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A short note from a giving feminist

The Netherlands is a great country. For a frequent traveler like myself it is impossible to overlook the high level of organization that we have achieved. And the favorable combination of freedom and comfort that comes with our unbridled need to organize. The downside to our fondness of calculations and predictability is that we seem to have become afraid to take a leap of faith.

Too afraid for my taste.

When I started my non profit initiative, the Young Lady Business Academy, I did exactly that – taking a leap of faith. Without a plan, consultation or the intention of a revenue model – but with the drive to help ambitious and gutsy young ladies on their way – I ‘designed’ the Academy in about half an hour, in the back of a car on the way to a radio studio. Not much later I simply started to execute what I wrote down, without guarantee of success. And this summer, two years later, the fourth and upscaled edition of the Young Lady Business Academy in het Erasmus Centre of Entrepreneurship te Rotterdam is coming up. Sixty young women of various educational backgrounds will immerse themselves in an intensive week long program that offers them the opportunity to take a gigantic leap towards their dream career.

This is all cause for happiness and optimism, one would think.

But when I present the story of the Young Lady Business Academy to a for example all female delegation, I mostly get reserve. ‘Are you reaching all the target audiences? Aren’t there hurdles? Are you doing this for free? Isn’t life more than doing business?’ And: ‘Why does everyone have to reach the top?’ Now, I do not have issues with comments or criticism. I can take away a lot from that. But sometimes those questions seem to aim at taking the sharp edges of a spontaneous project like the Young Lady Business Academy. So that it can ‘fit the template’ and becomes predictable.

Meanwhile all I strive to do is to escape that predictability! There are enough plain Jane’s…

Jokingly I sometimes call myself a giving feminist: at the Academy, together with other women at the top, I give my knowledge and experience to the younger generation. Voluntarily. Enthusiastic. Because we think it is necessary and because it makes us happy. But other feminists – I call them the taking feminists – lobby one sided and without offering anything in return for their demands (equal pay, mandatory quota and more media attention) and don’t like to give up ‘market share’. They see the battlefront in their world of negotiations, meetings, battle points and judging of men. They forget how limited it is to only do something if you get something in return.

Mijn oproep: laten we als feministen van diverse pluimage beter samenwerken, elkaar meer gunnen. We streven immers hetzelfde na? Iets minder haal- en iets meer breng-feminisme zou mijns inziens recht doen aan vrouwen over de hele wereld.

I’m calling on all feminists: lets work together better as a diverse group, and not begrudge each other success. We are all fighting for the same cause, right? A little bit less of the taking and a bit more of the giving feminism in my opinion would do right by women all over the world.

We are looking so much further ahead than the immediate profit and loss statement.