I grew up in a small village in Overijssel. Farms and farming families were an essential part of my childhood. In 2015 I moved to Amsterdam. Here I was no longer part of a group, but was regarded as an individual. In the city, nature no longer dictated the rhythm and farm life was an oddity. People had a superficial idea of farming life. There was a clear lack of knowledge about life outside the city area. The country woman seemed to suffer most from this narrow view. She suddenly lost her context outside the village. It struck me that the farmers’ wives, the women of the land, often completely disappeared from view.
In 2016 I started a preliminary study on the position of rural women in the Netherlands. This resulted in the short documentary ‘Women of the Land’.
Besides the view from city to rural areas, I quickly learned that the bias and often very tradition gender roles within rural communities are the root of this stereotypical and unequal positioning. These women have been neglected for centuries when it comes to Dutch legislation and are disadvantaged by the nostalgic perspective from the outside. The images of life in the Dutch countryside that have shaped our collective memory seem to come from a period when people still wore traditional costumes and transported buckets of milk by bicycle. This contrasts with images from 2019 in which aggressive farmers storm the provincial house and block the highways during the farmers’ protests. These are the images that have lingered in the memory of our time. This flawed image is colored by loud voices within the discourse, but also tourism around traditional costume and the cheese factory. The idyll of farm life has become our sales pitch, a story that sees no room for nuance, inequality and diversity.
I’ve been working on a photographic story in addition to the documentary about these women, this is an ongoing project that I’m still working on today.