Dina-Perla Portnaar
Integrated Communications & PR | BD | Presentation | Writing | Speaking | Coaching


When I was 7-years-old, my grandmother’s second husband said one afternoon: “Why don’t you come to the sofa bed in the living room? Bring a book and you will be allowed to stay up late this evening.” Three generations of women slept together in one bed in my mother’s bed room upstairs. I could not sleep and felt uncomfortable, so I went downstairs, tapped on his shoulder and asked to sit next to him. Before I could do anything, his hand was already in between my legs. My inner voice did not have words to express. There was just a feeling, which I would indicate as: you are worth way more than this. I looked up with a serious glance. He stopped, sighed and said: “Go back to your bed”.

Our school rabbi regularly put his hand in his pants while teaching us girls. All of us were talking about this behind his back, but none of us dared to do anything. I secretly went to our class leader to talk about this, but nothing changed. The same rabbi who looked at the girls to see if they obeyed the dressing rules. Girls with long hair had to wear a tale, make-up and long earrings were not allowed, skirts had to cover up the knees and be without a split, the neckline had to be covered up by shirts or blouses in modest colors, without labels and not too tight, so the body contours would not be visible. Bared skin was forbidden. I hated the way we girls were being checked. The same rabbi who taught us over and over again, that it was a woman’s responsibility to dress in such a manner that men would “not get forbidden thoughts and act on it,” whereas I wanted to scream and say: no, women should be able to walk naked at four in the morning if they wanted to, without men harassing them. But I kept quiet… The same rabbi who repeated this doctrine: every time a woman uncovers a part of her body that should be covered up, someone from our nation in Israel will die. The first time I heard this, my eyes almost jumped out of my face. I wasn’t the only one. Other girls told me how they thought this idea was revolting, but we all kept quiet…

When I was a teenager, a classmate and I biked back home and almost got hit by a guy on a scooter. We had to stop. He started chatting, laughing and showing his dick. My classmate was so shocked, she almost threw up on the spot. Also in my teenage years: I was at a family party of my neighbor / best friend at the time, when a man caressed my bum. Again in my teenage years: some guy sat next to me on the couch at my friend’s B-day party, jumped on me and started kissing me. Max, back then my boyfriend, walked in the room a bit later and boy, did that **** get a lesson of a lifetime.

When I was a trainee at BNR Newsradio, part of the FD Media Group in the Netherlands, I heard one of the team members saying about me: cheaper than the Albert Cuypt. Some bitchy women laughed along with these sexist remarks, instead of showing their support. The racist and sexist utterings kept coming throughout the years, including aussteigen — being asked to leave the train in Hoofddorp, near Amsterdam — and go to gas. Another team member at BNR Newsradio said: Dina-Perla? Like, is she able to do anything? But I wasn’t going to accept being the coffee host and the dumb blonde — I wanted to have a Dutch look and dyed my hair blonde in my early twenties. Luckily, I had other work relations taking me under their wings, teaching me everything I wanted to learn and helping me grow my network. After many years, not only did I not care anymore, but I proved them all wrong. I did not have to prove anything at all. However, I figured, some people have all the power. They made my application letter disappear. I knew, me having a ‘radiogenic’ voice, more and more experience and knowledge and a network was not good enough — they stayed the gatekeepers…

In my twenties, I had to work harder than any man would to prove that images of me as a young woman were stereotypical, not based on facts and that I did have brain cells, worth way more to clients. Also in my twenties, I wore manly suits and ties to meetings, to feel empowered and come across as credible. Yet, I would never magically turn into a man with gray hair and glasses. I worked my butt off — oh wait, uh — to show that I wasn’t a doll, but a consultant understanding developments in IT/tech, finance and the corporate world in general; a business woman worthy of top level assignments, yet earning less money than men would; a writer, not just having fun with personal growth, empowerment and spirituality, but intending to make a living out of it. I may have feminine traits, but boy, does masculinity still overrule my entire being. My “top” one in my twenties? The masturbating man in front of our window.

All these #metoo stories out there: transparency, cleansing and transformation. Most people do not keep hush, hush. Shame on people who do, also male victims with stories that would change entire communities for the better. Your silence or cowardliness keeps mechanisms in place, allowing bad things to reoccur, one broken generation after the other. #Metoo gives women a voice and rightly so. Yet, it also provides an opportunity for men to speak up, also the ones who felt chained to their communities before. Look at what is happening. Time to wake up. #Youtoo. #Allofyou.

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Integrated Communications & PR | BD | Presentation | Writing | Speaking | Coaching