Feminism is a movement made up out of political ideologies who fight for equality between men and women. These movements, which come and go in waves, but always seem to be there, have been around for decades. Lately, feminists across Europe have been focusing on fighting sexual assault, harassment and rape. This too is the case in the Belgian capital, Brussels.
It was the third night in Brussels for us, when we went out to a bar to have some drinks. We had been filming all day to work on this documentary and felt like we deserved a cold beer. The bartenders seemed happy we were there and not long after we had our first beer, the free shots started coming. We had a bartender handing over his phone number on a beermat to us and got invited to a party at another café. It was not long after that, Femke started to feel strange. She only had two beers, but felt like she was extremely drunk. She kept saying that her legs felt so weird and that she was very nauseous. This didn’t seem normal, she had never acted like this when drinking.
We decided it was for the better if we would go back to our hostel. The whole road home she felt very clear in her head, but couldn’t feel her legs and kept saying strange things. Last summer, Piens’ friend got drugged, and showed the exact same symptoms Femke was having that night. The irony was almost too much; two girls making a documentary on the spiking of women’s drinks, and after two days, they get to experience it for themselves. We started to wonder if this problem is really that big in this city.
A few weeks ago several students from the neighborhood Elsene went out for drinks and got drugged and sexually assaulted by a bartender. This caused a wave of outrage among women all across Belgium and a protest with over 1300 women was organized. Feminism organizations all over the city now have been protesting for weeks. After the first protest, psychology student Maïté Meeus (23) from Brussels decided she wanted to take action. She created the Instagram account @balance_ton_bar. On this account she started collecting anonymous testimonies from girls who had experienced sexual violence in the Brussels nightlife. She shared these on her page and the movement started growing.
On the 12th of November, hundreds of women gathered again in Brussels. On St. Albertine square, they held a ‘nightlife boycott’. No men allowed, just women, non-binary people and people who have experienced sexual violence by men in the Brussels nightlife were invited. The protest was a call to all women to not enter bars and clubs that night. It is one of the many protests that are yet to come, according to Maïté Meeus, who was also one of the organizers of the boycott. During the protests the women shouted and sang “we are radical feminists and we are angry!”. In the documentary Battling Brussels: Feminism, we dove into what radical means to women and if this radical change is needed when it comes to women’s rights.