This weekend my sister and I had rusks with mice with our great-uncle Karel (109) because he had become great-grandfather for the first time. The festivity, however, was far to be found. Karel grumbled all the time about the abuses at The Voice. “It’s a mess,” he grumbled, “and now there are all politicians who are calling for #MeToo in the workplace, that there should be a reporting obligation and so on, while they still don’t want to get to the root of the problem. .”
“And that is?” I asked, surprised that Karel was once excited about something other than his neighbors.
“Money!” he said. “It is connected with power. We live in a country where women are not only vulnerable sexually, but also financially, and the two are related.”
“But what does politics have to do with that?” my sister asked cautiously.
‘Well,’ Karel continued, ‘hardly any action is taken by the government to pay men and women equally. Our government was turned upside down by the European Committee of Social Rights in 2020 because it does too little about the pay gap here. And she may also make an extra effort to get more women to the top in business.”
He poured himself another gin and continued: “Payment and positioning just affect how we think about women, what value we give them, how much respect we treat them. If we don’t do something about it, power structures will remain, so that types like that Ali B. think that when it comes down to it, everyone will believe him and not his victim, so he can just do his thing. If a woman literally doesn’t earn as much as a man, people, both men and women, will believe that figuratively they will. And so her limits become less valuable.”
We chewed on it in silence for a while.
“I never thought I’d ever hear all this from your mouth,” my sister finally said. “You used to say that women’s rights activists were posing.”
“You look like a feminist!” I said.
“Well,” muttered Karel, “I just read up.”
As he trudged into the kitchen for more rusks and mice, my sister took the birth announcement card from the fireplace. She chuckled. And the birth of the great-granddaughter, his first female descendant, must have had nothing at all to do with Karel’s newly acquired feminism.
Ellen Deckwitz writes an exchange column with Marcel van Roosmalen here.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of January 25, 2022