Sunday, October 28, 2012

Meet the Fokkens (Rhoades)

“Meet the Fokkens” –
Ageless Twin Hookers

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

People call it the world’s oldest profession – but I don’t think they were talking about Louise and Martine Fokken, 70-year-old twin sisters who work in the Red Light District of Amsterdam.
Hard to believe, but both women have been working as prostitutes since 1961.
“Meet the Fokkens” – a documentary about these so-called working girls – is currently showing at the Tropic Cinema.
Next to my door is the room where Martine works,” says Rob Schröder, one of the film’s directors. “She is by far the oldest on the street. I was fascinated by her. She’s old and fat. She does not look a day younger than her actual age. Do some men really prefer a grandma?”
“The moment Rob moved to that little street five years ago, it was clear that a movie had to be made,” laughs co-director Gabriëlle Provaas. “The women lined up there are older and wiser.”
As the film points out, in the world of prostitution “you’re not allowed to be old.” Yet these two old-timers have bucked the trend.
Louise was 19 with three children to support when her husband forced her into prostitution. Martine joined in as a show of solidarity with her twin sister.
Deciding to make the most of a bad situation, the girls said, “If I have to be a hooker I’m going to be the best hooker there is!” Eventually, they become independent of their pimps, working on their own.
The Fokkens have children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren. “As everybody can imagine, it is hard for children to have a mother who’s a prostitute,” says Rob. “Nothing new about that. And Martine’s children were very much ashamed of their mother still working. They refused any cooperation and did not even want to be mentioned.”
However, the oldest of Louise’s daughters was just the opposite. “Now it’s Louise who blames herself, and Caroline telling her mother to leave the past behind.”
Rob has become quite fond of the ladies in the Oude Nieuwstraat. “Martine has an easiness about her,” he observes. “I liked chatting with her. She takes care of the little gardens in the street. She really has green fingers. Before I moved into the house, she also tended mine. This is how we came to talk.”
But he quickly adds, “I could not imagine anyone paying for her.”
Prostitution was finally legalized in the Netherlands in 2000.
“We do not believe prostitution will ever disappear,” says Rob. “It has a social function that goes beyond a quick shag. It’s good those women are there.”
“The fact that women are forced into prostitution does not mean prostitution itself is wrong,” agrees Gabriëlle. “Human trafficking is wrong. By blaming prostitution, these women are victimized twice!”
When a Key West friend recently took a vacation to the Netherlands, I teased him: “Amsterdam? You have to go that far to find a Red Light District?”
He jauntily replied, “Yeah, it’s the Pink Light District I’m looking for – they have one of those here, too.”
But that’s another story.

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