Louise and Martine Fokkens have worked in Amsterdam’s red light district for almost half a century, and are definitely popular. However, they say that arthritis can really change things, especially at their age. But today, at the age of 70, they are celebrating the fact that they are some of the most experienced prostitutes on the territory of Amsterdam, with a film about their lives.
Martine may still be going full power, but Louise has definitely seen the end of it. Two years ago, she discovered she had arthritis and finally decided that she is hanging up the fishnets. Martine is the one who keeps the income going on now, as she relies on the inflow of cash from some of the more regular customers. The film is done by Gabrielle Provaas and Rob Shröder and it portrays their long and interesting lives for the general audience.
The two women began working ever since they were in their 20s, and they say how since the 60s everything has changed. There have been numerous things, which they have had to adapt to, and this is what they talk about in the movie. There is a voice-over from Louise within the movie, as she says exactly how they react to public opinions of their job and how they have acclimated to the constant changes.
Thinking of the changes, which have taken place during all those years, Louise recalls: ‘In the old days, the local copper would tap on the window if a girl was showing too much ankle, now the girls deal coke from their cubicles.’ She then explains how arthritis has changed her life significantly, and how she can no longer work, unlike her sister, who is still going on at full power.
One thing, which the girls stop particularly at, is the fact that they escaped the grasps of their pimps a long time ago. They actually opened up their own brothel and started the first unofficial prostitute trade union. This was one of the first such things seen in the world. However, this came with a price. Behind their smiles, there actually lies quite a horrifying story of pain and anguish, which they hide all too well.
Louise was actually the first one to start working, because her husband beat her out of home and told her that she cannot return until she made some money for him and their three children. In time, she started working at one of the popular brothels, and her sister joined in soon, as a cleaner. But after a while, they made the assertion that together they will be able to make more money, ‘doing threesomes’. That gave the start of their cooperation.
But with the legislation of brothels in 2000, they had more problems. Instead of opening the business for all girls, who would like to participate, it opened a way for organized criminal gangs to operate at full capacity. This actually significantly reduced their daily income.
’There is no point working just for tax. That is why the girls are working from the internet and from home – you are less likely to be spotted by the taxman.’ This is one of the sisters said about the situation. It was definitely not easy for them. The sight of seeing their children going from one care to another, and the realization of their families about what they are doing for a living, definitely weighed heavy on them.
However, the two women arose from all of this and continue to ‘do everything together’ even until this day. With all the hard stuff behind them, they know that they have each other, and nothing will stop them now, just like nothing had stopped them in the past.
image credits: submarine