Feminist group changes Dutch street names in protest for more female representation

De Riemerstraat in The Hague changed to Mien van Breestraat, 7 August 2018
De Riemerstraat in The Hague changed to Mien van Breestraat, 7 August 2018Photo: @DeBovengrondse / Twitter

Feminist action group De Bovengrondse changed dozens of street names across the Netherlands on Tuesday in a protest for more female representation on Dutch streets. Armed with homemade street signs, members of De Bovengrondse changed street names to famous women including Mies Bouwman, Beyonce, Mien van Bree and Suze Groeneweg, NOS reports.

This action happened in cities like Amsterdam, Ede, Utrecht, Tilburg, The Hague, Delft, Arnhem, Leiden and Nijmegen. For example, the Dam in Amsterdam was changed to 'Dame', Dutch for 'lady'.  Jan Pieterszoon Coenstraat in Utrecht was changed to Marie Anne Tellegenstraat. And Delft got a Wina Bornstraat.

According to De Bovengrondse, only 12 percent of the Netherlands streets named after a person, are named after women. With that as reference, the group changed the name of 12 streets in each city. 

"Street names are a way of showing who we consider important as a country", Bregje Hofstede, founder of De Bovengrondse said to RTV Utrecht. "Because most streets are named after men, we implicitly give the message that we find men more important. While there are thousands of women who have meant a lot in science, philosophy, sports, media and so on." 

Street names may seem like a small detail, but they are definitely important, Hofstede said to the broadcaster. "Precisely because you come into contact with them every day, it is important to think about street names. You may not think critically about it, but your subconscious will notice it."

De Bovengrondse hopes that this action will prompt municipalities to think about how they name new streets. And if the group has its way, the street names they placed on Tuesday will stay there for a long time.