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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Another 6 ideas to steal from OpenIDEO

Prototype for international matching of bone marrow donors

Prototype for international matching of bone marrow donors


Last week, UnLtd posted 6 ideas to steal from OpenIDEO. And that’s a wonderful thing to do. As you know, I’m a big OpenIDEO fan, and in the almost three years of its existence, it has grown out to an enormous repository of great ideas to tackle social issues. All these ideas are in the public domain, free for you to implement. And improve your community. So, following the lead of UnLtd, here are my six ideas to steal from OpenIDEO.
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How the right frame can make statistics dangerous

Look left for the right frame in Hong Kong traffic

Look left for the right frame in Hong Kong traffic

Today I read two articles in which statistics played a key part. And what I read in them as well, is that framing the way the statistics are presented has a fundamental effect on the message. Now, this is nothing new. But with the ever proliferating free news sites, and the ease with which a journalist, or a random person, can become an authority these days, I think that what these two articles really meant to me today, was the need for the ability to think for yourself.
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Three sites to help you avoid eating horsemeat unintentionally

Real meat at restaurant Vincents in Riga

Real meat at restaurant Vincents in Riga

Let me start by saying that selling food means that you have to be clear on what it contains. If you claim your lasagna or burgers or whatever are made of beef, they should contain beef. And not pork or horsemeat. In light of the scandal recently uncovered in Europe, I think the sellers of ready-made meals are responsible for making sure that what’s in the product, is declared on the packaging. I also think that relabeling one type of (cheaper) meat to another (more expensive one), to make an extra profit, is fraudulent and criminal.

But in this horsemeat story, it’s not just the complex food supply chain, or the actors in it that carry all the blame. Nor are, as one former UK official tried to make us believe, the EU regulations culpable. I think we also have to aks ourselves the question: why do we allow ourselves to know so little of such an important factor in our lives? Now that we’ve climbed Maslow’s pyramid, we seem to pay less attention to the bottom of it. Our basic needs have become less important to too many of us. We think they should be fulfilled by convenient and cheap means, and that opens up opportunities for things like the horsemeat scandal to happen. Another question we could ask ourselves is ‘how did we let it get this far?’

There’s actually an even more important question that should feature in our minds prominently now: how can we take control of what we eat again? Sure, not all of us are top chefs, or even able to cook more than an egg and some water for tea or instant soup. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take charge of what we put into our mouths to fulfill that basic need of nutrition. We can care more, and know more, about the food we put on our plates. To help with that, I would like to point out three wonderful places on the internet.

First of all, I’d like you to take a look at the OpenIDEO local food challenge. In 2011, this open innovation platform focused on connecting food consumers to food producers. As is the norm on this platform, many wonderful ideas were generated, that are available for anybody to implement. Now, there are stories available of how people are doing exactly that, and working on enabling food consumers to be more connected to their food. Go check it out and see if you can be inspired.
The OpenIDEO local food challenge: www.openideo.com/open/localfood/

The second thing you should visit is the home of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. The celebrity chef is a wonderful champion of using real food. In schools, but also at home. From food knowledge to easy recipes, this place provides you with all you need to start taking control of the food you eat.
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution: www.jamiesfoodrevolution.com

The last one I’d like to share is nothing more than a collection of 30-minute recipes from a great variety of sources. Preparing food doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. And it’s certainly worth investing your time in. And if you use real ingredients, at least you know that you’re not eating something you don’t want to eat.
30-minute recipes on Yummly: www.yummly.com/recipes?q=30+minutes