A wind-swept plain: the history of ideas on gender and ethnicity in the Netherlands

by Gloria Wekker and Helma Lutz1

'Again the image of the plain forces itself upon us. There are no deep valleys there, but also no high peaks. Whoever stands out from the crowd will find out that plains are swept by the cold winds of equal treatment. This is the cowl that makes all monks equal.'
(Nederland in Europa, Sociaal Cultureel Rapport 2000, p. 607)

Index Introduction
The Police
Dominant Thinking
Women's Studies
From Sex To Gender
Gender And Ethnicity
Asking The Other Question
The Recruitment Of Ethnic Minorities
'What You Stand For'

This chapter describes a number of important stages in the ways in which Dutch black, migrant and refugee women have thought about gender and ethnicity.2 In the period which roughly covers the middle of the 1970s until the present, they tried inside and outside academia to develop a theoretical framework with which to understand the lives of women. Furthermore, this chapter will show the applicability and urgency of this body of thought across a large area: it serves as a remedy against the image of the plain mentioned above, developed from the perspective of black, migrant and refugee women.

In a European context the Netherlands is in many ways far less exceptional than we like to think, as a recent report of the Social Cultural Planning Office shows (the quote above was taken from this report). Generally it is assumed that the Netherlands is a good place to be for all sections of the population - especially in the light of the 'equal monks, equal cowls' principle - but, on second thoughts, we do badly as far as the positions of women and ethnic minority groups are concerned. Both in everyday life as well as in the development and implementation of policies of institutions, which would like to work in gender-conscious and intercultural ways, gender and ethnicity thinking or intersectional thinking is an indispensable instrument. To elucidate this further we will discuss a case study, the recruitment policy of the police - a core government institution - with respect to ethic minority groups. We will compare socially prevalent ideas about gender and ethnicity to the intersectional thinking advocated by especially black, migrant and refugee women.

Two remarks about this outline ought to be made immediately at this point. Firstly, in the context of the 1970s, gender and ethnicity are really anachronisms: they only emerge in the 1990s. It is the case, though, that from the beginning of the second feminist wave onwards, black, migrant and refugee women have questioned the adequacy of prevailing explanations of the subordinate positions of women. At every stage black, migrant and refugee women argued that more inclusive explanatory models are needed if the lives of all women (and men) are to be understood. When white women declared sexism their number one enemy, black, migrant and refugee women agreed that it also made them suffer, but they also asked 'what about racism and how are sexism and racism related?'. And even more insistently they asked 'do we agree that feminism ought to be anti-racist by definition?'. While prevalent explanations developed within the academic discipline of Women's Studies are evolving and becoming more complex, a similar process is going on for the explanatory models suggested by black, migrant and refugee women. The provisional end of this process has been reached with the so-called 'ideas on gender and ethnicity' or intersectional theory (Crenshaw, 1989; id. in Morrisson, 1992; Williams, 1997; Smith 1998) or matrix theory (Harding, 1993). Here we will alternately use gender and ethnicity and intersectional thinking.

The second comment we would like to make immediately here is that in order to be an intersectional thinker one does not have to be black, a migrant or refugee, nor does one have to be a woman. What is important in intersectional thinking is an awareness of the fact that everybody is situated on a number of important axes of social signification, such as gender, ethnicity, class, sexuality and nationality. Black, migrant and refugee women are not the only people who have engaged in developing intersectional thinking. White women have also contributed to it. According to intersectional thinkers, gender - the social and symbolical system which gives meaning to biological differences between men and women - is not an autonomous system to be studied independently from other systems of meaning. Gender is simultaneously constructed with ethnicity and class and is related to them. This is still a minority view both within Women's Studies and society as a whole.


In order to elucidate the characteristics of dominant thought with respect to gender and ethnicity, we will first discuss a case, namely the police, a government institution which has tried from the 1980s onwards to bring about a balanced composition of its work force. More women and ethnic minorities ought to join the police. The police seems certainly well-intentioned: with a series of campaigns in the 1980s and 1990s they continually tried to achieve their aims. To no avail, however.
This type of recruitment is exemplary for the way in which most Dutch institutions and society as a whole think about gender and ethnicity: as two non-related independent systems. Popular thinking has it that gender relates to women and ethnicity to ethnic minorities, which is a mistaken view.

We have chosen the police as an example, not because we want to drag this organisation through the mud, but precisely because the police tries very hard to enlist underrepresented groups, contrary to for instance educational institutions such as universities. In recruitment videos, brochures and adverts the police makes its thoughts about gender and ethnicity explicit, which means that they can be analysed. The police is certainly not the only institution which thinks along traditional lines.

When the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OC&W;) for instance organized a workshop on the active use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) by girls, ethnic minority girls were neglected. It turns out that 'girls' refers exclusively to white girls. This is all the more regrettable because there are strong indications of the good performance of black, migrant and refugee girls in science and computer science.3 Therefore, in a workshop on 'Ethnic minorities and ICT' attention ought to be paid to these girls. However, practically such a workshop will target ethnic minority boys. This either/or, binary and hierarchical way of thinking is very common and has as a consequence that existing positions of power are normalized over and over again. If campaigns of the police and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science are to be successful, those power relations should be acknowledged.
We will then analyse a number of important stages in the work of Dutch black, migrant and refugee women in which power relations based on a combination of gender and ethnicity have always been prominently problematized. What do these concepts gender and ethnicity mean, where do they come from, how do they differ from older concepts such as sex and 'race', and which thinking do they enable? We will construct a chronology of the academic discipline of Women's Studies from the perspective of Dutch black, migrant and refugee women. Women's Studies, after all, is the site where gender and ethnicity, as we now call them, have been discussed most consistently.4 Initially the concept of 'sex' had a central place in Women's Studies, followed by 'gender', which was subsequently seen in connection to ethnicity. Even though they were few in number, the influence which black, migrant and refugee women have had on the development of Women's Studies is considerable, because they put 'colour' on the agenda. Their emphasis on the importance of ethnic positionings broke the taboo to speak about ethnic differences characterizing supposedly colour-blind Dutch society.

Following on from this, we will discuss several theories about gender and ethnicity current in Women's Studies. We will show that in order to understand the problems which the police are struggling with, intersectional thinking is most fruitful. With the help of these insights we will look at the results of an application of intersectional thinking to a number of (recent) police recruitment campaigns. Unintentionally all kinds of stereotypes of ethnic minority and 'white' boys and girls are rekindled by these campaigns and, consequently, specified aims are not fulfilled.

A few words about the terminology we will use. As far as ethnicity is concerned, we will alternately use the paired concepts black, migrant, refugee on the one hand, and white on the other. In addition, we will make use of the pair ethnic minorities and majorities. Because it is nearly impossible to position ourselves outside of this ideological construction, we cannot always avoid the terms 'allochtoon' and 'autochtoon'. This official Dutch terminology, referring respectively to 'those who are from elsewhere' and 'those who are from here', is highly problematic. When we use this terminology, we will place it within quotation marks in order to show our displeasure with it. Not only is the term 'allochtoon' being rejected by more and more people who are supposed to be described by it, but we also have to be aware of the fact that the terms are constructions: Who is Dutch and who belongs or does not belong to the Dutch nation is defined in a process in which racial and or ethnic differences are continuously constructed (see Brah 1996; Phoenix, 1998; Lutz, 2000). Ethnic majorities or minorities are not a clear and natural given in a particular society. They are the result of a social construction which defines some groups as insiders and other groups as strange, as essentially Other and problematic, on the basis of race, ethnicity or culture. In the same movement in which some groups are constructed as Other, an 'autochtoon' Self is created which serves in important ways as the opposite of this problematic Other. The (Western) Self is civilised, intelligent, capable, white, Christian or humanist, emancipated and rational (Morrison, 1992). In the Netherlands currently 'allochtoon'/autochtoon' - this most common and apparently innocent terminology - is at the very least arbitrary, inconsistent, hypocritical and racist, because it either constructs or affirms racial difference. This conceptual pair offers a disguised way of talking about 'race' and class without explicitly using these terms - the fact that the term 'race' is avoided by the Dutch state, by the media and in popular and academic discussions does not mean that racism is absent from Dutch society.5 Theologian Gerrie ter Haar also points to the non-innocent character of terminology and warns:

'It is interesting to see how we keep on inventing new terms to describe people of whom we think they should not be here, or if they live here, should return to their country of origin as quickly as possible. 'Allochtonen', illegal immigrants, grey illegal immigrants, white illegal immigrants. And this change of terminology goes hand in had with policy changes. Even people who are legal residents cannot be secure about their rights anymore. What is your right one day, may be taken from you tomorrow. [...] We should be far more aware of the ways in which we talk about the other [and about ourselves, authors]. [...] Large-scale violations of human rights are preceded by the following strategy: the other is given names which isolate him from people like ourselves until the climate is fertile enough for a big massacre' (Blokker, 2000).

The Police

Skirmishes between the police and all kinds of boys and men have been the order of the day for centuries. In bygone days vagabonds, baker's helpmates and other 'riffraff' opposing the status quo presented a problem to the police. We will restrict ourselves here to the last decades. In the tumultuous sixties, greasers, Provo's and 'Kabouters' defied authority and disturbed public order, according to the police.6 The police also had to act when boys from Twente resented it when Italian and Spanish Adonises charmed 'their' girls, showing off the money they had earned the hard way in the textile industry (Groenendijk, 1990; Mak, 2000). In the 1970s and 80s squatters, peace activists and environmentalists were important 'points of interest'. Although many women participated in these groups, it is remarkable that confrontations mainly took place between the police and men. Looking at newspapers from the end of the 1990s one finds many manifestations of 'senseless violence' there: quarrels following visits to discos, battles following soccer games and sieges of urban neighbourhoods where boys ventilated their frustrations. Again, women were mainly absent.

The police is one of the last institutions in our modern society - which is permeated with an ideology of equality - which has a thoroughly white and male image, thereby arousing resistance through all kinds of conscious and unconscious processes. Exerting control, keeping order, protecting the weak, catching villains and bringing them to court are activities which are necessary in any society in which people do not know each other personally anymore or are afraid of asking each other to be accountable for each other's behaviour. The police occupies a very special place: the government has contracted its monopoly on the use of violence out to the police. Their task is, among other things, the upholding of norms. That is the reason why it is so important that the police treat the public in an open, non-prejudiced way. It seems utopian to assume that the police are capable of disengaging themselves from ideas that are circulating notably about the men of particular groups: That trailer camp dwellers are fences, that Moroccans are pickpockets, that Turkish people control organized crime, that Surinamese people deal in drugs and that white-collar crime really is a different type of criminality.

It is important that the police, on an individual and collective level, is capable of unravelling and deconstructing the ideas about gender, ethnicity and class which overlap with each other here. Very often, however, the way in which the police interprets and performs its task seems to embody a patriarchal and ethnicized fantasy of omnipotence. As an organisation the police unites archaic characteristics from a distant past with the desire to be modern. The image of the police is a constant point of attention in the light of its legitimation. It cannot stray too far from the ideas that are prevalent in large sections of society, in order not to arouse resistance continually.

The police was one of the first big organisations to realise that its image had to change and that the organisation had to mirror the composition of the population. They needed to enlist not only more women but also more members of ethnic minorities. Firstly policy measures aimed at women (read: white women) were taken up. When in 1974 the 'National Advisory Committee Emancipation' was established (after 1981 the Emancipation Council) whose task it was to suggest recommendations concerning women's chances on the labour market, the police also began to implement emancipation policies. In 1979 a working group 'Equal Chances' was created by the Dutch Police Federation (NPB). 'On 1 January 1980 no fewer than a thousand women worked for the Dutch state and municipal police' (Manneke, 1998, p. 133). The arrival of women was prevented in every possible way and their tasks were usually restricted to work at the police station. Mainly, a woman had to be 'the friendly face of the police organisation' (ibidem, p. 136). In the following years much ingenuity was needed to enlist women and keep them in the organisation. The impediments facing women were listed and an emancipation plan was drawn up (ibidem, p. 138). Attention was given to a reorganisation which would make part-time work possible, to selection procedures which up to that point still worked to the advantage of men (Van Beek, 1993; Van Vianen et al., 1986) and to the sexist culture of the shop-floor. A 1993 report on sexual harassment showed that more than half of the women interviewed were bothered by sexist jokes made by colleagues and by negative and stereotypical remarks about their private lives. Measures were then taken against pervasive macho behaviour at all levels of the organisation (Manneke, 1998, p. 164 e.v.). In 1985 the Ministry of the Interior adopted the target figure mentioned in the general emancipation plan that in 1995 25 per cent of executive policeworkers had to be women.

Since then the masculine image of the police has changed considerably. Nelleke Manneke (1998) argues that the environment in which police training and practice is conducted slowly became friendlier towards women. However, in 1995 the growth of the number of females in executive positions fell severely short of expectations: in 1994 3.724 women worked in executive positions compared to 26.855 men; in 1995 this percentage even dropped to 11.7 percent. The target figure was not even achieved by half: 'there were no women working for the detective force [...] At higher executive levels the percentage of women was only 2.5' (Manneke, 1998, p. 163). In the meantime the situation has improved - in Europe the Netherlands occupies third place following Sweden and the United Kingdom - but still the question remains whether the target figure of 25 percent will be reached in 2000 (ibidem, p. 183).

While these changes are taking place, there is also more attention paid to ethnic minorities. Since the 1980s the police has pursued a so-called policy of multiculturalisation. Researcher De Vries summarizes the aim of police policy since 1983 as follows:

'The most important aim [...] is to increase the number of ethnic minorities working for the police force and to create equal chances for all groups. This is seen as an essential condition for the improvement of a professional police organisation and the quality of the organisation'. (1999, p. 85-86).

De Vries describes how the police forces in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and the Hague established special recruitment procedures for ethnic minorities in the 1980s. Initially these projects were aimed at specific groups: Dutch people of Surinamese and Antillean descent and Moluccans in the North of the country. From 1989, with the project 'Affirmative Action Plan Police and Ethnic Minorities', the police also recruited people of Turkish and Moroccan descent. Obstacles here were: the obligation for candidates to have the Dutch nationality, prejudices among the people handling the selection procedures, and the cultural specificity of the tests preceding police training. Nevertheless, at first sight the affirmative action-plan seems to have worked: on 1 January 1999 4.8 percent ethnic minorities worked in the police force (ibidem, p. 88). Compared to the United Kingdom this figure is called high, because there ethnic minorities only make up 1.9 percent of the police force.

This success is less convincing when one looks at the career prospects within the institution: almost all of the ethnic minorities work at the lowest level of the organisation (p. 104). The author mentions that not only enlisting ethnic minority policemen and women was important, but even more to keep them. What is striking about her argument is that she does mention prejudices and racism within the police force, but then neglects to pay further attention to them. Yet, racism is an important reason why many members of ethnic minority groups decide to leave the force.

An edition of the television programme 'Zembla', broadcast on 30 May 2000, entitled 'The colour of the police', makes this clear. In the year 2000 more ethnic minority officers left the force than joined it. Judging from the interviews with these officers, they left because of racist utterances and behaviour of their colleagues. The programme gives a tarnished picture of an organisation where black and migrant police officers' complaints about racist 'jokes' do not find a willing ear with their superiors. The tenor is that black and migrant policemen and women are hypersensitive and cannot take a good joke. A black policewoman was constantly pressurised by her male white colleagues to make coffee and perform other improper tasks. In the police force, white men still call the shots.

The programme 'Zembla' was based on research investigating the exit reasons of ethnic minorities conducted by Roline Hart-Kemper and Jeanine Nas in 1998 under the authority of the regional force Amsterdam-Amstelland. Their report, entitled 'Exit', describes the results of interviews with 76 ethnic minority men and 44 women who had left. The most important reason for leaving turned out to be the culture of the organisation, which referred to all forms of open and less open discrimination. The authors make a number of recommendations, such as the addition of a standard module 'Diversity' to police training and a better coaching of ethnic minorities.

Their report caused a great deal of controversy both in the Amsterdam city council and in police ranks. It was not supported by police management and received the status 'unlegitimized'. Even though we own a copy of the report, police spokesman Klaas Wilting tells us when we make inquiries that the report does not exist! Unfortunately, in spite of all the debates surrounding (institutionalized) racism in the Netherlands, the standard reaction is still an obdurate denial of the presence of racism in the police force. The task set by police management for itself - the creation of a climate in which all groups have equal chances - relates badly to this type of organisational culture which refuses to face facts.
Then again the Council of Superintendents decided on a statute of integrity in 1997 which states the following: 'policemen or women are not allowed to address civilians or colleagues in racist or sexist ways' (Manneke, 1998, p. 181). The question remains whether statutes such as these will change daily practice permanently. Just how difficult and contradictory the path to a multicultural police force is, is shown by a recently published handbook the tone of which is defensive:

'Do not appoint people because they are 'allochtoon'. In order to realize a diverse police force it is (still) necessary to pay special attention to 'allochtone' employees. This, however, can never mean that somebody is appointed, because that person is 'allochtoon'. Special attention paid to 'allochtonen' may provoke negative reactions from 'autochtonen' and may create the impression that 'allochtonen' are only hired because of the colour of their skin. The 'allochtone' colleague does not desire that kind of special treatment, either'. (Kleurrijk Management..., 2000, p. 4).

However one looks at it, through the eyes of these authors colour remains an unpleasant phenomenon.

Dominant Thinking

On the basis of the descriptions of recruitment and experiences mentioned above which conclusions can be drawn from the way in which the police implicitly thinks about gender and ethnicity? The first conclusion is that the police, as is common, uses an either/or approach: either women are targeted (that is, white women) or ethnic minorities (that is, mainly men). The assumption is that these categories - women and ethnic minorities - have clearly defined boundaries which do not overlap. Anyone giving this subject some thought will realise that this is not the case: the category women contains white, black, migrant and refugee women, the category ethnic minorities contains both women and men. Something is clearly wrong here.

We could of course call this approach careless or thoughtless, if it were not so systematic in nature. Something else is going on: a seizure of power which contains separate sub-coups. Disassociating gender and ethnicity means in the first place that the ethnic positioning of white women is made invisible; a white ethnic position is supposedly not important and worthy of mention, but is at the same time elevated as the norm. At the same time, masculinity is elevated to the norm when it comes to ethnicity. Like masculinity, whiteness is an unmarked category while being black, migrant and a refugee are marked categories, like femininity is. A characteristic of marked categories is that they do not have to name themselves; the power position they represent speaks for itself. That is the reason why 'women' really refers to white women; when other women appear the latter are specifically mentioned. On the other hand, no distinction is made between men and women in the case of ethnic minorities, as a result of which men become the implicit subject and women disappear from view. In both cases the dominant pole of a pair is reinforced and elevated to the norm; in the case of women, a category which consists of different ethnicities, whiteness is dominant; in the case of ethnic minorities, a category which consists of different genders, masculinity is the norm. Therefore, we are not talking about carelessness or 'sloppy' or lazy thinking here, but about the effects of power. The argument does not hold that this is due to a historical gap, to a process of cultural or intellectual adaptation before everybody is used to the idea that Dutch society has become multicultural and strives for gender equality. In the United States where the presence of many different groups has been a fact of life for centuries, the same phenomenon is visible: there are 'women' and women of colour. Belonging to the white ethnic group or the group of men is the norm which does not have to name itself or analyse itself. That is exactly the way in which power is executed and reproduced.

Secondly, these policies reflect the belief that gender only relates to women and ethnicity only to ethnic minorities. However, gender relates as much to men as ethnicity does to white people; therefore, the recruitment of new employees affects the whole organisation. Like so many organisations trying to create more inclusive staff policies, the police seems to say implicitly that more women and 'ethnic minorities' are welcome but nothing needs to change otherwise. Often a qualitative argument comes into play here: of course new groups are welcome to enter the organisation, but this should not happen at the expense of quality. Implicitly the old organisation and traditional ways of going about things are elevated to the highest norm. A real recruitment policy would pay a lot of attention to self-reflection: which elements of company culture were satisfactory when white men were the only employees but now ought to change drastically? How can we make sure that new employees do not embody 'difference' and thereby are hypervisible? Which aims underlie the recruitment of women and men from different ethnic groups: to satisfy legal requirements, to serve clients from the same groups or because there is a shortage in the reservoir of the usual labour force? Is it not the case that every self-respecting organisation - the police, educational or commercial enterprises - ought to realise that it is functioning in a completely different world?

Organisations which would like to change should examine themselves to gain an insight into their own motives and to find out which parts of the organisation need revision. Often there is hardly any attention paid to the structural effects of sexism and racism. As a result people are welcomed at the door and pushed out through that same revolving door. Like many other organisations, the police is a monoculture which has its roots in the period in which labour was mainly carried out by Dutch men of the ethnic majority group. This culture is still advantageous to them. Very often 'intangible' daily interactions, procedures, traditional and accepted ways of doing, discussing and solving things decide who is included and who is excluded. How do colleagues interact at work and outside work? Which qualities are necessary for a manager to have and how culturally determined are these qualities? Which emotional tone is heard in conflicts and which one is effective? (see Redmond and Brouns, 2000, for an analysis of 'the daily turbulence on the shopfloor' of a big supermarket chain).

Thirdly and paradoxically, society as a whole seems to have reached consensus that the emancipation of - white - women is complete, in spite of the recruitment specifically aimed at women. In this view black, migrant and refugee woman are not there yet; they have a long way to go and ought to actively follow the example set by their white sisters (Wekker, 1996). It is not only unexpected 'supporters of women's issues' such as Frits Bolkestein (1991, 1997) and Pim Fortuyn (1997) who express this view in lectures and articles, young people in lecture-rooms are also convinced of the fact that emancipation is an outdated cause, that their (grand)mothers and aunts have put things in order, and that they and their future partners will find individual solutions when their children are born. They believe in emancipation in singular, not in a collective movement which exposes and denounces structural inequalities. From the 1970s onwards a broad cultural and political change has taken place, which puts a belief in the improvement of one's own individual existence before a belief in the improvement of society (Saharso, 1997).

In public spaces a shift in attention from gender to ethnicity has taken place in the narrow sense described above. Currently the issue of 'de allochtoon', of ethnic minorities is an important item on the agenda. In education, health care and on the labourmarket - domains that are the focus of government intervention - this message is heard loudly and clearly. Because of the approach described above in which gender (i.e. white women) and ethnicity (i.e. ethnic minority men) not only exclude each other but are opposites, the effects are deplorable but nearly unavoidable.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands confuses the legal emancipation of men and women with equality, as is the case in other Western countries. In spite of the general satisfaction and national self-congratulation about the leap forward, which Dutch women made during the second feminist wave, there are many signs of their unequal positions, such as the deplorable number of female (associate) University professors (Bosch, Hoving and Wekker, 1999), the lagging number of female captains of industry, stereotypical public images of successful women, the unequal division of tasks when it comes to labour and care, the definition and the content of public debates, sexual violence. Gender, in relation to ethnicity, is an important mechanism that determines and orders the opportunities and chances people will have in their lives. In short, dominant views make use of asymmetrical, hierarchical binary categories which enable the dominant gender and the dominant ethnic group to represent themselves as neutral, non-gendered and non-ethnicized. That is how issues connected to power are normalised and hidden from view. On the basis of a chronology of Women's Studies we will now look at the views of intersectional thinkers.

Women's Studies7

Competing against the pervasive ideology that emancipation was a finished process and that men and women were supposedly equal, the universities proved to be a fertile environment for the appearance of the first feminist-socialist study-groups in 1974. They wanted to provide the insights of the women's movement with a theoretical foundation (Brouns, 1988). Feminist students and some lecturers, initially from history and the social sciences, expressed their dissatisfaction with the invisibility of women in the academy and the sexism inherent in several disciplines (Parel and Van der Wouw, 1988).

As 'the intellectual arm of the women's movement', Women's Studies were initially chiefly a passing manoeuvre to chart the lives, the accomplishments and the thoughts of white women which were deemed unimportant by traditional scholarship or were described in stereotypical ways. 'Sex' was the key concept of the new discipline and in its dominant versions it was implicitly assumed that masculine ideology was suppressing all women in the same way. Sharing femininity implied that other differences, such as ethnicity and class, were not of vital importance. This first phase of women's conscious raising is seen as the phase dominated by the unproblematized pursuit of equality with men (Buikema and Smelik, 1993). However, then already black and migrant women problematized this pursuit: whom should they measure their equality by? White women, black men or white men? The following quote is an illustration of an analysis and an appeal by a black woman, which are typical of the beginning of the 1980s:

'Racism and sexism. I have experienced these two types of oppression whose manifestations are similar. [...] The women's movement addressed my being a woman and that is why I became active. I neglected the fact that I am a negress. No wonder, the women's movement consists mainly of white women. How could I find an acknowledgement of my experiences with racism there? [...] I am black and a woman and I do not want to distinguish between them. [...] The three most important differences on the basis of which people are oppressed are class, racial and gender differences. [...] What I am arguing for is that the women's movement pay attention to racism, race relations and their effects. [...] Women in the women's movement should make a strong stand against racism without neglecting their own positions as white women and their own racist prejudices. So I do not have to prove myself as a black woman in the women's movement' (Mavis in Katijf, June 1981, p. 39).

As was common in those days this woman only used her surname. Just a few expressions are dated. What is striking here is that she mentions a number of important ingredients which are connected systematically in what later became intersectional thinking: sex, race and class. Her words are a clear appeal to think about them in connection, but the ways in which this should be done and how the relationship between these differences should be conceptualized are still hidden in the mists of time.

Although black Dutch women interested in Women's Studies formed a numerical minority from the very beginning, they are a recognizable group. The Dutch movement of black, migrant and refugee women has its roots, on the one hand, in the black anti-colonial and left-wing movement and later the movement of labour migrants and the white women's movement, on the other. This complex situation is typical of the position of black, migrant and refugee women: they participate in the experiences of both categories. With black and migrant men they share experiences of racism; with white women they share experiences of sexism, but neither of the 'party lines' takes the complexity of their situation into account (Pattynama, 1987).
When at the end of the seventies women from both movements began to call themselves black women they made the connection for the first time.8

The essay 'Woman's Disenchantment' by Joke Kool-Smit in De Gids (1967), which represents the beginning of the second feminist wave for many highly educated white women, met with little response from black, migrant and refugee women. In many ways their experiences differ from those of white women, because they experience the power of gender in different ways. Black, migrant and refugee women have always argued that it is not sufficient to look at sex only, but that it ought to be connected to 'race', as the concept was unproblematically called at the time. This insight is still relevant. Although it is not common in the Netherlands to break statistics down into gender and ethnicity (but see Hooghiemstra and Niphuis-Nell, 1995), it is obvious that the experiences of white and black, migrant and refugee women are radically different in many fields: health-care and the labourmarket (Hooghiemstra and Merens, 1999), psychiatric institutions for women and reform schools for girls, the highest levels of education and entrance to ICT. What about the violence perpetrated against women of different ethnic groups? With the United States in mind Audrey Lorde wrote:

'For us increasingly violence weaves through the daily tissues of our living - in the supermarket, in the classroom, in the elevator, in the clinic and the schoolyard, from the plumber, the baker, the saleswoman, the bus driver, the bank teller, the waitress who does not serve us.
Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you, we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs upon the reasons they are dying'

We know that Dutch women's shelters take in a disproportionate number of black, migrant and refugee women; Essed's work on everyday racism (1991) is another indication of the fact that violence against black, migrant and refugee women is greater and of a different nature.

For two reasons the contribution to Women's Studies of the handful of black, migrant and refugee women has, in retrospect, been considerable. Firstly, black, migrant and refugee women outside the University felt involved with the struggle within the discipline. Women's Studies, the new discipline which would study the lives of all women, was enormously attractive. At the same time the discipline itself was a symbol of the exclusion of black, migrant and refugee women even by their allies. Secondly, thanks to the open nature of Women's Studies, black, migrant and refugee women were inspired by North-American and British theoreticians of colour who were eloquent about their exclusion from Women's Studies. This problem was not uniquely Dutch: it was a problem experienced by many black, migrant and refugee women in the Western world, and its name was racism. Black women, quite emphatically, saw themselves as members of an international black movement which rejected the attention for the structuring effect of sex while neglecting race and class. An important source of inspiration for many was the already mentioned North-American/Caribbean poet and theoretician Audre Lorde, who visited the Netherlands twice (during the summers of 1984 and 1986) and who wanted to meet as many black, migrant and refugee women as possible. Her analyses of the positions of Afro-American women in the United States made an enormous impression:

'Within this country where racial differences create a constant, if unspoken, distortion of vision, Black women have on the one hand always been highly visible, and so, on the other hand, have been rendered invisible through the personalization of racism. Even within the women's movement, we have had to fight, and still do, for that very invisibility which also renders us most vulnerable, our Blackness. For to survive in the mouth of this dragon we call America, we have had to learn this first and most vital lesson - that we were never meant to survive' (1984:42).

From Sex To Gender

In the 1980s, under the influence of theoretical developments within the English-speaking world, the concept of gender gained increasing acceptance in Dutch Women's Studies. When compared to sex, 'gender' allowed for a broader and more dynamic perspective. The concept of gender, which lacks a suitable Dutch equivalent, refers to social interpretations of biological differences between men and women. As we saw earlier these biological differences do not speak for themselves; what is important are the meanings given to these differences in a particular culture. In Western societies biological difference is coupled to the idea that masculinity is superior and femininity is inferior. Gender is the complex and ever-changing system of personal, social and symbolical relations through which men and women are created socially and through which they get access to roles, identities, status, power and material resources available in society. Both men and women have gendered identities and experience gender relations, but they experience them differently, because of the a-symmetrical social processes through which men and women become men and women. The analytical category gender has fulfilled a paradigmatic role in the development of a constructivist vision on women, men and relations between the sexes (Bosch 1999, p. 19). Where the monolithical category 'sex' paid attention to women as a homogenous group of 'victims' and men as 'oppressors', excluding them from education and research, gender refers to the social interpretation of masculinity and femininity. The abandonment of the concept of sex also meant a distancing from a model which has disadvantage at its centre, imprisoning women and femininity, requiring special measures. Interpretations of masculinity and femininity are no longer fixed, but may vary according to historical periods, social contexts, culture, class background, ethnicity and/or other factors. As a consequence, gender offers possibilities for change and variation. Women are no longer seen as a disadvantaged group only, men are no longer unilaterally seen as oppressors; there is too much variation between women and too much variation between men to make such a one-sided classification useful.

The gradual paradigmatic change from sex to gender and an increasing insight into the differences between women made the emergence of ethnicity as an issue on the feminist agenda unavoidable from the 1990s onwards. Like gender, ethnicity is created, it is a social construction or 'invention'; ethnicity refers to the personal, social and symbolical meanings given to 'racial' and etnic differences between people. Those meanings are not fixed forever. We can imagine ethnicity more fruitfully as an unfinished and contradictory process of the social formation of groups in which the boundaries between 'us' and 'them' are constantly defined, contested and repositioned (Hall, 1991, Pattynama en Verboom, 2000).

Like gender, ethnicity is played out at three levels which influence each other: the personal, the social and the symbolical level. At the personal level, the assignment of ethnicity to individuals plays a role in every society that is structured by 'race/ethnicity' and, therefore, organized hierarchically. Just as all boys and girls find out very quickly that being a boy has more advantages and offers possibilities, research done in societies structured by ethnicity shows that when they have reached the age of 3 or 4 children know that the white ethnic position is most desirable (Williams, P., 1997).

At the social level we find a whole system of ideas and expectations concerning 'race'/ethnicity: which types of behaviour, qualities and skills are ascribed to different groups and how are they appreciated? The controversial IQ tests which repeatedly show the so-called higher IQ of white people present themselves as a star example of unequal expectations and qualities. Finally, symbolically 'white' and 'black' represent complete opposites. 'White' still represents light, goodness, clarity, safety, innocence and purity, while 'black' represents evil, ignorance, danger, darkness, a clandestine nature and dirt (see for instance Van Dales Groot Woordenboek der Nederlandse Taal, 1992; Harding, 1993).

In the English-language literature the concept 'race' exists side by side with ethnicity, while in the Netherlands - similar to many European countries since World War II - the use of the term 'race' when referring to people has been discredited. It is only applied to species of plants and animals. Although 'race' is a fiction and although the differences within so-called 'racial groups' are bigger than the differences between these groups, this does not mean that thinking in terms of 'race' is an obsolete phenomenon. Generally 'race' went underground in well-informed circles and was replaced by a concept of culture. Although we do not speak any longer of superior or inferior 'races', the representation of cultures as 'different' is not neutral either; often it is a matter of an implicit evaluation of Western culture as modern and civilized and of non-Western culture as uncivilized and traditional (Balibar, 1990). It is important to see that there are different scholarly ways of conceptualizing the relationship between gender and ethnicity. The most popular way differs from the kind of thinking advocated by intersectional thinkers. In 1996 Rosi Braidotti and Gloria Wekker wrote:

'Although through the years black Dutch feminist thinkers have tried to put anti-racism and multiculturalism on the Women's Studies agenda, this did not result in race, ethnicity, class and sexuality being approached as integral co-constructions of gender or sexual difference. The result so far is merely that lipservice is paid to the importance of this insight by enumerating how women's experiences may differ while one still thinks in terms of an imaginary white, female, middle-class subject. In anthologies it has also become impossible not to pay attention to the co-construction of gender and ethnicity in at least some of the contributions, while the other contributions honour the normal, naturalised state of affairs'. (1996, p. 9-10).

In fact this diagnosis is still valid. This separated way of thinking about gender and ethnicity has played an influential role in the kind of diversity thinking that found acceptance in the Netherlands on a large scale. In 'Emancipation in execution' and 'Policy Letter Emancipation 1997', diversity is called 'a source of inspiration' and 'an enrichment'. Although 'the diversity of policies' sounds soothing at first, it is very important to pay attention to what is precisely meant by it. Diversity thinking may or may not coincide with intersectional thinking. Mineke Bosch argues that diversity is related to

'a range of socially ordered categories such as gender, 'race', ethnicity and class, age, sexuality, religion and physical possibilities/restrictions, those categories in other words which create social differences in a society [...] which often imply social inequality and/or power differences, be it not in the same way or in the same degree'. (1999, p. 21).

Thinking about diversity often has a accumulative character: it leads to enumerations such as men and women; whites and blacks, 'allochtonen' and 'autochtonen', repeating precisely the dichotomies it ought to transcend. In other words, often gender and ethnicity are still/again disassociated and accumulated. Difference is the point of departure: that is, there is a self-evident implicit norm - masculinity, belonging to the white group and/or to the middle-class - and everyone deviating from this norm is classified as other. Because of this, ideas about diversity in no way guarantee that dominant groups will become self-reflexive; ideas about diversity are usually aimed at the growth of 'them' - for instance white women or members of ethnic minorities - in a certain branch or organisation. The slogan now seems to be 'the more difference, the better' as long as we do not have to talk about power differences.

From the outset intersectional thinking, on the other hand, carries the suggestion of simultaneity and dynamism: this kind of thinking assumes that everyone is situated on the axes of gender and ethnicity and the concomitant power positions.

Gender And Ethnicity

At several locations in the United States and Great Britain the time was ripe for intersectional thinking at the beginning of the 1990s. It may seem superfluous but it is important to emphasize that these are countries with substantial groups of black, migrant and refugee women whose members have reached a level of education that allows them to develop theories about society and the lives of women. Black, migrant and refugee women in these countries take their departure from the simple but fundamental conviction that their lives are valuable and that no other progressive movement has prioritised the specific oppression of black women.

However, intersectional thinking did not appear out of thin air. In 1977 the Combahee River Collective in Boston published the now famous 'A Black Feminist Statement' which already described the entanglement of the systems of oppression under which black women live:

'The most general statement of our politics at the present time would be that we are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking. The synthesis of these oppressions creates the conditions of our lives'.9

The term intersectionality was first used by the American lawyer Kimberle Crenshaw (1989, idem in Morrisson, 1992). Where Crenshaw declared intersectional thinking only applicable to black women, others, such as the literary scholar Valerie Smith, extended the concept to include everyone. In the meantime, new research about whiteness as an ethnic position has stripped whiteness of its 'natural' status. In this type of research whiteness is no longer seen as an indescribable, empty, transhistorical essence, but as a material, cultural and subjective location which is variable according to time and place and which can be described.10 White ethnic positions are, like other positions, complex constructions and products of local, regional, national and global relations, from the past and the present. Moreover, they are constructed in connection with sex and class. Many of these studies take their departure from intersectionality or intersectional thinking. The contribution that black feminists have made to the feminist project is the development of analytical models which allow for a realisation of the simultaneity of gender, ethnicity, nation, class and sexuality (Smith, 1998, p. xv). These five axes of the social construction of meaning are crucial to our feelings of who we are; we live our lives on the axes of gender, ethnicity, class, nation and sexuality (Lubiano, 1997; Williams, R., 1997).11

The work done by Floya Anthias and Nira Yuval-Davis in Great-Britain, entitled Racialised Boundaries. Race, Nation, Gender, Colour, Class and the Anti-Racist Struggle (1992), has also greatly influenced discussions in the Netherlands. They showed that the debate about racism within feminism had focused too strongly on black women, while other forms of exclusion aimed at Mediterranean migrants or Jewish women were hardly discussed. This observation is also valid in the Dutch context. In so far as staffing is concerned, it is striking that in the late 1970s and 80s women of the former Dutch East Indies, the Molucca Islands, Surinam and the Antilles actively engaged with Women's Studies either inside or outside academia, while in the 1990s migrant and refugee women directly or indirectly acquired a voice.

Anthias and Yuval-Davis also pointed out that every form of social exclusion has its own history and that it is, therefore, better to speak of plural racisms. Racism aimed at Surinamese people is for instance different from racism aimed at Turkish or Moroccan people. Furthermore, racisms are always gendered: racism aimed at men of a certain group is different from the kind aimed at women of the same group. Men of colonised groups have often been represented as effeminate and soft, while women have been represented as exactly the opposite: masculine and sexually aggressive. Of course the implicit point of comparison remains the idealised white, masculine and feminine Self. As mentioned earlier, these images change over time: in the late nineteenth century Islamic harem women were seen as the epitome of eroticism and sensuality, whereas currently they are the symbol of sexual backwardness and lack of freedom (Lutz, 1991b). Surinamese women, on the other hand, are seen as sexual libertines who do not distinguish between male and female partners, while the implicit standard is the sexually liberated white woman from the period following the Sexual Revolution (Wekker, 1994; 1998; 2001). In their turn these different racisms must be contextualized and historicized, embedded and researched in connection with nationality, gender, colour and class.

For a number of Dutch scholars this approach opened the door to a discussion of the differences within the category 'black, migrant and refugee women'. They foregrounded representations of Turkish and Moroccan women and showed that where this group was concerned, a concept of culture, linked to a long history of Islamophobia, formed the basis of the legitimation of their social marginalisation.12 While many black women in the Netherlands own a Dutch passport and are more or less legimitized to speak because of this, many migrant and refugee women have to fight for this right (Zarkov, 1996; Ghorashi, 1999). Refugees in particular are in an ambivalent position vis-a-vis (membership of) the Dutch nation, because they have fled persecution in their country of origin and are obliged to be grateful, while they are never seen as Dutch, even after long years of residence, and are not allowed to speak from this position. Quandaries that are inherent to ideas about the state, the nation and identity become visible here (see also Zarkov, 1999, and the chapter 'Keeping my identity' by Esther Captain and Halleh Ghorashi in Botman, Jouwe, Wekker 2001).

All these influences and movements have functioned as pioneers of intersectional thinking. In a certain way these discussions, which are still going on, have helped to put the diversity of social positionings on the Women's Studies agenda and have accelerated the theoretical development of finely tuned research tools.

Intersectional analysis is a way of analysing cultural texts, in a broad sense, which everybody can learn. For the sake of brevity we have referred exclusively to gender and ethnicity in this chapter, but it is important that other factors are included in analyses of social relations and cultural texts whenever possible. Intersectional thinking takes as its point of departure the idea that gender and ethnicity (and those other factors by which we are assigned social positions) are interdependent, interwoven systems of ideas and practices with regard to differences between people. In other words, gender, ethnicity and class always come into being simultaneously and in relation to each other. This means that gender always already has an ethnic and a class dimension and that ethnicity is always gendered and has a class dimension. In newspaper articles about criminal Moroccan youngsters (ethnicity), we often encounter disguised ways of talking about boys (gender) of whom it is assumed as a matter of course that they live in 'disadvantaged areas': a euphemistic phrase used to avoid the statement that they belong to the lower income groups (class). What the old sexism/racism debate and intersectional thinking have in common is that both have always tried to reach a deeper understanding of the positions of as many women (and men) as possible in ways which assume the simultaneous effects of structures of signification.

Asking The Other Question

What does intersectional thinking mean in daily practice? Firstly, it is important to realize that the way of thinking suggested by intersectional thinkers - i.e. the idea that as many relevant axes of social signification as possible are analysed in relation to each other - goes against the grain of much common sense thinking. It is difficult to learn and practice this other, more inclusive, way of thinking. It means of course that we want to break with the habit of thinking in binary, hierarchical categories which produce exclusion over and over again. Now that we realize that thinking in separate structures is of no use and that it fails to offer us solutions to the complex problems associated with living in a gender conscious and intercultural society, intersectional thinking is worth a try.

Apart from that it requires us to be conscious of the fact that all of us, men and women of different ethnic groups, live our lives on those different axes. Kim Crenshaw says somewhere: 'only a fool lives on an intersection', but the reality is that we all live on intersections and that some of us are more aware of this than others. Some combinations of positions are more powerful than others: to have a masculine position, to own and occupy a white ethnic position, to belong to the middle or upper class, to be heterosexual and belong to the Dutch nation as a matter of course, are ingredients which may seduce us into thinking that our positions are 'normal' and natural, stripped of and constructed outside of power relations. However, we, our knowledge and our subjectivity are constructed in histories which are cut through by differentially constituted power relations (Mohanty, 1991).

Finally, as a piece of good news, there is a remedy. The lawyer Mari Matsuda has developed an instrument that enables us to ask 'the other question' in every analysis:

'The way I try to understand the interconnection of all forms of subordination is through a method I call 'ask the other question'. When I see something that looks racist, I ask, 'Where is the patriarchy in this?' When I see something that looks sexist, I ask 'Where is the heterosexism in this?' When I see something that homophobic, I ask, 'Where are the class interests in this?' (1991, p. 1189).

Those are the sort of questions we will be asking of a number of recent Dutch police recruitment campaigns.

The Recruitment Of Ethnic Minorities

As was mentioned earlier, in the 1980s a number of regional police campaigns were aimed at recruiting women, including ethnic minority women. Rotterdam and The Hague distributed local recruitment newspapers with a photograph of six black women in uniform accompanied by the following text: 'Why more Antillean and Surinamese women ought to choose police work as a profession'. The answer to this question consists of a long text in which it is first explained in Dutch and then in Papiamento and Arabic why policework is attractive to women (because it is fascinating work which pays well), what it entails and what the selection and police training are like. Sometimes almost childish words are used to pass on this message: 'Let's not misunderstand each other. Members of the police force do not have an easy profession'. In a snapshot of the police in Hengelo and Enschede ethnicity is even used directly as a recruitment slogan. A woman of colour smiles at a (white?) child on her arm. The accompanying text is as follows: 'If you originally talk with an accent, the police force is able to offer you a job which will appeal to you'. A page-long text explains this: '...in other words, in the police force your mouth is your best weapon, with the added advantage that you will better understand the members of your own section of the population than Dutch police officers can'.

These campaigns have to be judged against the background of the emancipation and 'allochtonen' policies of the 1980s. Their aim was to recruit ethnic minorities and to ease the communication between the police force and the new ethnic minorities among the public. The foreign accent is connected to Antillean and Surinamese women, not to Turkish or Moroccan women. We are talking here about women who own a Dutch passport and who by birth have a firm grasp of the Dutch language. The campaigns also fit into the kind of policies prevalent in the 1980s, which distinguished between women from the so-called recruitment countries and women from the ex-colonies. The latter were better educated and were supposed to be more Western, that is emancipated, and, therefore, like Dutch women inclined to storm the male bastions. However, in recruitment brochures aimed at police officers a few white women are shown and no ethnic minority men and women at all. Therefore, people are recruited for practical work at the lowest level.

More generally and fitting in that time period, it can be said that those campaigns were aimed at the emancipation of minorities. People were solely addressed as group members who have responsibilities and loyalties befitting the group. In the 1990s this idea changed considerably, as a consequence of the partial abandonment of the group approach.

'What You Stand For'

The last national police campaign started in October 1999 with the slogan 'What you stand for is needed on the street'. In contradiction to earlier campaigns, this one did not show any uniforms and a direct link to the police force was absent. The police is only shown at the end together with a telephone number. It could have been a campaign for any kind of arbitrarily chosen profession which disciplines its members (for instance the security service). The campaign consisted of both television and radio adverts as well as cards and posters. The television adverts were broadcast by commercial channels such as Veronica, Radio 538 and SBS 6 in an attempt to reach the target group: young people from the age of sixteen. The posters were published in magazines aimed at the young such as Hitkrant, Viva and One. In contradiction to earlier campaigns, this one was not aimed at groups but at individuals: YOU. The six broadcasts of 20 seconds show close-ups of young people against a lively background. These are always black, coloured or white young men and women with expressive faces, as many men as women. They look into the camera with a fixed and serious expression and say nothing, while a voice articulates their thoughts. Every broadcast ends with a man's voice saying 'what you stand for is needed on the street. Call us for a better job'. One theme runs through the whole campaign: senseless violence is countered by useful (police)work, aggressive behaviour is changed into specific action. The first advert shows a young man with blond hair, skaters in the background. His thoughts are as follows: 'my grandmother's stew is the best in the whole world. She misses my granddad. Yes, she would like to have a dog. Yes, she does not dare to step into the street anymore. I think that's awful'.

As is the case in the other adverts, young people are apparently pictured in their own world and their own norms and values are addressed. The boy mentioned above represents 'the guardian angel', a type of person with masculine feelings of care for 'the weak'. This message is reinforced even more by the white girl on skates who passes him and looks up to him just when the slogan is mentioned. It could have been any young man. However, the advert acquires a different meaning when we compare it to the third advert of the campaign that features a black boy in trunks in an outdoor swimming pool. The text is as follows: 'Yes, I've got the black belt. Of course they fuck with me sometimes. If only because I am coloured. But then I don't get into a fight. I just talk them over'. When we ask ourselves the question w hether we could replace the blond boy with the black boy or whether they could be replaced by a (white or a black) girl, we see that a number of problematic assumptions underlie the adverts. Physical violence and aggression are only mentioned in the advert with the black boy: taking care of the elderly is reserved for the white boy. Why does the message from (and to!) the black boy take the form of a mission of civilization: don't fight but instead choose communication! In a pre-constructed context, i.e. a context in which especially black boys in particular are associated with violence, this kind of advert is not innocent. It agrees with the already existing 'knowledge' the viewer has: elderly white women are often victims of violence; perpetrators of violence are (young) men from ethnic minorities.13 Although both men have dyed their hair blond, it is not coincidental that the guardian angel is white; he represents the 'colourless' masculine subject. And it is no accident that the black boy with a muscular body evokes images of (black) virility.

It is not possible for a black girl to replace the black boy, because by definition girls are supposed to solve problems by being communicative and non-violent, let alone a white boy or girl, because they are unmarked ethnically and do not have to defend themselves (against racist remarks) and do not run the risk of exploding with fury.
When we ask these types of questions in the context of the second advert, a similar problem emerges. The advert features a lightly coloured young woman, perhaps the child of a mixed marriage. She is standing near a pool table in some kind of pub. The camera comes closer until we see her face. The recorded text is as follows: 'You know what is ridiculous? When you go out and boys are trying to determine who has the biggest knife. I mean, if you think that that is interesting why don't you become a butcher or something?' This girl ridicules the boys' obsession with knives, at least that is the first impression given. But which boys is she talking about here? Who does she go out with? Again the message is steeped in dominant representations of male 'allochtonen' who are reputed to be knife fighters (Turkish, Moroccan and Antillean men). Moreover, the condescending tone and the attitude which define the work of butchers as a counteruniverse to the white collar police profession refer to another hierarchical difference, namely class. In referring to the biggest knife the advert also contains a disguised reference to sexuality: does this girl ridicule a masculine preoccupation with the question 'who has the biggest' or does she affirm it? And is this preoccupation only attributed to black, migrant and refugee men?

The fourth advert also features a young woman who condemns masculine violence. We see a blonde (white) girl on a bike who is waiting in front of a drawbridge (notice the Dutch surroundings). The recorded text is: 'I don't want to see Hans for the time being. He just walked away when his best friend was beaten up. I was taught by my parents that you have to stand up for each other. That's not unrealistic, is it?' This advert links up with recent discussions about senseless violence about which the viewer knows that they play a role in the lives of white boys (i.e. Hans). This girl expresses the opinion that it is about time indifference to this kind of violence comes to an end.

Both adverts deal with the moral superiority women have vis-a-vis men when it comes to violence. Therefore, these individuals could not have been boys. But it is also hard to imagine that the two young women could have swapped places. The fifth advert features a white girl at a train station. The text is: 'You know what I would find awful? A job which doesn't allow you to be significant to people. Perhaps some people don't find that important. But I just do'. The message links up with the assumption that especially women prefer to do useful work. In this case the girl could have been black, because feminine character traits are addressed.

In the last advert we see a blond boy with a car at a petrol station: 'Well, I don't think it's funny, those blokes who get a thrill out of cutting off others or driving too close. I like to play, but not with other people's lives'. It is not coincidental that a white young man says this: car racing is (still) dominated by white men who like to play games, something which is the prerogative of rich white men anyway. The young messenger who subtly explains the rules of the game (of the road) reacts against those people who get a thrill out of it. Without being concrete about them, every reader/viewer has an impression of who 'those blokes' are. In most cases they will be young and (therefore?) aggressive, more likely masculine than feminine. At this point in time, it is not likely at all that the role of the boy in this advert could be fulfilled by a black boy, let alone a (white or black) girl.

By way of conclusion we would like to argue that the campaign still contains all kinds of stereotypical images, even though at first sight it is a well thought-out campaign: it is linked to modern 'diversity thinking' aimed at the individual, because it conveys the message that everyone is free to choose his or her own way. The producers have clearly been influenced by contemporary insights into the ethnic multiplicity of society. However, an analysis on the basis of intersectional thinking exposes a number of aspects which reproduce inequality. These aspects would have remained invisible otherwise. It is not sufficient to pay attention to gender - are both boys and girls represented? - but it is necessary to show how gender is interwoven with different images of ethnicity. It is just as important to heed the use of metaphors which refer symbolically to certain sections of the population, i.e. the way in which violent solutions to conflicts are connected to black boys and the way in which knife fighters become synonymous with Moroccan and Turkish boys. Here too the other question should be asked, for instance what happens if we fill every advert with a different gender? Which meanings come into being if we think of ethnicity differently? These questions support the acquisition of knowledge of the ways in which representations reproduce gendered and ethnizised stereotypes.

With this we have paid attention to only one particular aspect of intercultural policies, though, namely recruitment; it is obvious that all other elements of such policies ought to be analysed from the perspective of intersectional thinking. In a general sense it seems that many institutions, such as the police, have a long way to go on the road to diversity policies, or rather, intersectional policies.


In this chapter we have mapped a number of important contributions that Dutch black, migrant and refugee women have made to Women's Studies. Especially in the early stages, but also later, black, migrant and refugee women outside and inside the Universities were greatly interested in Women's Studies. They took the original promise made by Women's Studies very seriously, that it was going to be an intervention into the lives of all women. Often this meant that black, migrant and refugee women experienced a sojourn on a cold wind-swept plain, in the course of which they wanted 'to come in from the cold'.
At every stage in Women's Studies, black, migrant and refugee women have insisted that the complexity of the category 'women' should be taken into account. In the early stages they pointed to the connections between sexism and racism and demanded that feminism should be intrinsically anti-racist. In the last phase they conceived of gender as simultaneously constructed with ethnicity, class, sexuality and nationality. Due to the openness of Dutch Women's Studies to influences from abroad they could elaborate on the work of black British and American women.

With the aid of a case study, police recruitment campaigns, we have illustrated what the ideas of black, migrant and refugee women have produced in practice: a gender and ethnicity conscious analysis shows that gender and ethnicity are separated at the heart of dominant thinking, as illustrated by these campaigns. The ideas within Dutch government institutions and private enterprise, within what we think is 'normal' in society or indeed even within disciplines, are characterized by common assumptions about gender and ethnicity which repeatedly cause a discrepancy between formulated policies and practice.

Translation: Christien Franken
with thanks to Daniel Carroll


1. This is a translation of Gloria Wekker en Helma Lutz, Een hoogvlakte met koude winden. De geschiedenis van het gender- en etniciteitsdenken in Nederland. In: Botman, Maayke, Nancy Jouwe, Gloria Wekker, Caleidoscopische visies. De zwarte, migranten en vluchtelingenvrouwenbeweging in Nederland. Amsterdam (Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen) 2001 pp. 25-49.

2. This chapter is based on previous work of the authors and an examination of the records. With thanks to Vera van den Berg for her research on police campaigns and to Maayke Botman and Nancy Jouwe for their research on the Women's Movement. We also like to thank Kathy Davis, Sawitri Saharso, Petra Branderhorst and Rosi Braidotti for their comments on an earlier version.
(translator's note: The words 'black, migrant and refugee women' are the English translation of the Dutch words 'zwarte, migranten en vluchtelingenvrouwen' (abbreviated as 'ZMV-vrouwen'). For a discussion of the (political) history of the name 'ZMV-vrouwen' see Esther Captain and Halleh Ghorashi, 'Tot behoud van mijn identiteit', In: Botman, Jouwe, Wekker 2001. The Dutch word 'allochtonen' is put between quotation marks to denote its controversial character. 'Allochtonen' literally means 'those people who are not from here'. 'Allochtonen' is translated as ethnic minorities.)

3. Oral statement by dr Lieteke van Vucht-Thijssen in the context of an expert meeting for post-graduate teacher training courses, organized by GEM and Echo on 16 November 2000 in Utrecht.

4. In another young discipline, Ethnic Studies, the concept 'ethnicity' has been a central one. Ethnicity refers exclusively to the 'Other', to ethnic minorities. Objects of study are mainly (Surinamese, Turkish and Moroccan) men. Within Ethnic Studies gender is not a systematic object of research, just like ethnicity is not given a chance within Women's Studies. The division of labour between Women's Studies and Ethnic Studies illustrates the type of dominant thinking about gender and ethnicity which is discussed at length in this chapter.

5. See Essed, 1991, 1995; Lutz , 1991a en b, 1995, 2000; Wekker in Lutz et al., 1995, in Bosch et al., 1999.

6.Provo's (short for provocatives) and 'Kabouters'are political movements of mainly young white radical men.

7. This paragraph is largely based on Wekker in Wekker and Braidotti, 1996, and in Bosch, Hoving and Wekker, 1999. For a description of the development of Women's Studies, see also the chapter entitled 'One piece of the puzzle is always missing' by Loewenthal in Botman, Jouwe, Wekker 2001.

8. For an overview of the origins of the movement of black, migrant and refugee women in the Netherlands, see the mobile exhibition of the IIAV: 'Underexposed, the movement of black, migrant and refugee women in the Netherlands' (1995) ('Onderbelicht, de Zwarte, Migranten- en Vluchtelingenvrouwenbeweging in Nederland' (1995).

9. The roots of intersectional thinking can already be found in the first American feminist wave, with women such as Harriet Tubman, Mary Church Terrell and Sojourner Truth with her famous speech 'Ain't I a Woman?' in Akron, Ohio (1851).

10. Studies of whiteness as an ethnic position have also not appeared from out of the blue. From the nineteenth century onwards mainly African-Americans have written about what it means to be white in a segregated society that is structured by race (Roediger, 1998; see Morrison, 1992; Ware, 1992; Frankenberg, 1993; Phoenix and Tizard, 1993; Dyer, 1997).

11. Sometimes other factors are added, such as age, physical condition, religion, appearance, regional origin etcetera. The decision as to which factors should be analysed in a particular situation is an empirical one. In other words, it is not possible to decide beforehand which factors are relevant in all circumstances. It is possible, though, to argue that all five axes are important to the Dutch situation at this point in time, although this does not mean that it is always possible to take all five into consideration in the analysis.

12. See Lutz and Moors, 1989, Lutz, 1991a and b; Van der Zwaard, 1993, 1994; Bouhalhoul and Van der Zwaard, z.j.; Van Walsum, 1995.

13. Pre-constructed knowledge relies on sexist and racist prejudices that have developed into a descriptive logic, which exists by the grace of continuous repetition. Explanations are unnecessary because concepts refer to 'knowledge' which already exists. Through the years such knowledge acquires a certain relevance through repetition and confirmation.


Anthias, F. and N. Yuval-Davis, Racialised Boundaries. Race, Nation, Gender, Colour and Class and the Anti-Racist Struggle. London and New York (Routledge) 1992.

Balibar, E., 'The Nation Form-History and Ideology'. In: Review, XII/s, 1990, p. 329-361.

Beek, K. van, To be hired or not be hired. Amsterdam (UvA) 1993.

Blokker, B., 'Het heet een debat, het is een monoloog'. In: NRC Handelsblad 22 April 2000 (Interview with Gerrie ter Haar).

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