'That many women feel unsafe is a problem for all of us'

| Stan Waning

Alexandra Mulder Gonzalez (21) was voted the most active UT student in 2023 and has her own way of studying. She is motivated to bring people together with Amnesty UTwente to talk about sexual violence and taboos, discovering boundaries and gender inequality. This is also the case tomorrow during International Women's Day.


It is almost needless to mention that the bachelor's student Mechanical Engineering is an activist. She radiates that in every way. When she talks about her first encounter with the student culture in Twente, the expression splashes off her face. ‘I didn't know what I was experiencing! Coming from Chile, I thought the social standard in the Netherlands was much more liberal and modern, but the opposite turned out to be true. The sexist and racist lyrics I heard in a cantus, men in hazmat suits making violent movements with hockey sticks: super shocking!'


Name: Alexandra Mulder Gonzalez
Age: 21
Place of birth: Paris, France
Nationality: Chilean-Dutch
Course: Mechanical Engineering
Languages: Spanish, English, Dutch
Positions: Chair Amnesty UTwente, freelancer Fairspace, founder The Consent Project

Her 'welcome experience' in Twente made Mulder Gonzalez feel more like an activist than a student from day one, although she also engaged in activism in Chile. She was looking for like-minded people, who also did not feel comfortable with the prevailing student culture and wanted to stand up for people who needed it. 'In Chile, many students go against old customs, while here some young people want to enforce traditions and norms. There is little space for open and critical conversations around stigmatized topics. I recently read that activism at the UT is declining and that doesn't surprise me. Standing up for something has to come from your heart. Activism is not about a cv upgrade on LinkedIn, but about intrinsically wanting to do something good for someone else. I sometimes miss that at associations. I understand that keeping your identity is the safest option, but it gives your association a closed character.'

'There's no right or wrong, as long as you have an open mind'

Let's Talk About Yes

Mulder Gonzalez joined two students from Amnesty UTwente shortly after her introduction, but they left not much later after completing their studies. 'Back then, I was on my own with my one-person army', the student says with a laugh. She decided not to give up, but sent messages, approached people and saw Amnesty UTwente grow into a thriving group. She was one of the faces behind the Let's Talk About Yes campaign and the Amnesty manifesto. She also organized events such as Pimp Your Yes: Consent Awareness, Period Power: Sync, Understand, Empower and tomorrow she will be in action with the Amnesty team during International Women's Day.

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Doing nothing is easier, but you choose to take to the barricades. Why?

'Because I want to create space for nuanced and open conversations around taboo topics. If you think something is extremely important and want to go for it, it is very difficult to do nothing. You can study for a hundred hours for an exam, get a good grade and feel good, but that's not comparable to the feeling I get when I see fellow students talking to each other in order to find their authentic selves.'

Isn't it difficult at the same time? You have less time for your studies and not everyone supports your mission.

'I have to watch out for a burnout, but the people around me support me. I can't let go of my activism as I don't do it for myself, but for the community. That characterizes the way I was brought up, but also the Chilean culture, which is very much about the community, rather than the individual. I want to be a source of goodness to others.'

'Life is like a dance: sometimes you lead, sometimes you have to be led'

Critics believe that associations such as Amnesty UTwente impose their progressive will on others. That their 'woke ideology' should be the norm for everyone. She disputes that. ‘We bring people together to understand that a deeper level of conversation is possible. No one tells the other how it works, or what they should do. We try to inspire each other and learn from each other. There's no right or wrong, as long as you have an open mind.’

Just listen

The student acknowledges that the active core of Amnesty UTwente has few men, even though the team is diverse. Mulder Gonzalez: ‘The desire to reach more men turns out to be difficult to fulfill. If people don't see themselves as victims, they quickly think: not my problem. While the fact that many women feel unsafe while going out is a problem for all of us. Opening the conversation is good for everyone. Sometimes it's useful to plug in somewhere just to listen. We believe that we should always form an opinion. Some men in particular often think: if I don't play a central role in the conversation, I have no value. I have to be the leader and have a strong opinion, but sometimes the value lies in listening.’

When do you find time to study when you're so involved in activism?

'My studies are going well. Without activism, things would be much worse, that sounds contradictory, right? Activism fuels me, I have great people around me and I learned to set my priorities. I focus more on studying with my peers rather than attending all lectures. Combining is not always easy, but I have stopped looking for the perfect balance, because that isn’t realistic. Life is like a dance: sometimes you lead, sometimes you have to be led.'

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Mulder Gonzalez. Her surname consists of a combination of one of the most popular surnames in the Netherlands and in Chile. How is that possible? 'My father is Dutch. I also speak the language well, although I feel more comfortable in English.' Her Dutch blood is unrelated to her choice to study in Twente. 'I wanted to study in English in Europe, so the Netherlands is the best option. I had two main interests: learning something technical for a future in the energy transition or political science, because I want to have a voice in the world. At UT, the two paths converged.’

The student wants to complete her studies, but does not expect her near future to lie in the technical sector. Her focus now lies on breaking stigmas and taboos around sexuality, boundaries and mutual consent. She doesn't know exactly what her future will bring. What she does know is that God's guidance is decisive in this. ‘I'm a liberal Christian. Being good to others and finding life in love is paramount to me.'

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