Ralien has been concerned with the climate for a long time. While studying FPS, she was a youth representative on Sustainable Development for the United Nations. Following that, she completed a master's degree at Yale University and stayed in the United States for about nine years for work, but recently got a job back in the Netherlands. "My first week in the Netherlands I immediately had the book launch, and started out at my new job. There wasn't much time to land. But it's great to be back after all this time."
Women at the front
Her book combines two major themes: the climate crisis and gender inequality. These themes are related in some sense. The current approach to the climate crisis is not successful enough. "There are many underlying inequalities." Ralien explains. "At the same time, it's mostly young girls who are leading the global climate movement, female economists who are up for change, and female leaders who are making decisions that move in the better direction for the climate. Yet women remain vastly underrepresented at the higher, defining levels of power structures in society." There are also studies showing that climate policy often has better outcomes when women are involved. "But involving women is not yet the norm."
"At the same time, it's mostly young girls who are leading the global climate movement, female economists who are up for change, and female leaders who are making decisions that move in the better direction for the climate."
The disappointment of reality
She has experienced this firsthand. "As a youth representative at the United Nations, I was heard in a way - at least as the 'voice' of the younger generation. In my later work, I discovered the more mainstream reality. In large international organizations, even those with sustainable goals, you become part of a heavy bureaucracy, where there is little room for change. That's not the solution. You have to harness that power for change that comes from young people, especially now."
Not only women but also other people from minority groups should be involved in the climate approach. "For instance, poorer groups are more likely to bear the brunt of climate change."
Seven feminine traits
So the policy-making world needs to become more inclusive, but that doesn't mean that all white men currently at the top have to go. Besides making way for broader diversity where possible, they can also change their mindsets for the better by adopting a feminine approach, Ralien says. She formulates this approach as seven traits that are appropriate to a more feminine approach to the climate crisis:
- Cooperate for society as a whole, not for individual gain.
- Involve inclusion and empower others.
- Care and be compasionate toward the earth and other people.
- Involve emotion and intuition. The climate crisis results in human issues, so it is important to find a balance between the rational and our feelings.
- Find connections and think in systems.
- Think about generations prior to, and after us.
- Dwell on women's and human rights. Awareness of these inequalities is needed to see how these issues aren't separate from the climate crisis.
Let go of gender norms
"Of course, it is not the intention to make men feel bad, that is not my point," Ralien explains. "Although it is a logical reflex that some men have in response to the title of my book. You have to see the feminine traits that I describe separately from one's gender, separate from the individual, and see them as important human traits." There are probably many men with more feminine qualities, and similarly, women who have become patriarchal.
"Harvard research does show that, on average, women score better on traits that stand for better leadership in general." Whether women naturally possess these traits is difficult to determine, and also less relevant. "They are gender roles that we move toward. Why can't we choose the most useful traits, regardless of our gender, if they benefit the world?"
Be effectively human
Then the key question remained: What about Ralien's feminine characteristics? She laughs. "I actively engage in most of the points I mention, but sometimes I might be a little too competitive. I think that I've learned this from how society is organized. Also, I am very results-oriented, which some may consider a 'masculine' trait. However, the aforementioned research calls that a general trait for effective leadership. You can see that certain prejudices often consider a masculine style as 'good leadership,' whereas a feminine style more often is subject to negative comments." It is easy to get lost in the inequalities of leadership in the climate crisis. "But the important thing is that you want to achieve the goals by working together, and not competing with each other. And by staying human. We will have to do it together, as human beings."
Ralien Bekkers' book, "It can't go on like this: Time for Women to solve the climate crisis," is available only in Dutch and can be found at various bookstores. She will also be presenting her book at bookstores around the country.