Anja Meulenbelt on women’s struggle: “It’s all nonsense”

Nearly sixty years ago, when Anja Mullenbilt became a feminist, she never thought about old age. “We had the highest disdain for her,” she says. “Just like money: we’ll see later.” Now that the time has come, you see that reaching a respectable age is also a social status, just like being a woman, and that distinction is implicit. As that insight matured, her vision of Anja at that time became clearer than ever. “In my fifty-third book I have to look back at what I was actually looking for in motion.”

her fifty-first book, All moms are already workingIt will be released on September 20. Count the book as number 52 Beyond the confusion, which I edited with two others. It is about gender and violence and will be released later this year.

A disaster for uneducated women

All moms are already working It is about how motherhood is approached in today’s society and related issues.

Single mothers are important in that story. Coincidentally, she was the same, back then: Mullenbilt got pregnant when she was 16, in 1961. She was expelled from school because she was a bad role model, married her child’s father and spent three years in an abusive marriage. “Those were terrifying years,” she now says. Her divorce meant her “escape”: “I ran away from pressure to give up my child, I ran away from an abusive marriage, I ran away from man’s service for life, as my mother did.”

This kind of escape defined second-wave feminism with which she was drawn, now a student at the Social Academy. Mullenbilt: ‘We were in favor of abolishing the breadwinner principle, where the man works and earns enough to support the family while the woman stays at home to take care of her. It worked, but what replaced it was neoliberalism, where everyone takes care of themselves. This has led to a great disaster for uneducated women.

“Neoliberalism has led to a great disaster for unskilled women.”

in All moms are already working She paints the picture. When it was introduced in 1965, it was still possible to live on social assistance, but it is now the equivalent of living in poverty. The pressure to work full-time is growing, while working full-time is no longer a guarantee of the income you can have, let alone part-time work. Highly educated and full-time women can do just that thanks to the grace of anonymous nannies, icy husbands and cleaners. “But these women often have children, and who takes care of them? Why do we hand off the care of our children? We don’t outsource friendships, and we don’t outsource family visits, right?” Mullenbilt says.

Don’t think she’s arguing for a return to the old gender roles. On the contrary: in All moms are already working It calls for a thirty-hour work week for everyone. And in those hours, everyone should be able to earn an income that you can live on. unrealistic? There was more realism. Mullenbilt writes: “In the early days of factory work, a sixty- or seventy-hour week was still common, and so were women and children, so working days were twelve to fourteen hours.”

Ten times the same book

in All moms are already working Mullenbilt links class struggle and feminism powerfully and with good humor, as well as subtly linking racism and inequality on the basis of health, disability, and age. All these characteristics together determine who is socially included and who is excluded, who has power and who has not, which group is oppressed and which group is oppressed.

her fiftieth book, Class struggle at this time, a call for innovation, released earlier this year, does something similar. like the forty-ninth, Bread and roses, about class and identity, from 2019. Have you written the same book three times, but each time with a slightly different focus? Mullenbilt: “I’ve written the same book ten times!”

This, she says, because she always wants to reach a different group with the same message, which is about the fight for a just society. Mullenbilt: To achieve this we have to include the whole picture of exploitation and oppression, not just the differences between wage earners and capital: class, color and gender also matter. The unpaid work that women do is part of that. For her, it touches the very core of women’s struggle and socialism: “For me, feminism is not feminism if it exists only for women who actually have more opportunities. And socialism is not socialism if immigrants are not counted.

collective strength

A few days prior to this interview, she shared photos on her Facebook page of a meeting for the Single SuperMom Foundation, a group that advocates for better socioeconomic status for single mothers who come together for all kinds of activities. It so happened that she was implicated when a speaker withdrew from a meeting and threw herself in because she was once a single mother. I was “hanged there”. One of the photos shows Mullenbilt with a profuse smile. I am one of them, although I am from a different generation. In fact, these mothers are just beginning to discover their anger and the power of the group. I’d love to be a part of that and also talk to them about politics. To make the translation between different positions.

“Being visible ensures that you get back the dignity that was taken from you, for example, because of sexism or racism.”

Activism heals, she learned in her early days as a feminist. When I was divorced, I lived with other mothers for a while. I’m not alone anymore.

In this warm bathroom, where she felt safe and seen the place, a space was created to work on herself. To face her childhood in which her parents did not give her “what children should have”. My parents’ marriage was bad, and I think my mother was depressed. There was no hot interest for me. As a result, I discovered in therapy, I became sensitive to attention – attention from the wrong guys, for example.

rooted inequality

She sees the healing power that feminism had in other liberation movements, for example in the anti-racism movement. “Being visible ensures that you get back the dignity that was taken from you, for example, because of sexism or racism.”

For Mullenbilt, it is necessary to link the struggle for equality waged by the various groups. To be, as it is called, intersecting. For her, the struggle of white workers is certainly part of this – after all, class, like racism and sexism, is an expression of deep-rooted inequality. In BIJ1, which she joined immediately when Sylvana Simmons founded the party in 2016 (then called Article 1), a group of white workers cannot be involved, unless they also belong to a socially disadvantaged group in another area. For example because they are gay or have a disability. It frustrates her: “The people we must relate to also disappear to the far right and get lost in conspiracies. These are tough times.

Read alsoSilvana Simmons: Politics is a necessary evil for meFebruary 17, 2021

She compares to the ’70s: “We felt great at the time because we were winning. Now we are losing.

Alone on a cold, dark mountain

Not that the second wave of feminism was warm. She felt an icy cold after her first book, Autobiography, in 1976 beyond shameHe became an international buyer and bought a house with his proceeds. Some of her fellow fighters were angry. They said: “I became famous on the backs of women.”

During a meeting, she was called to account on the podium. The speaker asked me: “How does it feel to be famous, Anja?” I answered him: “I am alone on a cold, gloomy mountain, and I want to go down again.” But this did not happen. I have tried to be as affiliated as possible, for example by setting up a publishing house to publish other women’s books. And I looked it up. Why is it easier to show solidarity in shared weakness than in shared strength?

I concluded that it is a contradiction to feel at home somewhere and to be yourself. The two turn and collide. Traumas played a role, too, and as far as she is concerned, they often form the basis of her activism – her own. “Almost everyone compulsively busy making the world a better place carries a backpack.”

That is why, in her view, activism and ideology cannot do without self-reflection. Her traumas from childhood and marriage were inseparable from social inequality, but at the same time, as a white woman from a reasonably wealthy family, the wind was on her back. Which in turn confirmed that only in recent years did I really notice the socio-economic situation of most single mothers, who are considered among the worst in society.

“It’s all bad, but it helps me write something obnoxious, and I meet nice people that I’m good at.”

She believes this dynamic is also at play in BIJ1, where it “mess with” independent board members and accusations of favoritism, racism and abuse of power. You see a group of people with the sincere will to build a broad party that fights for equality and economic justice, but also backpacks with various traumas. She is trying to help steer this in the right direction as part of a group of aging party members, which also includes Professor Emeritus of Gender Studies Gloria Wicker and psychiatrist Glenn Helberg.

She says the friction between feeling somewhere and being yourself is a guiding theme in her life. She’d like to think about it for her 53rd book. Diary? “Oh no, no diary,” she replied in astonishment. “But look back, and formulate what I learned, what I was looking for and looking for in feminism.”

Memos look like closures. “I’d be cranky if I didn’t have the writing and the activity. It’s all bad, but it helps me write something obnoxious, and I meet nice people that I’m good at. This is also a house where I can actually see myself sitting on the couch, a bit of Netflix as if nothing had happened.”

Remember the Palestinian struggle, to which I committed decades ago: “It doesn’t move an inch, but that doesn’t mean you have to give in to it. It won’t be up to me.

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