‘A lot of times people question whether we even need feminism anymore,’ Tammy Sheldon tells me. But, as she goes on to articulate persuasively, ‘There is simple logic and clear data that indicates that we are a long way from equality in the Netherlands. And that’s not just referring to a pay gap, or to sexual harassment, there’s a whole range of issues.’

It is, indeed, a whole range of issues that Tammy Sheldon, who last year became lead organiser of Women’s March, The Netherlands (WMNL), cares deeply about. Rushing into our meeting apologising for multitasking on her phone, she was reeling from the news of the death of Orlando Boldewijn, a young, gay, black boy from Rotterdam who had been missing for over a week before police were able to locate his body. It doesn’t take long after our interview for WMNL to issue a statement calling on the government and authorities to prioritize LGBTQI safety in The Netherlands, firmly laying bare the fact that LGBTQI individuals face nearly twice the level of violence that heterosexual people face, whilst sending their support to the victim’s family.

I can tell that this recognition, of the multiple and intersecting issues facing women and minorities in the Netherlands, is not something Tammy takes lightly: ‘the simple attitude we come from is that we are always stronger together. We cannot move forward with any kind of tangible change, unless we’re all in this together.’ Of course, it’s very easy to talk the intersectional talk and much harder to walk the walk. As the Women’s March spread internationally from its origins in the U.S. in the wake of Trump’s election last year it has come up against a wealth of, often valid, criticisms. Too white, too rich and too transphobic have been just some of the accusations thrown at its feet.

Tammy in the middle, on the left organiser Cecilia Gomez Engler of Women’s March Barcelona, and on the right indigenous activist Rachel Heaton, A Standing Rock Water Protector, credits: Tammy Sheldon

Refreshingly, these are not issues that Tammy steps around. ‘By definition, if you are in a position to be an activist you automatically have a degree of privilege,’ she acknowledges, ‘You are in an economic situation that allows you to take time to follow an issue as opposed to hold down three jobs, so by definition the Women’s March is coming out of a large base of white, middle-class women. There is no denying it.’ It is because of this that Tammy stresses that that privilege needs to be used effectively, in order to be useful allies to those less able to go out to a march on a Saturday afternoon and wave a witty sign around. A movement filled with performative activism and void of concrete action is clearly not the kind of future she envisions for the Women’s March in this corner of the world.

That is, of course, the strength but also the difficulty of being a part of such a huge, global movement. In order to cultivate a positive legacy for WMNL there is the challenge of weaving through the stray problematic tendencies that tarnish (and can so easily be used to tarnish) the women’s movement. This has to be done whilst pulling together the thousands of threads that have come together to form a hopefully unbreakable social force, and indeed, to use that force to bring about meaningful change in the Netherlands. The fact that Tammy acknowledges (and rejects) the notion that could be seen to arise with some sectors of the Women’s March across the world – that women’s rights were all of a sudden the most important issue on the agenda and that there hadn’t been protests and activist movements worth attending until the disruptive political events of 2017 – is crucial to the success of WMNL going forward.

At the first march in 2017, credits: Tammy Sheldon

Tammy is quick to point out those who have been fighting against inequality long before this most recent wave of popular activism. Poignantly, she notes that before March for Our Lives (the present marches being organised against gun violence in the US) there have been young black women – in the Black Lives Matter movement particularly – fighting against gun violence for years. ‘Not to take away in any way, shape or form what Emma González and the rest of those teenagers have done – they are just awesome heroes in my book, but it does mean that there is this kind of disappearance of people who are already active, and are often doing so with far greater personal risk to their lives, on a day to day basis.’ Tarana Burke, she points out, has been a case in point, having started and campaigned for the ‘Me Too’ movement twelve years before it was catapulted into the mainstream.

It is this kind of recognition that Tammy is promoting in the Netherlands. A manifesto is currently being developed by WMNL in collaboration with multiple activist organisations in the Netherlands, including PROUD (the Dutch Union for Sex Workers), Pink Terrorists (an LGBT organisation promoting the strength of the community) and New Women Impact Hub (who focus on the needs of refugee and migrant women) amongst others. These organisations are jointly working on a document that will be used to bring about change for women and minority communities in the Netherlands. Giving a platform to these voices is one of the most important reasons for this manifesto. ‘It’s not that the world needs another list of demands or manifesto per se,’ Tammy explains, ‘the difference here is people who are not necessarily at the table have a place now to come in.’

And come in they must. The fact that Amsterdam, the largest city in the Netherlands, is without a single abortion clinic for the first time since the 1970s, and the abortion pill is problematically included in the criminal code should be enough to silence any of those who suggest we no longer need feminism. This is not to mention that despite the legality of sex work in the Netherlands propping up the country’s image as one of the most liberal in the world, sex workers are still required to navigate around restricted access to basic healthcare services. There remains a larger income pay gap between men and women in the Netherlands than the EU average. Women and particularly women of colour, migrant women, disabled women, and LGBTQI people are hugely underrepresented in leadership positions in politics and other sectors. The list goes on, and it is clear that the Netherlands cannot rest on its image of progression and liberal politics – something that WMNL clearly has no intention of doing.

But there is an appetite for change, and Tammy is clear in her intention to provide a narrative that is ‘positive, humanistic, inclusive and something other than the fear and the hate that is being pushed by the right.’ There is a huge energy being thrown towards the feminist movement across the world and in the Netherlands, and as Tammy declares, ‘that energy is going to be turned into fuel.’

(c) YFM Nederland

(c) YFM Nederland

85 Disco Soups in 35 countries and countless motivated people – be one of them! The first World Disco Soup Day takes place on April 29th and you should join! We from Taste Before You Waste are part of this huge event and interviewed the organizers; the Youth Food Movement (YFM). Heleen is a member of YFM and came to our office at Dokhuis Galerie. While we enjoyed a cup of tea, we talked about Slow Food, the value of products and of course the first World Disco Soup. Read here why the event happens, what to expect and what clothes to wear this Saturday.

TBYW: How would you explain the World Disco Soup Day to someone who has never heard of it before?

Heleen: A Disco Soup is basically an event where you cook soup and play music. The ingredients of the soup are products that otherwise would have been wasted. It is like a party where you come together, cook and raise awareness about food waste.

TBYW: Who came up with the idea of a World Disco Soup Day ?

Heleen: The YFM is part of Slow Food Youth Network (SFYN). Slow Food is a global network about sustainability, taking care of the soil, paying fair prices to farmers, enjoying good food, and caring about biodiversity. Through the Disco Soup we want to get people involved into these topics. The idea was born when I was in Turin last year at the Terra Madre Day, a day where those topics and ideas are promoted. A Brazilian SFYN activist asked the participants of the Terra Madre Day to organize the World Disco Soup on the same day to show that we all stand for the same goals; to show our connection around the world. You are from South Africa! You are from Peru! We are all into food – let’s show that!

TBYW: Is it the first Disco Soup event in Amsterdam?

Heleen: No there has been an event called Damn Food Waste in 2013. That was similar and also organised by the YFM. The Disco Soup originated from the “Schnippeldisko” in Berlin which started five years ago.

TBYW: Why should people join the event?

Heleen: It’s great fun first of all. You are part of a big movement taking place all over the world. You can get to know the YFM, join the network and pitch your own ideas and regional projects. That’s also why we have a lot of cooperations which show that we all care about food waste. The World Disco Soup Day in Amsterdam gets support from Taste Before You Waste, Venkel, Hotelschool The Hague, Instock, De Tweede Jeugd, Bread Cycle, Primo Disco, George du Poisson, BuurtBuik, ResQ Club and BRET! It’s about uniting power and to get people familiarized with the food movement.

TBYW: What is the advantage of TBYW supporting this event?

Heleen: Taste Before You Waste will give background information about food waste and shows the bigger picture behind this issue. You support the World Disco Soup with veggies that otherwise would go to the Food Cycle Market. There will be taste workshops to provide the sensual experience. We need to tell the story together and raise awareness about food waste even after this date of the World Disco Soup.

TBYW: When did you start planning for this event?

Heleen: We started in February.

TBYW: How many volunteers do you need to make this happen?

Heleen: We need about eight to ten YFM activists, all the partners such as Taste Before You Waste and the people from Venkel who coordinate the soup workshops. The idea is that everyone can help to prepare the soup.

TBYW: What is the idea behind combining cooking with DJs?

Heleen: Cutting veggies might be boring sometimes and music just makes everything better. Again, the idea originates from the German Schnippeldisko. We want to have a party with the two DJs Primo Disco and George du Poisson. Their names fit just by coincidence to the event name and purpose. That was not planned.

TBYW: Where does the event take place?

Heleen: At BRET near station Amsterdam Sloterdijk. It’s an outdoor event.

TBYW: What is the bad weather plan?

Heleen: Luckily there will still be party tents from Kingsday that we are allowed to use. That was an unexpected offer. They just want a bowl of soup and two drinks in return.

TBYW: What do people need to bring?

Heleen: People need to bring a bowl, a spoon and any container to take some leftover soup home with them. You could even bring leftover veggies and we will cook with them. Bring clothes you can dance in, an apron, appetite and good dance moves.

You can’t be at the event in Amsterdam? Fortunately the World Disco Soup Day also takes place in other Dutch citites such as Deventer, Maastricht, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Zwolle and in Friesland. You can even listen to the same music as we do in Amsterdam. Check out the global spotify playlist. At whatever Disco Soup location you will be;  all partners of the World Disco Soup Day are looking forward to see you on Saturday. Let’s chop some veggies, dance to smooth tunes and fight food waste together.