Unfortunately, I was soon reminded that women can’t take ‘getting a bit of exercise’ for granted, just like there are a lot of things we can’t take for granted. I had not yet taken ten steps outside the station when I got an unpleasant feeling in my underbelly. I slightly turned down my music and looked at the tram stop once again. Maybe I should take a tram, after all?
I decided to keep walking, but constantly found myself looking over my shoulder, scared. Sometimes I would start to walk faster, only to stop doing so because I felt it was unfair that I should walk faster. I felt it was unfair that male pedestrians around me could stroll at leisure, while women like me were forced to run.
I stared at the ground when a man in a car asked me where I was going. I crossed the street when a man on a bicycle kept following me, asking me where I was from. Once I got home, I slammed the door shut, full of anger. I was mad because the twenty minutes I should have had to myself had been spoilt by dirty looks, annoying catcalls and guys following me. I was livid because I had been unable to take a short walk without getting hassled, even though I was wearing a full-length coat – a coat that doesn’t show off my figure, so as to allow me to be safer when I walk outside. But at the same time, I was relieved to be home again, and thus also very sad, because such evening walks aren’t the only thing women like myself must be concerned about.
There is ample evidence that the position of women is terrible. In the Netherlands, every ten days a woman dies due to ‘domestic’ violence. Women are not being taken seriously when they tell the police they are getting stalked, medical researchers seem to forget that women exist, and the practice of slut-shaming continues unabated. Women are getting hassled at abortion clinics and women aren’t being taken seriously by general practitioners. We can’t just walk home on an evening without being assaulted verbally and physically. None of this is new, but it is becoming increasingly unbearable.
I know that the men around me are increasingly doing their best to stand up for our rights. They have become more aware of their own behaviour. They will sometimes cross the street to make a woman feel safer in the street. They will call their friends to account when they engage in unacceptable behaviour. They don’t wait for women to teach them things, but actively seek to find information themselves.
But more needs to be done, and many of the things that need doing are politicians’ responsibility. Cisgender males, who hold 69 percent of seats on municipal councils, have the opportunity (and therefore the duty) to bring about a change for the better. Political parties, which are often led by men, have the opportunity (and therefore the responsibility) to give up their seats to women and women’s interests. Feminists have the responsibility to fight for all women, without excluding any due to their gender, religious beliefs or sexual orientation.
Maybe it’s because of my name , but the intersectional feminist in me is madder than ever. We are all out of patience. Things can’t go on this way, so we’re demanding that things change. We shouldn’t have to wait for the next International Women’s Day (which was just two days ago), nor for the next scandal involving harassment. Today should be the day we discuss this, and this should be the moment for men to show their solidarity. When we say, ‘educate your sons’, we mean ‘teach them every day’ and ‘start teaching them at a young age’. And we’re not just calling on mothers to do so, but fathers. Neighbours. Teachers and lecturers. Managers. Friends. Every day, until we are genuinely equal and I will be able to enjoy a wonderful city by night on my own.