest responses, but handy sentences that can be used in multiple occassions for secundary-responding people. This way you are being nice to yourself for a change.
In cases of an unwelcome request:
“Sorry, I cannot”. (and if they persist simply: “I have other obligations”.
” I’ll have to think about this. I’ll come back to you about it”.
“Thanks, but no thanks”.
“I am flattered, but no”.
“With all due respect, but no”
In cases of impertinent questions by family and friends:
“It just does not feel right answering this”.
“I do not feel comfortable answering this”.
“I cannot answer this, sorry”.
“Sorry, this is private”.
” Sorry, this is too personal”.
“It has been lovely to talk to you, but I need to go back to work now”.
“Sorry, I need to go to the bathroom” (and there you think about how to answer or you simply start a new topic).
“You should ask him/her directly” . (if it is about another person).
(With a smile:) “You can always ask, but it does not mean you’ll get an answer”.
“‘With all due respect, but you are crossing my boundaries here”.
(With a smile:)”what is this? A police interogation? I hope I am not obliged to answer this.”
“You should start working for the police”.
“Even my best friend/my mother would not ask me this!”
“Curiosity kills the cat”.
“I am an open book for the part I want to be read. The rest I keep to myself”.
In cases of impertinent questions by relative strangers:
All of the above.
“Are you always/often like this?”
“What business is this of yours?”
“Do you mind bothering someone else?” and leave.
In cases of insults:
“I respect myself too much to listen any longer to this”.
“Stop! This is enough! I am going now”.
“I am not going to lower myself to this level. I will leave now”.
“Sorry, but you are going too far” (and leave).
In cases of unwelcome touching:
“Stop, I do not like it!”
“Stop, this is irritating!”(and shrug your shoulders as if you are removing a dirty insect).
“I do not like this now”.
“No, not now, thank you”.
“Leave me alone!”
No reasons needed
Whatever sentence you use, do not feel obliged to give reasons or to elaborate. This will often only lead to more questions and remarks of the other. You do not need to give any reason at all. That you feel uncomfortable is enough. If the other persists, just leave. Practise some of the sentences which feel easy enough for you to use. Practise them with your child for instance. It can be great fun and it is also good for them being able to say to authority figures: “with all due respect, but….”. Let us thus not always be nice to others, but especially to ourselves!
Are you sometimes drawn against feminism, presuming it declares equality and sameness between the sexes?
Fuller in Context
Listen then in this series of feminist philosophers to the American feminist Margaret Fuller who wrote Woman in the Nineteenth Century in 1844. Fuller was a Christian feminist. (Can these exist? Yes they can, did and do exist. She is for instance just as furious about men kidnapping their children as feminists today). More specifically, she was a transcendentalist, believing that there exists a piece of the divine in each of us. Other members of this circle were Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henri David Thoreau, and Thomas Carlyle. Fuller was also the chief editor of their magazine The Dial. Like other transcendentalists, she emphasizes the soul and the values of self-reliance and growth. We all have to fulfill our own nature.
Masculinity and Femininity
‘The growth of Man is two-fold, masculine and feminine.
So far as these two methods can be distinguished, they are so as
Energy and Harmony;
Power and Beauty;
Intellect and Love;’ (p. 378)
Masculinity is however according to Fuller not exclusively found in men, nor femininity exclusively in women.
‘These two sides are supposed to be expressed in Man and Woman, that is, as the more and the less, for the faculties have not been given pure to either, but only in preponderance. There are also exceptions in great number, such as men of far more beauty than power, and the reverse. But, as a general rule, it seems to have been the intention to give a preponderance on the one side, that is called masculine, and on the other, one that is called feminine.’
Fuller calls them ‘twin exponents of a divine thought’ (p.39).
Feminism of Difference
Although she insists that all occupations should be open to women, on equal rights and equal representation, she develops a feminism of difference.
‘Ye cannot believe it, men; but the only reason why women over assume what is more appropriate to you, is because you prevent them from finding out what is fit for themselves. Were they free, were they wise fully to develop the strength and beauty of Woman; they would never wish to be men, or man-like.’
Femininity has had no chance to unfold freely by the restrictions put by men.
‘It may be said that Man does not have his fair play either; his energies are repressed and distorted by the interposition of artificial obstacles. Ay, but he himself has put them there; they have grown out of his own imperfections.’ (P. 112)
If women were free
Fuller insists that if obstacles are withdrawn, not all women will become alike, because we are each individual souls and also have a combination of femininity and masculinity. But the world would see more femininity unfolded in both the private and the public sphere, both in women and in men. What this will look like, we can only dream of. We should not restrict the natural growth of individual souls. We can therefore not insist that it would look like anything of the women and men of the past.
On the other hand, if real freedom existed, women would not develop themselves as men, but as women:
‘It is not Woman, but the law of right, the law of growth, that speaks in us, and demands the perfection of each being in its kind—apple as apple, Woman as Woman.’ (p. 397).
Many people say that equal rights and equal chances to representation are sufficient. They also think that since we have those in the west, feminism has become superfluous. Margaret Fuller emphasizes that something else is also needed. Women need to be sure of their wants to realize self-reliance. ‘The difficulty is to got them to the point from which they shall naturally develop self-respect, and learn self-help'(p. 93).
The good news is that we are in the process of getting there. But have we reached it. I think not. And you?
Quotes taken from: Fuller, Margaret. ‘Woman in the Nineteenth Century / and Kindred Papers Relating to the Sphere, Condition and Duties, of Woman.’ iBooks. The Gutenberg Project. http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/8642/pg8642.epub?session_id=6bb7fa09dc7f5c58e18e03088baa7bf7f1bce99d
A while ago I had an incident about this with someone who claimed: “but we had agreed we could have friendship AND sex!?”
Sex like a cup of tea
Yes we can. But not at ANY moment! Like my good friend Ingrid, I compare this with drinking a cup of tea. You may have asked yesterday for a cup of black tea with milk and no sugar yesterday and really enjoyed drinking it. Yet this does not mean that you want the same tea today. Maybe you want it without milk and with sugar. Or pure. Or herbal tea. Or no tea at all, but a strong cup of coffee now.
Well my reply did not go very well in the above-mentioned incident. He became angry and said he felt like a lap dog having to beg for a cookie each time. So that was that. End of the friendship too. But it can also open a great time of experiments for both of you of what you like and in what way at a particular time.
An easy and pleasurable way to practice this with a partner playing the Yin-Yang or King-Servant game. You put the alarm-clock for twenty minutes and the person who starts of being the king or queen declares a very specific wish and the way it should be executed. The ‘servant’ feels whether he or she can do this within his or her boundaries and tries to do it exactly as requested. If it is beyond the other person’s boundaries, he or she proposes something that lies within it and still goes in the direction of the request. After twenty minutes the roles will be reversed.
So be aware of routines and always ask what and how the other person would like now. Have fun in playing!
Recently I read that Emperor Joseph II of the Austrian empire abolished serfdom `by royal decision’ in 1781.
Serfdom; I thought, what is that exactly? In Dutch it is called lijfeigenschap,in German Leibeigenschaft,in Spanish servidumbre and in French bondage servage. It means according to Wikipedia: `the situation that someone’s body is considered as the property of the ruler in a certain geographical area’. In England it became obsolete in the 15th till 16th century, claimes Wikipedia.
Oh really? How many husbands, boyfriends and those who consider themselves boyfriends find it normal or `their right’ to touch you everywhere without asking you whether you like it. As if your body was theirs, their property to serve them. How many of them consider themselves implicitly as being the rulers in the geographical area: your bed, your house or anywhere near them. (The same applies of course to women touching men.)
Yet as I told my son since he was 3 years old,` your body is your body and yours only. If someone, it does not matter who, touches you and you don’t like it, tell them. Say with an earnest face and with your hand upwards: Stop/No, I don’t like it. That is all. No explanations needed’.
So it does not matter whether we are married or had incredible sex yesterday. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. Full stop. Of course you must not have put your feelings away. Otherwise you will ignore the warning signs of your body. And then you lose the control over your life. You only have one life and one body, so remember…