Oh boy, oh boy ……(oh girl, oh girl….after all, one doesn’t say)….these were turbulent weeks, or have they been months, years perhaps?
Last week I attended the graduation ceremony of one of my bonus kids. It was my first time as a guest at such a ceremony and I was full of anticipation. The location, a church, surprised me. This was probably due to the fact that I am not a supporter of that club, and reading Susan Smits’ “The Witch of Limbricht,” which clearly explained even to the most jaded reader how that institution has initiated and continues to devalue women, obviously contributes to this.
My husband and I were barely seated when my love was asked by an overjoyed lady if he is the father of the young lady he was just talking to. She introduced herself to him as the mother of a classmate, vigorously shook his hand, took the seat next to him, and in her elation forgot to make my acquaintance as well. Soon after, the graduates were welcomed with music. The first speech began, recited by one of the teachers. He then passed the baton to the head of the school. It was the program that followed that would stay with me for days.
A long eulogy, about the school and its high pass rate. I felt relief when finally, the attention was focused on the graduates. 75 examination students were addressed personally, one by one…….3/4 of them in the third person. The high scores obtained were discussed. Students with a 9 or higher received an extra certificate and gift card. I wondered why the energy put into the route to the goal was not given any attention. The child who had to work harder for a 6, than the classmates for a 9….. did not receive a gift certificate. This was clearly about the end result, not the path taken. Creating a growth mindset had not been on the school’s curriculum. Something began to gnaw at me. That gnawing turned into a stomach ache when one value judgment after another was communicated about the children. Short but to the point: It was judged as “good” when the girls had been “sweet” and boys somewhat “naughty,” because “that’s just how boys are.” Anyone who intended to have amassed a partner, a pet, mortgage and a nine to five in five years’ time found approval from the teachers. The young lady who, during her oral examination, had made it clear that she was not intending to give birth, …………. astonishment.
I couldn’t help feeling that young people anno 2022 are still being raised to stereotypes and worker bees. Working bees that have to fit into boxes; ‘Human Resources’. Good citizens, sweet girls. Were other options provided? I heard that many ladies wanted to learn nursing and service professions. The gentlemen wanted to become techies, It-specialists, or managers. No one here was going on a backpack adventure exploring the world, and no one aspired a creative study. Here were 75 future human resources waiting to move into the social cubicle. Thit made me feel somewhat sad.
However, I did not have the time to revel in that state. I was jolted awake hard when not long after graduation day I received a messege from a friend and colleague in which she drew my attention to a broadcast of ‘Renze’, discussing statements made at a student body dinner. It didn’t take long for social media to be flooded.
For those who missed it: The gentlemen’s and ladies’ dinner A.S.C./A.V.S.V was held simultaneously but separately on Sunday at the NDSM wharf in Amsterdam. During the gentlemen’s dinner several members spoke. For example, a clip was shown in which one could hear one guy say that: “gentlemen will break women’s necks, to stick their dicks in” and that women are “sperm buckets”. The speaker encourages the gentlemen at the table to call women whores. This is then vigorously chanted. I thought about Susan’s book, the graduation ceremony and also to the broadcast of ‘Boos’ a few months ago when we all thought that something would finally happen in the Netherlands.
What surprised me while watching the images of the dinner was that I noticed that I was no longer surprised. In the past I have mad the acquaintance of some products of these the kind of student clubs. I, too, sat in on meetings where these types of gentlemen explained to the gathering in great detail that there are “two categories of women; fuckable and nonfuckable”, “women, to men are as handbags are to women; assecoires”. Two examples, but only a brief excerpt from a very, very long list and enough experiences to write a book about. The statements in themselves were offensive, worse from my point of view however was the silence of the other people in the room. That same silence also explains the existence of a burger restaurant in our capital, right next to one of our biggest soccer temples. It bears the name ‘Burger Bitch’. Here the guest is supposed to address the service staff with “Bitch, I want to order.”……Every week thousands of people walk past this joint, some of them probably will also use their services. If not, the doors would have closed by now.
I understand better and better how the current status quo came about. I understand why women, condemn and attack women, I understand why even today women think they bear all the responsibility for the family and I understand why men react with anger when it comes to feminism, #metoo and transgressive behavior. I even understand why most remain silent when it’s obvious. That is not to say, by the way, that I am o.k. with it. I’m glad I understand it rationally and anthropologically; it makes me able to stand up, speak up, and have a conversation with informed arguments. It enables me to engage in disruption and adjustment of the status quo. My amazement and anger give way to action and decisiveness.
“That it still exists!” is a common response. Rather with a question mark than an exclamation point at the end of the sentence. Since the tidal wave of confrontations with unequal treatment, denounced by the #metoo movement, the broadcast of ‘Boos’ about the abuses at ‘The Voice’ and the leaked video of the student body, we no longer get away with it. With these kinds of expressions, we feign surprise in order to distance ourselves from the reality that we do not want to, or dare not, face. Nobody can get away with paralysis of indignation anymore. It is high time, the expiration date for change has long passed.
A big bag of platitudes? Maybe, but actions and words matter. Please, let’s not be blind to social conditioning and what shapes our world and therefore our lives.
What ignites hope within me? The comment of that same (exam) bonus child who a few days ago, at a dinner party, asked a table full of people why it is that expressions about female genitalia, specifically ‘pussies’ are interpreted as weak and even as insults, but “a woman showing balls” should be taken as a compliment. You go Girl, ask the questions and have the conversations!