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OPZIJ-editor-in-chief Marleen Hogendoorn: ‘I was already a budding feminist at the age of eleven'

Marleen Hogendoorn (36) studied Dutch Language and Culture at Leiden University and is now editor-in-chief of the feminist monthly OPZIJ. How does she look back on her student life? ‘My interest in gender was sparked during my studies.’

Although Hogendoorn has only been editor-in-chief of the feminist monthly OPZIJ for a few months, she is anything but a newbie when it comes to feminism. She has regularly written about women’s rights in magazines such as HP/De Tijd and OPZIJ since 2015, with articles about gender inequality in sport and interviews with inspiring women.

‘In my view a feminist is someone who aims for equal rights for men and women.’ 

Feminism is also a recurrent theme in her free time, mainly because she wants to get people talking about it. ‘In my view a feminist is someone who aims for equal rights for men and women,’ she says. ‘So it doesn’t take much to be a feminist!’ But others don’t see it that way.

People often find it strange when I say that my husband is a feminist. They have that stereotypical image of an angry woman in dungarees with hairy armpits. I try to break that stereotype by keeping the conversation going about feminism and actively asking people for their opinions on it.’

Typically male and female language use

Hogendoorn’s interest in feminism began at an early age. ‘As a child I was already aware of gender inequality. My primary school assessment meant I should have been advised to follow pre-university education, but I was advised to do higher general secondary education instead. I felt I had been underestimated because I was blond and a girl, and that felt really unfair. So looking back I was a budding feminist at the age of 11 already.’

Feminism continued to be important to Hogendoorn after secondary school, when she was doing her degree in Dutch Language and Culture at Leiden University. ‘My interest in gender was sparked during my studies. I took various courses on gender and learnt, for example, about the differences between typically male and typically female language use. But at the time I had no idea that I would actually do anything with it later.’

Marleen Hogendoorn (right) with the board of the Nieuw Nederlands Peil study association at Mas Y Mas

Mas Y Mas and pub poetry

The Dutch Language and Culture programme at Leiden University was the logical option for Hogendoorn. ‘I had a great Dutch teacher and could discuss literature with him. My love of the subject comes from him. And I always liked writing. This was a good combination for a degree in Dutch. It was soon clear that this would be at Leiden University. I grew up in Leiderdorp and already had a good life in Leiden.’

Hogendoorn has fond memories of student life in Leiden. ‘I still live in Leiden and whenever I walk along Witte Singel or past one of the flats I lived in as a student, I get flashbacks,’ she says. ‘I learnt how to party like a pro when I started university and could often be found at Mas Y Mas. I also did fun things with the Nieuw Nederlands Peil (NNP) study association. We did pub poems, reciting your favourite poem in a pub. Some students even knew whole poems by heart. It really was a great, carefree time that I look back on with pleasure.’

Feminism in 2023

It was also during her studies that Hogendoorn took her first steps in her career as an editor. As a student she had her own column about politics in Leidsch Dagblad newspaper and she also worked at the Omroep West broadcaster. Fourteen years after graduating she is now, together with Noémi Prent, editor-in-chief of OPZIJ: a dream come true. As editors-in-chief they want OPZIJ to be a platform for all forms of feminism and to appeal to younger feminists in particular who, now in 2023, are fighting for the feminist cause. Because feminism is still needed.

‘Although my husband is on the top of the contact list, they always call me if one of my daughters is ill.’

‘There are big and small things that we can work on in the Netherlands,’ says Hogendoorn. ‘A big thing is the right to abortion, for example. It is legal in the Netherlands, but it is in the Penal Code, which means it is officially a punishable offence. And in another political climate, this could have a very adverse effect, as we saw last year in the United States.

‘A smaller thing is how, for example, parenting is shared in the Netherlands. It’s really normal for mothers to take on everything to do with school. I’ve also experienced that myself. Although my husband is on the top of the contact list, they always call me if one of my daughters is ill. That should and can change.’

Impeccable grammar

As editor-in-chief Hogendoorn’s degree in Dutch Language and Culture comes in very useful, for her impeccable grammar and erudition, for example. ‘I had to read an incredible number of books for my degree. This literary basis is useful in my current work where I am also dealing with books on a weekly basis. And because of my degree, I’m the person everyone asks to check their texts for spelling mistakes. I’m always on the lookout for them, so you’re unlikely to find a spelling mistake in OPZIJ!’

Marleen Hogendoorn in her beloved Leiden

Text: Sabine Waasdorp
Photos: Marleen Hogendoorn

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