Ladies Kick-In: Reinforcing stereotypes?

| Michaela Nesvarova

The Ladies Kick-In just ended. Yes, at the University of Twente they organize a special Kick-In only for women. When I first heard of this three-day event, which takes place every year before the general Kick-In, I thought to myself 'Why do we still need this?

 Are women a special needs group? Do we require a few extra days to get ready for the university?' So I visited the ‘girls only’ event and I came to the conclusion that: We don’t. We don’t need it.

To clarify. The Ladies Kick-In is not for all women who are about to start their studies at the UT, it is ‘especially for women who will be taking a real ‘course for men’, as is stated on the organizers’ website. This statement would make sense – fifty years ago. But now? Haven’t we moved past the ‘man’s job’ versus ‘woman’s job’ division? Apparently not. And calling certain study programs ‘courses for men’ might be one of the reasons why.

Antifeminist?

I’m a feminist. I believe in gender equality. Equality of opportunities, the possibility to choose whichever path you desire. This means I’m all for women in technology. Or for women in any other field, for that matter. And men. Women and men in all fields. So seeing dozens of young girls attending the Ladies Kick-In, because they are about to study courses such as applied physics or electrical engineering, fields until recently dominated by men, makes me quite happy.

However, in my opinion, the Ladies Kick-In goes against most feminist values. It goes against us, women, being treated as equal human beings capable of everything and anything, because it – once again – separates us from men. It suggests we need to be treated differently and it goes against the gender neutral society, which I believe we should be building. By organizing a ladies event involving high tea and dancing lessons, we are not fighting stereotypes and the general idea that women are not suited for certain career paths. We are reinforcing all of these stereotypes.

‘We are stronger if we stand together as women'

So why is the Ladies Kick-In still there? The chairwoman of the event Céline Steenge says: ‘It’s nice to get to know the girls before your course starts, because it can be overwhelming to be surrounded by so many men. Imagine starting a course and seeing two hundred boys and only about ten girls.’ I did imagine it and wondered if you wouldn’t get to know the girls even without a special Kick-In, precisely because there are so few of you. ‘Of course, but it is nicer to find your social circle of girls beforehand,’ was the answer.

I was still lost. Why not just use the regular Kick-In for this? ‘The normal Kick-In is to get to know people in your study. The Ladies Kick-In is to get to know girls in your and other study programs,’ explained Steenge. ‘Of course you don’t have to join. You will still find your way even if you don’t participate in the Ladies Kick-In, but it was important for me to be a part of it. It’s hard to explain, but you don’t feel so alone. We are stronger if we stand together as women.’

The choice

That is true. We are stronger together, but why the separation of men versus women again? And if we insist on this separation, shouldn’t we also organize a Gentlemen’s Kick-In? ‘Yes, we should,’ agrees the chairwoman. ‘We were just talking about it and someone should definitely make that happen.’ Okay, then we would have a boys’ Kick-In and a girls’ Kick-In. Wouldn’t that move us even further away from true equality and a gender neutral society?  

To sum up, I’d like to believe we are all equal human beings and that we don’t need to be treated differently. Women don’t need a special Kick-In to succeed. On the other hand, feminism is about the freedom of choice. The freedom to choose to participate or to not participate in events only for women. Even if my choice would be different than yours, that doesn’t necessarily make it wrong. Therefore: Ladies, you don’t need a special Kick-In, but if it helps you, go for it. The choice is always yours.