By Sahizer Samuk
Translated by Ellen Davis Walker and Clara Stella
Most of the time my feminist and left-leaning worldview affects how I understand and interpret things. As a result, I have asked myself so many times if my eyes are seeing right, if my brain was thinking right, if I interpreted what I saw in the right way, or from an ‘objective’ point of view… But the truth has become so clear that not only feminists, but everyone can see what is in front of their eyes. However, not everyone sees things in the same way. And sometimes we become so used to the status quo that we don’t see what is in front of us. What do you see in these photos? They are all related somehow to the referendum campaign in Turkey, and the recent crisis with Holland, when the Minister of Family and Social Policies was prevented from entering Holland during the Turkish election campaign.
When you look at these photos what do you see? Is it not a male politics? But this is not everything. The struggles of politics, and masculinity in politics, and group psychology are certainly evident in these photos, but what about the signs? The anger, the aggressiveness, feeling high with power… Looking at the newspapers almost every day, it is clear that most of the journalists in most newspapers are male; we know that only 27 out of 174 journalists in Turkish newspapers are women. Columnists tend to be male. Shockingly, if we just look at the photos of women, we can see the objectification (Saguy et al. 2010) of the female body: naked body parts, obscene, almost peeking into their body in bikinis or underwear… On the other hand, in Turkish newspapers, there is a new trend of putting a turban and posing by female actresses to gain more fanatics from Middle Eastern countries. Somehow women exist more with what they wear and what they do not wear. In politics, men get to have their say, but women are just there to look at.
If we have a look at the online mainstream media in Turkey, first comes politics with men, and then, scrolling down the newspapers, come nudity and obscenity of women. Without one, the other cannot sustain itself. The naked body in itself becomes something light, just full of flesh but without content. The women do not speak and we do not even know if the women in the photos granted their permission to be depicted as such by the newspapers. Women see themselves being looked at, as Berger said. But they do not know with what kind of hunger they are looked at in these newspapers. And men, they talk, they talk the talk and walk the walk. Women, they are a minority both in politics and in writing. To what extent does this dichotomy serve the purpose of gender equality and awareness about gender inequality? The 8TH of March in 2017 in Turkey was an exception to this!
“If they are beautiful and are models, their photos should be consumed immediately. Women should know their place: beautiful nude, sexy, pornographic photos at the bottom of the newspapers, or at the back pages of the hard copy newspapers. Women should know their place.” The president of Turkey recently said to the Turkish in Europe: “do not have three kids, have five! Yes, yes, women should know their place.”
Thanks for the advice, thanks a lot. So, are you planning to pay me social security, open the kindergartens, make sure that my children grow with culture, arts and cinema? Will you be the one to make sure that I will be able to continue my career without too many interruptions, and with the guarantee that when I come back to work I will still be employed? What about the health insurance and education of these kids in a declining welfare state? Is my place then in the house, to raise the kids?
According to the president, the answer to these questions is a big “yes”. And as the theory goes: men make nations, women raise the soldiers to die for these nations (Pitkin, 1999 quoted in Kartal, 2016). The construction of feminism of women cannot be thought of independently from the nation-state, as the context that shapes these identities (Kandiyo, 2007 quoted in Kartal 2016).
Social Realism vs. Social Unrealism: Is social unrealism what we are going through now?
As I have previously written, soap operas portray a life that does not exist. We like to get lost in them and create a second world for ourselves; create our own virtual reality to escape from the harsh existence of the restrictions of our jobs and family lives. To escape from the polluted political environment in Turkey, in fact, we do watch soap operas.
The unemployment rate has increased tremendously in Turkey and people are conspiring against each other. Every day we read in the news about a case of rape of a small girl (either by family members, or others in the village) or women killed by their ex-husbands and ex-lovers. Every day, every day we see these kinds of tragedies. What is the problem with us? Why have we not evolved? Maybe we have not evolved because we choose not to believe in evolution. In a famous museum in Ankara, an exhibition of evolutionary patterns was removed because it did not fit with Islamic history. I will not say ‘in the 21st century…’; I will not say ‘backwardness’; I will not say ‘ignorance’; I will not say ‘unacceptable and unbelievable’. Because this is social unrealism: the name of a new movement in Turkey fed by soap operas, fake news, male dominated politics and naked photos of women as ‘light stuff’.
Why do photos tell us so much about the world and the relationship between men and women? Why is it that women have to put up with this kind of behaviour? Why is it that Merkel is interrupted by Erdogan when she uses the phrase ‘Islamist Terrorism’? Why is it that for instance, he could not wait for her to finish her sentence and then explain that there should be a better phrase to explain it? Is that so hard to imagine? No, surely it is not. But it surely is difficult for men who think that they rule the world, for men who want to continue to have power, and continue to rule even bigger portions of the world, put bans on certain countries, threaten other countries, move the masses, expand their territories, call anyone who is opposed terrorists… These kinds of men are in power. These men think their power gives them the right to do and to say whatever they please. It is a politics of emotions, a politics of testosterone. The kind of politics in which would those in power would like to subject others to their rule. It is the typical Machiavellian politics in which: ‘it is better that you make them scared because if they are afraid of you they cannot rebel. If they love you, they might get rid of you.’ (Chapter 8) However, that does not satisfactorily explain either what is happening now in the world, or what is happening in Turkey. It is neither love nor fear that makes people support anti-democratic measures. I think that it is the social unrealism that we take to be reality. That makes us think that their power is real. They are not powerful, they are just in power, and that is it.
I would like to dedicate this article to 1960s and 1970s cinema in Italy and Turkey. Let’s be true to ourselves and see that gender inequality is at its peak, that economic inequality in society is at its peak, and that we are going through harsh times when solidarity and trust are declining. Let’s accept that the reality cannot be forgotten just because we are mesmerized by the testosterone of males…
 "From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both: but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved."
Sahizer Samuk received her PhD from the Department of Institutions, Politics and Policies at IMT Institute for Advanced Studies. She wrote her thesis on Temporary Migration and Temporary Integration: Canada and the UK in a Comparative Perspective. Besides her academic career, she has written for a Turkish literature blog called begenmeyenokumasin. She has always been interested in authors such as Sevgi Soysal, Simone de Beauvoir and Nancy Fraser and feminist interpretations of novels and films.
Berger, J. (1972) Ways of Seeing. Penguin Books
Kandiyoti, D. (2007), Cariyeler, Bacılar, Yurttaşlar: Kimlikler ve Toplumsal Dönüşümler, Metis Yayınları, İstanbul.
Kartal, F. (2016) ‘Kadınların Yurttaşlı ğı ve Feminist Kuram’ Amme İdaresi Dergisi, Cilt 49, Sayı 3, s. 59-87
Machiavelli, N. (2015). The Prince.
Pitkin, H. F. (1999), Fortune is a Woman: Gender and Politics in the Thought of Niccolo Machiavelli, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, London.
Saguy, T., Quinn, D. M., Dovidio, J. F., & Pratto, F. (2010). Interacting like a body objectification can lead women to narrow their presence in social interactions. Psychological Science.
1. The cover image represent a group of nationalist protestors are squeezing oranges in protest at Holland, but also claim to vote ‘yes’ in the referendum: http://www.birgun.net/haber-de