Feminism in the Netherlands

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Prominent Dutch feminist Joke Smit speeching in 1972.

Feminism in the Netherlands began as part of the First-wave feminism movement during the 19th century. Later, the struggles of Second-wave feminism in the Netherlands mirrored developments in the women's rights movement in other Western countries. Today, the Netherlands has the happiest women in the world, according to one study.[1] Women in the Netherlands still have an open discussion about how to improve remaining imbalances and injustices they face as women.

History[edit]

Renaissance and Enlightenment[edit]

The Republic of the Seven United Provinces, known as the Netherlands, was created through the Dutch War of Independence, which began in 1568 and ended with the Treaty of Westphalia. Women had a limited number of rights, including the right to enter contracts and the right to control their own dowries. However, they were still legally subordinate to men. They had no right to an education, to own property, or to participate in government.[2]

Early to Mid-19th century[edit]

Industrialization in the Netherlands brought jobs to both men and women. Labour unions began organizing by the mid-19th century. Middle class women also began to find paid employment, first in nursing. The first department store in the Netherlands opened in 1860, and women began finding jobs as retail clerks. Kindergartens, which had been pioneered in Germany, spread quickly in the Netherlands and needed a workforce of trained young women to staff them. To train young women to teach primary school, middle schools for girls were established in 1867.[3] Young women with academic promise could petition for the right to be admitted to an all-male secondary school. Universities were closed to women until 1871, when Aletta Jacobs gained admittance to study medicine.[4] She graduated as Europe's first modern woman physician. Jacobs also became prominent in the women's suffrage movement in the Netherlands. She opened the first women's birth control clinic in Amsterdam in 1882.[5]

First-wave feminists[edit]

In the 1883 Dutch parliamentary elections, Aletta Jacobs petitioned for the right to vote, pointing out that she met all the legal criteria, but she was rejected from voting.[6] This event triggered the women's suffrage movement in the Netherlands. The immediate result was an amendment to the voting rights of the Constitution in 1887, to specify "male" inhabitants of the Netherlands had the vote, adding an additional barrier to the women's suffrage.[7]

In 1888, the Vrije Vrouwenvereeniging (Free Women's Movement, or VVV) was founded. This was soon followed in 1894 by the creation of a sub-group within the organization, the Vereeniging vor Vrouwenkiesrecht (Organization of Women's Suffrage).[8]

Wilhelmina Drucker was less concerned about women winning emancipation—which she saw as easily attainable—than women winning equal opportunity in the workplace, a struggle she saw as facing much more resistance from men.[9] Yet, where other feminists in the country pressed for labour laws addressing the specific needs of women workers, Drucker was opposed.[10] In Drucker's view, "The state should not interfere with men or with women, nor invent a fictive competition between men and women. It should solely recognize people; members of society."[11]

Drucker was firmly on the radical edge of feminism in the Netherlands, but she gave speaking tours and published a popular feminist journal, Evolutie (Evolution). In 1899, she spearheaded a campaign to stop legislation that would ban women under 40 from jobs as teachers or civil servants; after a decade-long campaign, the bill was "crushed".[12] Aletta Jacobs co-founded the International Women's Suffrage Alliance in 1902.[13]

1917 to 1960[edit]

A plaque tribute to Dutch wives who persevered during the Hunger Winter of 1944-5.

Women won the right to stand for an election as a candidate in 1917. They gained full suffrage in 1919. This was relatively early compared to most other European nations; only Finland and Sweden had given women the vote earlier.[14] Women had in part gained the vote to a political compromise "package deal" between socialists, liberals, and "confessionalist" parties. The confessionalists supported state funding for private schools, typically belonging to a religious denomination. This compromise system in Dutch politics was known as Pillarisation. In the years after women's emancipation, the confessionalists came to dominate moral discourse in the Netherlands, and legislation in support of confessionalist moral views was enacted (prostitution banned, 1912; abortion prohibited, 1911; advertising for contraception criminalized).[15]

A healthy economy and a rising standard of living characterizes life in the Netherlands during the 1920s. Women, however, faced a backlash against women's rights which reached into the workplace. Women's rights groups multiplied.[16] The international feminist organizations gained larger memberships as women worldwide continued to struggle for emancipation. Dutch women were active in such international organizations as:

Women were praised for their resilience throughout the Hunger Winter of 1944-5 when food and fuel were blocked by the Nazi military. A period of conservatism followed for several years, but two notable legal milestones were achieved during the 1950s: in 1955, the law changed so that women could no longer be forced from civil service jobs after marrying, and in 1956, married women became legally competent.[17]

Second-wave feminism[edit]

A costume demonstration by the feminist group Dolle Mina (Mad Mina), 1970.

A 1967 essay by Joke Kool-Smits, "The Discontent of Women", was published in De Gids and is credited with launching second-wave feminism in the Netherlands.[18] The next year, a group of feminist men and women banded together to create the activist group Man-Vrouw-Maatschappij (Man-Woman society, or MVM). It's dual-gender composition made it rare among Western Second-wave feminist organizations, but it was similar to others in that its membership was predominantly middle or upper class and well-educated.[19] Dissatisfied with the lobbying efforts of the MVM, a more radical group was inspired. The all-female Dolle Mina society was founded in 1969, naming itself "Mad Mina" after pioneering Dutch feminist Wilhelmina Drucker. Dolle Mina had success as a consciousness-raising force during the 1970s, mainly through its use of imaginative protests, such as an outdoor "Discrimination Fair" to draw attention to the issue of equal pay for equal work.[20]

The spirit of Second-wave feminism was kept alive by the sensational 1976 publication of Anja Meulenbelt's novel De Schaamte Voorbij (The Shame is Over). The novel was confessional in tone, and made the connection between the body and language politics overt.[21] In the late 1970s, the fight for access to abortion, rape crisis centres, and women's shelters became a dominant focus of the feminist movement. In 1980, the government was financially supporting 30 rape crisis centres in the Netherlands.[22] During the 1970s, feminist periodicals multiplied, such as Dolle Mina, Vrouwen, Opzij, Serpentine, Vrouwenkrant, and Lover, and there were several feminist publishing houses in Amsterdam, the best known being De Bonte Was (1972) and Sara (1976).[23] In 1982, an estimated 160 feminist groups were active in the Netherlands, covering 25% of Dutch towns.[24] The Abortion Bill was passed in 1981, and came into force in 1984.[25]

Third-wave feminism[edit]

Despite having won many legal and social battles over the course of the 20th century, Dutch feminists are not ready to claim victory. Feminist activity continues in the Netherlands, and gender equality continues to be a topic of discussion in organizations, and in the media.

The Netherlands has been described as having "the most extensive and comprehensive [sex equality apparatus] in Europe"; this is largely due to the appointment of a State Secretary to oversee an Emancipation Council launched in 1977, and its implementation of policies at the local level with help from feminist activists recruited into government positions.[26] Women of colour have seen the need to create new organizations to advance gaps in meeting their needs: a Moroccan women's group was formed in 1992, and a Surinamese women's group was formed in 1996.[27]

Women in the Netherlands work less in paid employment than women in other comparable Western countries:

Nearly 60% of Dutch working women aged 25-54 worked part-time in 2001, compared to 15% in the United States, 25% in France and 35% in Germany; but where 25% of French women working part-time say they want to work full-time, just 4% of Dutch women do.[28]

Despite the government identifying this as a social problem in the 1990s, and introducing tax incentives to encourage women to find more paid employment, the opposite happened, and women found a way to use the tax incentives to reduce their working hours.[29] In terms of balancing work and home life, parental leave is much more generous in Sweden, for example.[30]

There is currently a great deal of debate in the Netherlands over whether women simply prefer to care for their children themselves and work reduced hours, or if higher costs are holding women back from seeking further employment. Economist, lawyer and journalist Helen Mees wrote a book exploring the issue of women's low employment rate, called Weg met het deeltijdfeminisme (Away with Part-time Feminism) in 2005. She identified differences between Dutch and American culture that partially explain the discrepancy in working hours between women in the two nations. In her book, Mees discusses the American "marketization" of much of women's former household duties, such as using businesses for laundry, eating out, having groceries delivered, and other services, which are rarely available in the Netherlands.[31] Childcare is the largest expense for two-income families in the Netherlands, and since it is customarily paid by the hour, this may provide an incentive for families to reduce childcare costs by having the mother do more child-minding and less paid employment.[32]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ward, Claire (August 19, 2011). "How Dutch women got to be the happiest in the world". Macleans. Retrieved May 14, 2013. 
  2. ^ State, Paul F. (2008). A Brief History of the Netherlands. Infobase Publishing. pp. 153–4. ISBN 9781438108322. 
  3. ^ State, Paul F. (2008). A Brief History of the Netherlands. Infobase Publishing. p. 154. ISBN 9781438108322. 
  4. ^ State, Paul F. (2008). A Brief History of the Netherlands. Infobase Publishing. p. 154. ISBN 9781438108322. 
  5. ^ Morgan, Robin (1996). Sisterhood is Global: The International Women's Movement Anthology. Feminist Press at CUNY. p. 469. ISBN 9781558611603. 
  6. ^ Blanca Rodriguez Ruiz, Ruth Rubio-Marín, ed. (2012). The Struggle for Female Suffrage in Europe: Voting to Become Citizens. BRILL. p. 176. ISBN 9789004224254. 
  7. ^ Blanca Rodriguez Ruiz, Ruth Rubio-Marín, ed. (2012). The Struggle for Female Suffrage in Europe: Voting to Become Citizens. BRILL. p. 177. ISBN 9789004224254. 
  8. ^ Blanca Rodriguez Ruiz, Ruth Rubio-Marín, ed. (2012). The Struggle for Female Suffrage in Europe: Voting to Become Citizens. BRILL. p. 177. ISBN 9789004224254. 
  9. ^ Ulla Wikander, Alice. Kessler-Harris, Jane E. Lewis, ed. (1995). Protecting Women: Labor Legislation in Europe, the United States, and Australia ; 1880 - 1920. University of Illinois Press. p. 45. ISBN 9780252064647. 
  10. ^ Ulla Wikander, Alice. Kessler-Harris, Jane E. Lewis, ed. (1995). Protecting Women: Labor Legislation in Europe, the United States, and Australia ; 1880 - 1920. University of Illinois Press. p. 200. ISBN 9780252064647. 
  11. ^ Blanca Rodriguez Ruiz, Ruth Rubio-Marín, ed. (2012). The Struggle for Female Suffrage in Europe: Voting to Become Citizens. BRILL. p. 179. ISBN 9789004224254. 
  12. ^ Morgan, Robin (1996). Sisterhood is Global: The International Women's Movement Anthology. Feminist Press at CUNY. p. 469. ISBN 9781558611603. 
  13. ^ Morgan, Robin (1996). Sisterhood is Global: The International Women's Movement Anthology. Feminist Press at CUNY. p. 469. ISBN 9781558611603. 
  14. ^ Blanca Rodriguez Ruiz, Ruth Rubio-Marín, ed. (2012). The Struggle for Female Suffrage in Europe: Voting to Become Citizens. BRILL. p. 176. ISBN 9789004224254. 
  15. ^ Blanca Rodriguez Ruiz, Ruth Rubio-Marín, ed. (2012). The Struggle for Female Suffrage in Europe: Voting to Become Citizens. BRILL. p. 184. ISBN 9789004224254. 
  16. ^ Bonnie G. Smith, ed. (2008). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History: 4 Volume Set. Oxford University Press. p. 332. ISBN 9780195148909. 
  17. ^ Bonnie G. Smith, ed. (2008). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History: 4 Volume Set. Oxford University Press. p. 332. ISBN 9780195148909. 
  18. ^ Rosemarie Buikema, Iris van der Tuin, ed. (2009). Doing Gender in Media, Art and Culture. Routledge. p. 17. ISBN 9780203876800. 
  19. ^ Kaplan, Gisela (2012). Contemporary Western European Feminism (RLE Feminist Theory). Routledge. p. 154. ISBN 9780415636810. 
  20. ^ Van Der Vleuten, Anna (2013). The Price of Gender Equality (Epub) Member States and Governance in the European Union. Ashgate Publishing. p. 81. ISBN 9781409498063. 
  21. ^ Emmeline N. Besamusca, J. Verheul, ed. (2010). Discovering the Dutch: on Culture and Society of the Netherlands. Amsterdam University Press. pp. 195–6. ISBN 9789089641007. 
  22. ^ Kaplan, Gisela (2012). Contemporary Western European Feminism (RLE Feminist Theory). Routledge. p. 154. ISBN 9780415636810. 
  23. ^ Kaplan, Gisela (2012). Contemporary Western European Feminism (RLE Feminist Theory). Routledge. pp. 154–5. ISBN 9780415636810. 
  24. ^ Henig, Simon (2002). Women and Political Power: Europe since 1945. Routledge. p. 30. ISBN 9780203134269. 
  25. ^ Henig, Simon (2002). Women and Political Power: Europe since 1945. Routledge. p. 30. ISBN 9780203134269. 
  26. ^ Henig, Simon (2002). Women and Political Power: Europe since 1945. Routledge. p. 30. ISBN 9780203134269. 
  27. ^ Bonnie G. Smith, ed. (2008). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History: 4 Volume Set. Oxford University Press. p. 332. ISBN 9780195148909. 
  28. ^ M.S. (November 17, 2010). "Why Dutch women don't work longer hours". The Economist. Retrieved May 14, 2013. 
  29. ^ M.S. (November 17, 2010). "Why Dutch women don't work longer hours". The Economist. Retrieved May 14, 2013. 
  30. ^ Gustafsson, Siv (2008). Why Is the Netherlands the Best Country?: On Country Comparisons Regarding the Economics of the Family. Amsterdam University Press. p. 17. ISBN 9789056295110. 
  31. ^ Gustafsson, Siv (2008). Why Is the Netherlands the Best Country?: On Country Comparisons Regarding the Economics of the Family. Amsterdam University Press. p. 19. ISBN 9789056295110. 
  32. ^ Gustafsson, Siv (2008). Why Is the Netherlands the Best Country?: On Country Comparisons Regarding the Economics of the Family. Amsterdam University Press. p. 19. ISBN 9789056295110. 

External links[edit]