And are quite happy about it, actually
//by Evelyn Cranston

Briefcase swinging, high heels clicking, down a hallway to an office door emblazoned with an impressive job title, our perfect and empowered North American woman enters. She shatters glass ceilings, works hours on end and goes home to contribute to the reproduction of society through her unpaid labour of washing the dishes, feeding the family and cleaning the house. Her nickname is Super Mom, and she throws birthday parties at night while climbing the ladder to a gleaming monetary prize during work hours. But worn thin from the stress of maintaining and advancing her achievements, is she having any fun?

A book alluringly titled Dutch Women Don’t Get Depressed analyzes a cultural phenomenon in Holland and shakes the boat on the Western ideals of gender equality. The Netherlands boasts gender parity in the forms of low teen pregnancy rates, little violence against women, equal education opportunities and women that actively participate in politics. Shockingly, in this seemingly equal society, one quarter of Dutch women do not make enough money to even be considered financially independent, compared to three quarters of American women. Following the feminist line, one would assume this outrage should be fixed, the Dutch workforce injected with women and the playing field leveled. However, these Dutch women really don’t show any desire to change the status quo.

Only four per cent of part time women living in Holland expressed an aspiration for full time hours, when surveyed, and the Netherlands ranks very high in the happiness index ratings of the European nations. In the 1990s, the Dutch government implemented tax reforms designed to motivate women to spend more hours at work. This failed drastically, however, and actually ended up decreasing the amount of time women spent working. As Tahia Ahmed, a feminist student at Capilano, states “empowerment is when males and females share the same opportunities, and it’s their choice to take them or not.” Holland is far from a backwards society – the women have simply chosen not to participate in full time hours.

Instead of work, Dutch women spend time doing leisure activities: gardening, meeting with friends and other social endeavours. The appeal of these activities questions why North American women pursued work increase in the first place. The Dutch may be happy because they’re relived of crushing social and economic expectations, and their society embraces a slower and less productive lifestyle.

Dutch psychologist Ellen de Bruin theorizes that while the Dutch value a balanced life focused on personal freedom and self fulfillment, it’s difficult to translate that into the American (and presumably North American) way of life, which links our happiness to our productivity fuelled self-esteem.

The Netherlands are known for their freedom, whether it be the examples of legalized prostitution in Amsterdam’s red light district, the freedom to use soft drugs or the fundamentals such as speech and mobility. Presented with such opportunities, the Dutch have become empowered by having the choice of which prospects to utilize to the benefit of their own lives. There, the women sell their bodies because they desire to earn an income this way, do as much housework as they want and work slashed hours because they feel like it. How are the men dealing with this feminism gone wild? 16th century

literature indicates that this is a long standing social order, and tales talk of subordinate men and bossy women. The men of Holland don’t seem to be raising concerns over gender inequity. According to various online articles, the men simply like their women free-spirited and financially dependent, but socially developed and autonomous.

So, as the Dutch have shown, perhaps the key to happy equality is not by judging one sex through the scope of another, in this case, judging equality by how many women are in the workplace. As Cap student Tahia Ahmed said previously, “empowerment is when males and females share the same opportunities, and it’s their choice to take them or not.”

//Evelyn Cranston, Writer

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© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com