Susanna JanssenFigurine Frank Rider

    Ballet dancer or bestselling author?

    ‘Ballet dancer! Due to an injury I had to stop in the first year of the ballet academy. Dancing, expressing yourself with your body, is something so essential to me. If you’re physically set and you can’t do anything with it, that’s a loss. You write with your head. It’s valuable, but I never wanted to be a writer.’

    The pauper’s paradise or The revolution?

    ‘The revolution, my latest book. Although the story of The Pauper’s Paradise, about how we have dealt with poverty over the past 200 years, is still just as relevant today. Ultimately, both books are about inequality. That people are treated unequally and have unequal opportunities on the basis of matters over which they have no influence whatsoever.’

    Poverty is hereditary or a dime can become a quarter?

    ‘A hundred years ago, a dime didn’t become a quarter at all. Thanks to the Mammoth law for secondary education in the late 1960s and increased prosperity, a lot has changed. Now dimes can become 15 cents, but certainly not always. In the Netherlands we continue to think that everyone has equal opportunities, but that is absolutely not the case. So: poverty unfortunately remains hereditary.’

    Sewing machine or typewriter?

    ‘The typewriter, because it has had an emancipating effect for women. The typewriter and the telephone exchange were the entrance for women to offices. At the same time, they enslaved women, because they stuck there.

    ‘You could also say: the sewing machine, because women have long had to make all the clothes for the family by hand.’

    The pencil or the pill?

    ‘I don’t want to choose between them. Without as much political clout as men, women were still forgotten. We had to fight for suffrage for 40 years. When women were finally able to vote in 1922, it took more than 30 years for the first minor changes in the law to benefit women. Only this year there are as many women in government as men. This still does not apply to parliament and we have never had a female prime minister.

    ‘The pill is, of course, just as crucial. Because women gained more control over carrying and giving birth to children, they gained more control over their lives and bodies.’

    The mother mavo or the washing machine?

    “The laundry, by hand, for the whole family, every week, was insanely time-consuming. It has been calculated that everything that had to do with cleaning, cooking and washing took up forty hours a week at the time. And then as a woman you were not ready yet. Still, I choose the mother mavo. Because only when you can think about the world you live in, the position you have, can you see how you want it to be different.’

    Legal incapacity or marital obligation?

    “How mean, both are very bad. Women became legally incapable from the moment they got married. This was in law from 1838 to 1957. Grown women who were declared impotent overnight, lost their jobs, actually belonged to their husbands. If a woman wanted to leave her husband, she had no protection under the law. That is extremely distressing.

    Marital rape was only made a criminal offense in 1991. Until that time, even among Catholics, the woman committed a sin if she refused her husband. Because she herself sent him down the path of unchastity. With that you put all the blame on women, if they want to be the boss of their own body. Why do you think it’s ingrained in women that they think: it must have been me?’

    Last convulsions or battle still far from over?

    ‘Women have a completely different position than a hundred years ago, but we are still a long way from there. The patterns of inequality run deep: there is still an unequal division of household work, the pay gap this year is 12.3 percent.

    ‘When you see how much time and struggle it has taken to get normal human rights for women. That emphasizes to me that those rights are by no means firmly established. We can lose them. I view the strong rise of populism in the Netherlands and worldwide with great concern. Abortion law has been reversed in the US. Turkey, Poland and Hungary have withdrawn from the treaty to protect women against domestic violence. We also have to be alert in the Netherlands. Abortion is still in the Penal Code. All this has been a very important reason for me to write this book.’

    Susanna Jansen: The Revolution or Age of Women.

    Ambo Anthos; 272p; €22.99.

    Writer or Writer?

    ‘Writer. Because it matters that I’m a woman. More than 15 years ago I called myself a writer, which was a form of emancipation at the time. While writing this book I realized that this is a misconception. Because why does a ‘writer’ count more than a ‘writer’? Whenever you come across a masculine word, you first think of a man. Where are the women then?’

    First, second or third wave?

    ‘Feminism. I find it shocking that it is about waves and not progressive insight. Tradition always draws you back. It’s in all of us. When I look at how much effort it took my mother to emancipate, versus the obviousness with which my sister, at the age of 19, rode that second wave.

    ‘Women are so insecure, they can’t negotiate, why do they work part-time – we are incredibly inclined to blame social problems on individual women.’

    62-hour work week or part-time princesses?

    ‘That 62 hours comes from a 1955 study of the number of hours a housewife spent on her work in the house. This does not include mothers of children under the age of 2, because then the hours would be excessive. I would like to opt for part-time work and a reasonable division of household tasks. And then without that scandalous and contemptuous ‘little princesses’. But I fear that women who work part-time will also reach the 62 hours, with household tasks and child care.’

    null Image Frank Ruiter

    Figurine Frank Rider

    Rest home Sonnehaert or Firma Wyers?

    Wyers Company. Thanks to the mulo, my mother was able to work in an office. That was modern, glamorous. Until she got married and got fired. She spent her life talking nostalgically about those years, the only time when she had a social life.

    ‘My grandmother’s generation had to work outside the house in addition to taking care of all the children, which was a very hard existence. Due to increased prosperity, my mother’s generation ‘only’ had to focus on household and children. In 1963 my mother spent several months in a rest home for women with a mysterious illness that more and more women struggled with: housewife fatigue. In that rest home she was not allowed to talk about her complaints, she was only allowed to rest. And after eight weeks she was pushed back into the existence that had made her sick.

    ‘Women led a mind-numbing life, they had to get satisfaction from the household and the children – regardless of their interests or talents. Afterwards my mother was of course depressed. The medical profession, largely made up of men, was clueless. Women’s problems were not taken seriously.’

    Hymen, macaroni or the social position of women?

    ‘The social position of women, of course! That comes from the modern WP for women, which appeared in 1968. The ‘ordinary’ Winkler Prins encyclopaedia consisted of twenty parts, this special women’s edition had 512 pages. Between the entries ‘hymen’ and ‘macaroni’ I found ‘social position of women’. Figures were given there about women who worked outside the home. In Belgium, 70 percent of children were left over for lunch, here you barely had that phenomenon. I think the editor-in-chief wanted to think about that. And then back to the macaroni.’

    The shame is over by Anja Meulenbelt or A room to yourself by Virginia Woolf?

    ‘I don’t want to choose between them. Virginia Woolf wrote in 1929 that a woman could do the same as a man in every respect. As long as she has three things at her disposal: a room for herself, a space in which she can formulate her own thoughts independently of the mores society imposes on her, her own money so that she is neither dependent on a man nor has to be consumed by anger at men who make her dependent. And a history: if you are only presented with men’s lives, the mirror is missing to reflect on yourself.

    ‘Anja Meulenbelt wrote an extremely personal story in 1976, about unintentionally becoming pregnant at the age of 16 and ending up in an abusive marriage. In that second wave of feminism, women discovered that their personal problems were social problems, that the personal was political.’

    Susanna Jansen

    1964 Born in Amsterdam

    1988-1992 study communication at the University of Utrecht

    1995 – 2001 Lives in Moscow, works for Independent Media and as a correspondent for De Morgen, NRC, VPRO, HP/deTijd and aside.

    2008 The Pauper’s Paradise: A Family History

    2008 – 2011 Theater education at Theaterschool De Trap

    2016 participates in a theater performance about The Pauper’s Paradise from Tom de Ket

    2017 Despite gravity

    2019 Wael, the story of a boy from Syria

    2022 The Revolution or Age of Women

    Suzanna lives in Amsterdam and has a 20-year-old daughter.

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