”The idea is to work with people that are struggling in society.”

A couple of weeks ago I went to a meeting of Feministisch Verzet (FV) In ACU politiek cultuur centrum. I originally wanted to write about the meeting, but after asking the  members of FV if I was allowed to do so, they spoke about their distrust of journalists. After a short discussion they had very reasonable arguments why they would prefer me not to write about the meeting, but I could still stay and listen if I wanted to. I did.

Sign outside ACU

Feministisch Verzet has a meeting in ACU every other week on mondays

Feministisch Verzet has a (free) meeting in ACU every other week on mondays

This post isn’t about the meeting itself, it’s about one of the people I have met at the meeting. Let’s call that person Kim. After some back and forth contact Kim agreed to meet up with me for an interview about FV. We got together last thursday, in a nice (unfortunately not so quiet) little café, where we had a very open conversation about FV and Kim themself, about Kim’s ideals and the ideals of the group, and what it is that they actually stand for. In respect of Kim’s privacy I will not say where she’s originally from, but I can say that she has lived in multiple countries in Europe and is an international student.

Since when are you a part of Feministisch Verzet?

,,I think it formed in autumn 2012, but I might mix up two seasons there. Anyway, I was there since the beginning. I wasn’t part of the people who arranged the first meeting, but I was really curious and I went there. Basically there were two people from Utrecht thinking: ”There is no place where feminism and linking topics can be discussed, and we’d like to be able to talk about topics like this with other people.” They wanted to discuss things like sexism, body-shaming and violence, and the resonance to their call was amazing. I think about sixty people came to that first meeting. And there was such diversity among those people. It instantly became clear that those topics didn’t just interest women in the ‘traditional’ sense. The people who organized it were surprised that so many people showed up.”

A picture (provided by Kim) of one of their demonstrations

A picture (provided by Kim) of one of their demonstrations in 2014

How do you define the term ‘feminism’?

,,It’s a very broad term for me. In historical sense feminism was about gaining more rights for women but quite early other marginalized groups made their voices heard. Like lesbians, women of colour, transpeople and so on. So for me feminism involves anything that has to do with liberation of marginalized identity groups, but also groups that are economically excluded. Basically my feminism is related to any group that tries to fight for more social justice. The idea is to work together with people that are struggling in this society. In the plurality of issues I find a strong motive for feminism, and it forces (in a good way) us – as feminists – to selfreflect. It keeps us sharp, and helps us to keep aiming high. What’s interesting though, and this is my personal opinion, is that I think it’s fine to use the term equality (when referring to feminism) strategically, but I don’t think we are really fighting for equality. I think we’re fighting for liberation. If we’d go for equality everyone has to be ‘the same’, ignoring that everyone has different needs. I don’t prefer to call it equality because it’s more complex than that.”

What kind of people are part of Feministisch Verzet?

,,The group is diverse, but not as diverse as it could be. A lot of us are in one way or another connected to the university, and also to gender studies. And maybe because of that we have a certain vocabulary and a certain kind of understanding of the group. People who don’t have that might feel excluded. We try to be aware of this. Ideally we want to work on this in order to be a more diverse group, since we want to be reachable for people from all kinds of backgrounds. For instance: we are aware that we are a pre-dominantly white group. I believe these two markers (academic and white) are two of our most excluding factors. Unfortunately, the fact that we are less inclusive in practice than we want to be theoretically remains. That we are conscious about it is surely a start, but I’d like to see that it doesn’t stop there. Moreover, there is a lot of interconnectivity within the group. Most people from FV are a community outside FV as well. Some of us are a sort of chosen (queer) family. There are deep connections. It’s easy to feel close to each other if everyone’s so personally and politically committed and when your views overlap at times. Of course, not everyone always agrees with everyone at all times. That would be perfect, and fortunately we’re not perfect. We don’t always understand each other. But we deal with our differences, we try not to ignore them. We try to translate our feelings to one another, even if we don’t have the same experience of something. We are a group of individuals, and that’s okay. But the fact that some of us are very close might also be part of the exclusion other people can experience when they come to our meetings.”

Another picture (provided by Kim) of the same demonstration

Another picture (provided by Kim) of the same demonstration

How many people are part of Feministisch Verzet?

,,Honestly, I really don’t know the answer. Every meeting has somewhere between twelve to twenty people present, but they’re not always the same people. Every other week there are new people. Most of them don’t come back a second time, but some stay. The feedback is mostly positive though, even if they choose not to come back. A lot of people are interested: on our mailinglist are approximately hundred people at the moment. Then again I don’t know for certain if all of them read those emails. But, yeah, hundreds of people have been to the meetings when you look at the total count. There is a lot of attention. Somehow, at some point, we became a name. A lot of people know about us, also to our surprise. We get asked to speak at events. People refer to us as ‘that feminist group’ in Utrecht. People who are interested in ‘traditional feminism’ come along and find that we discuss a lot of different topics, and not just topics that are purely about women’s issues. We don’t have that exact focus.”

Dying to read more? You can find the second part of the interview here.

 

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