Tuesday, November 16, 2010

To Be a Woman

Thrift Treasures

This article is one of those "aren't the Dutch wonderful" bits that glorify the benefits of a socialist system. It says nothing that I didn't say in Man of the House: most women take part-time work because it suits what they want out of life better (never mind what happens in my own circle).

As an anecdotal piece--and one by a newbie to the Netherlands (seriously, three months?! By that standard I should be an expert, which I am not)--it is necessarily lacking a few points: what about the men? And how do single women support themselves? And even more telling is what the commentors think about life in the Netherlands: one of them went so far as to call all Dutch women "freeloaders". There are snide remarks about how unsustainable a 35-hour week is (wrong country), comments about the terrible weather (true), how this isn't fair to men (plausible, but they'd probably object more if it were true), and more whining on why this is impossible in the US.

This is where I would normally put in a string of four-letter words, because frankly, I hate whiners. Oh, I whine, too, and plenty, but eventually I sh*t or get off the pot--shut up, or do something about it. Such luxuries are impossible to imagine in the US, yes, but only because there is an irrational fear of socialized-anything ("Town Hall face") that make such things like extending welfare benefits, making child care and health care affordable. Why people don't vote all of the bastards out of office and put in a whole new government is beyond me, if they want change so badly.

And, yes, there are downsides to being a woman in the Netherlands: you're expected to keep a perfectly clean house, being the one that still plagues me (my boyfriend is a far better woman than I will ever be, in this respect). Life is far from perfect in the Netherlands--believe it or not, a vague sort of racism exists against allochtonen (anybody not-white) and Geert Wilder's party has built a surprisingly solid platform based entirely on the question of Islam in the Netherlands. Immigration and integration remain touchy issues. And if you can't speak Dutch, good luck once you leave the Randstad (and in a stroke of brilliance, the government has cut funding for integration classes, which include Dutch language courses).

Still, I'm happy here, in a good way. The Dutch don't expect you to be anything more or less than who you are. And for someone who's spent the first 25 years of her life trying to figure that out, it's quite a relief to know that I'm enough.

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