A few years ago, I wrote a text about my experience on being a woman in Amsterdam and how it contrasted with what it meant to be a woman in the Portuguese cities where I had previously lived. I described how Amsterdam liberated and empowered me. I talked about not getting cat-called, being able to wear mini-skirts even on a bike, not getting sexually harassed nor patronized by bosses and men in positions of power. I talked about freedom of choice, freedom of identity, freedom to be me. I talked about respect – being granted this amount of it felt miraculous. I talked about my own experience. This is my only text that went viral to date. Virality did not happen because my thinking was super virtuously articulated, but because it stroke a chord within internationals coming from areas as diverse as Southern and Eastern Europe, North and Latin-America, Russia to Southeast Asia.
We had all come to Amsterdam and realized that things could be different. Note that I didn’t say “perfect,” I said “different.” For me, so much better it feels perfect.
Bloggers and people who create content based on their own experiences tend to universalize them. My post didn’t talk about women of colour. My post didn’t talk about immigrant women. My post didn’t talk about trans women. My post didn’t talk, most importantly, about the gender pay gap that still exists in the Netherlands. It’s a narrower figure than in other countries, but it’s there. People in positions of privilege do that too. Universalize their experiences. That’s why so many men keep telling us that “not all men” and giving us roses for Women’s Day, instead of L I S T E N I N G and examining how they, too, help perpetuate patriarchal thinking. I don’t need congratulations nor flowers nor excuses.
I never liked Women’s Day. In my early twenties I was a denialist. I didn’t want to see myself as a victim. I was a “not all women” of sorts. Then my friend Rita gave me a lesson on feminism, and told me of things she learned on Feminism Theory at Uni and I shut my mouth. It was 2007 and Feminism hadn’t been absorbed by Capitalist discourse yet.
I still have a dislike for Women’s Day, but I also understand that the date is important for many women around the world and marks important advances in the fight for equality. Honestly, I resent having “a day.” I want respect. In and outside the home. I want safety. I want equal pay. I want women who weren’t born with the same genitals that I have to identify freely as one if they need. And I want women in all latitudes to have the same respect as I am afforded.
I don’t think F e M i N i S T mugs, T-shirts and stationary will improve the cause. I don’t think women selling “female empowerment” on Instagram feeds, courses, and business summits will improve the cause. Defying the status-quo, participating in political decisions, and being a living example of autonomy and critical thinking will.
And camaraderie with other women, regardless of the part of the globe they live in. If women in other parts of the globe have to make your mugs, T-shirts and stationary for less than a living wage, then no. We’re not improving the cause. On the 17th let’s vote for people and parties who have our cause at heart. On the 17th let’s vote for people and parties that address gender inequality, climate change and the system that keeps them standing in the first place.*
– Let this dismissal of a woman’s experience move you to anger. Turn that outrage into political power. Do not vote for them unless they work for us. Do not have sex with them, do not break bread with them, do not nurture them if they don’t prioritize our freedom to control our bodies and our lives. – Rebecca Walker –
* On March 17 2021, we’re electing the members of the parliament in the Netherlands.