Guys should step up, and be feminists, too

Last week, Emma Watson appealed to guys to stand up for equal rights. It was a great and empathic speech in which she did that, and I was, and am, inspired. Seriously, what kind of world do I let my son grow up in, where people do not have the same rights when they are born in a certain place, in a certain gender, in a certain ethnic group or grow up to have a certain sexual orientation, religious belief system or whatever factor you can use to distinguish one person from another. Gender is just one of those factor, but maybe the biggest one. It’s the one factor that roughly splits humanity in two. Tackling this is the best first step we can take.

As a parent, I’m really astonished how early a child gets confronted with gender stereotyping. Apart from the blue and pink clothes, for me one of the most present ways are those little pictograms used in public places. Okay, I’m really fine with a different restroom for women and men. I appreciate how that’s both practical and comfortable. But what about the rooms where you can change your child’s diaper. Why on earth is that so often indicated by a pictogram indicating a mother and a child? It’s not only gender stereotyping, it’s teaching children from the very beginning that caring for a child is a mother’s role. How can we expect them to appreciate the need for equal rights, if their dads are apparently not even supposed to change their diapers?

Follow Arjan’s board MeforShe – dads are stepping up on Pinterest.

Another example I recently came across, were a few priority seats in an airport terminal. They were located closest to the gate, reserved for mothers and their children. Again, this shows that only mothers are supposed to have the need to sit down with their children in a crowded airport to calm them down, feed them or just let them rest a bit. Fathers are not even supposed to be near them.

There are more examples like these. Much more. Maybe it’s not the most striking set of examples of how we can achieve equal rights, but I believe it’s one that counts and can easily be addressed.

It’s like I wrote earlier: dads should not do the dishes more often, dads should be more present in the lives of their children. And society, for example through the use of pictograms, should support them in that, embrace their presence, and not time and again ridicule it, or exclude dads from parenting.

Stepping up is easy to do. It starts by going to the HeforShe website, and take the HeforShe commitment.

What would Baudolino do with social media

Reliquary for the 3 Magi
Reliquary for the skulls of the three Magi in the Kölner Dom

Baudolino, the main character in a book by Umberto Eco, lived in the 12th century; a time in which Europe was in turmoil. A very exciting time. From a modest background, he managed to climb up to become a trusted advisor to the emperor Frederick Barbarossa. One of his main feats in the book, is to legitimize the rule of Barbarossa by creating a relic that proves the connection between the emperor and Jesus. This was a very important accomplishment in these days.

But, Baudolino would not have liked to be seen as a forger of artefacts. In fact, in our current world he would be a political advisor, maybe a spin doctor. His main trade would be to legitimize rulers. He would likely not turn to fabricating relics anymore. With wikipedia and google, it’s easy to find out more about the provenance of such a relic. It would simply not be worth his while. No, he would turn to social media.
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Challenge the status quo: we need a new image of success and dads

TEDxBerlin stage

Let me start by making one thing clear: I’m a big fan of equality and equal opportunities. People, no matter their gender, race, (sexual) preferences, religion or whatever trait makes them distinguishable from another person, have a right to live, love and be happy. Period.

Now, this would make a very short blog post, and not more than a statement of the to me obvious. And, I can already reveal, this will be not a short blog post. Today, I saw a talk at TEDxBerlin which triggered this post. The talk was about mothers and work-life balance – to reduce it to the most simple explanation. Now, this talk was based on extensive research, and the speaker did her work very well. Only, she based it on false propositions. Basically, and again reducing this respected work to its simplest incarnation, the message was that it is unfair that women have to give up their career when a couple becomes parents, and that this should change.
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Is nobody perfect, or are our expectations distorted?

Nobody’s perfect. You can hear people say it, often to excuse another person, or themselves, for doing something ‘wrong’. And it seems so true: nobody can do everything. Or be everything. But, that’s inherent to being human. So, I would argue that the fact that we humans can’t do everything, is exactly what makes us perfect. All of us.
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10 things you can do to be happy

Pure happiness: Homemade cookies

Pure happiness: Homemade cookies

Today is International Day of Happiness, to celebrate the fact that happiness is a fundamental human goal. Here are ten things you can do to be happy. Today, tomorrow, anytime. Have a great #HappinessDay!

1: Give people compliments
Start with the ones closest to you: partners, children, parents, siblings. Then move in to neighbours, friends, colleagues. Seeing the people in your circles be happy, will make you happy.
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Want to change the world? Here’s how to start

Playing with a Soccket, a ball that generates energy. Buying one means giving a child the opportunity to join a Soccket team and learn.

In the last six weeks, I was studying at Wesleyan University. Through Coursera, that is. I was enrolled in the course How to change the world, in which we have been looking at a broad range of issues facing our planet, and on ways how we can change the world for the better. In those six weeks, we have seen many great examples of how people are working to tackle issues like extreme poverty, epidemic diseases, gender equality and climate change. And in the final lectures, we saw some Wesleyan students share their thoughts and experiences on how to change the world. But with all these important topics, and big efforts to tackle them, it might become overwhelming for those who want to start making a change themselves. So, in this post, I wanted to share my views on how you can start making a difference, some learnings I took from the course and also some tips from change makers in my ‘crowd’ (I asked my social networks for a golden tip to start making a change).
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The small forest that needs a bit of cleaning

Pristine path last winter, but under the snow..

Pristine path last winter, but under the snow..

There’s a small forest in the town where I live. You can enter it without crossing any type of barriers, apart from the trees and bushes making it hard to access in most places. There’s a path through part of it, created through usage more than anything else. A good example of a desire path.

The forest is also home to several animals. I’ve seen several types of birds, including a wood pecker, but have also encountered deer there, who either live in this forest, or see it as part of their territory. I’m not completely sure if the forest is a commons, but it is treated as such. Thus, comparable to the pasture as described in ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’ by Garrett Hardin, this forest can be treated as as a commons for the purpose of this post.

Many people who I have seen using this small forest, are passing through from a residential neighbourhood to a field. Almost all of them, including me, use it as a part of their daily dog walking routine. And then of course there is the wildlife. For me, a big part of the ‘usage’ I have from this forest, is the enjoyment of having wildlife so close to home; it gives me my daily dose of forest bathing, or shinrinyoku as it is called in Japan.
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Back to school and loving it

Taking a class on Coursera

Taking a class on Coursera

Going to school with 20000 students from all over the globe? Not a problem these days, and you can even stay at home while doing so. There are several offerings, but I recently tried out Coursera. To be honest: I started a course before, and dropped out after the first week. But this time I told my self to finish it. And I’m glad I did.
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Vitamines pour la rentrée – a September play list

La Défense concerts

It was always like a little present, when traveling through the subterranean transport system of Paris, I would hear the tunes of these wonderful artists giving their morning rush hour surprise performance. Music always helps me to get into that work state of mind. And now that September is well on its way, schools have started, vacation is over, it’s time for, as they call it in France, ‘la rentrée’. To get you going again, here’s my September playlist with tunes selected to energize you. Which songs are your ‘labour vitamins’? Let me know.

PS: if the embedded playlist doesn’t show for whatever reason, you can click here and open it in Spotify.

Don’t let your new blog topic run into a dead end: spin it off


As you may have noticed, I started blogging about being a Dad-to-be recently. After a few posts posted on this blog, I felt I had so much more to share about it, that I spun off the Dad-to-be blog to a dedicated site: The Neverending Miracle. Last year, when I was working on my poetry project A Poem Each Day, I did the same. Here are my three reasons for spinning off blogs.

On this blog here, which I’ve been keeping since 2007 after having had several other blogs before that, I try to focus on a few topics. Some posts are inspired by our expat-life: discovering things in the place we live, other by work-related interests such as innovation. Then there are the things I feel are worth sharing: interesting reads, music, observations. So, maybe you could conclude that this blog has a lack of focus. But that’s a way of keeping it on-topic just the same. Just as with the poems, I felt that my Dad-to-be posts were going to be so numerous, that they would drown out the other posts here. Plus: it is such a specific subject, that a dedicating a site to it, seems the best thing to do.

Potential direction
This blog is really my personal blog, and I intend to keep it that way. I share my thoughts here on the topics mentioned above. The poetry blog, as well as the Dad-to-be project are of a slightly different nature. And even though I am running them alone, with only my content on them, they both have/had the potential of growing out to be something else. The best way to facilitate that, is to separate that specific content from the content on this website.

While the first two point are very much ‘sender-oriented’, the main point of posting your thoughts to a blog is that people read it. The third point has much to do with the first, however, more from an ‘receiver’ point of view. The poems I published last year were aimed at and attracting a specific type of audience: those who like to read poetry online. The Dad-to-be blog also has an audience in mind: relatives/friends and those who are also Dads-to-be, or maybe recently became dads, and want to read about how another guy is experiencing all this. In both cases, the audiences are likely to also have a focus, and might be chased away if the blog is to wide-ranging.

So, there you have it: my three reasons for operating several blogs. Do you work in a similar manner? Or the opposite? Let me know in the comments.