By Sahizer Samuk
What ‘s the core of our existence and are we allowed to exist in different ways?
New trends have come up in Turkish culture. Becoming a perfect wife, becoming a perfect daughter and daughter-in-law, extravagant presentations for the husbands and the guests posted on the social media. The whole pink series of pots and pans, laces that surround the pieces of bread, a new way of presentation with extreme care but actually looking kitsch… You can access to these presentations via this link: http://www.haberankara.com/foto-galeri/yeni-gelinler-costu-yeni-akim-kocisime/351/resim/2
I have a theory about these presentations and will share my ideas with you in this article.
From a Philosophical Point of View
Let’s try to understand these practices from a philosophical perspective. Aristotle was saying “you are not who you say you are, you are what you do!” Emanating from what he said, philosophers tried to answer for many ears how practice forms identity? Not many people could answer this question directly. We could claim that a writer becomes a writer by writing a lot not only because he or she writes well from the beginning. Judith Butler for instance, underlined that everyday practices form a person’s identity. Burns (2013: 24) quoting from Judith Butler said: “gender and sexuality are the primary context of Butler’s notion of the performative in identity, and of the power of repetitive acts to reproduce models which reinforce identities by making them appear ‘natural’.” A wonderful way to express how repetitive acts can shape our identity. Repetition becomes a part of becoming. Becoming what? Becoming a confirming individual (a good wife, a good daughter, a good woman etc.) of power relations. Is not it perfectly possible that people might enjoy these things, is not it possible that a woman loves pink and she wants to paint it all pink and present everything with laces and colorful cutlery? Well that is also possible. But my question is, what if that woman is a housewife and has nothing more to be happy with than what the domestic life can give her? What kind of existence would she have?
One day a friend of mine told me “I like cooking but I do not perceive myself and my existence via cooking.” She is now an academic in the USA, she is a very inspiring woman really. This was one of the most striking sentences I have ever heard in my life that I immediately connected in my mind with feminism. She is a good cook for sure, I am a witness to it and she likes cooking. But when it comes to existence, she saw herself writing, giving speeches and dealing with politics, on the street and via her reflections on articles.
We want to spend our time and life with what our biggest part of brain and heart would strive to do: to distinguish ourselves from the crowd, to distinguish ourselves in such a way that we do not have to be liked or appreciated by anyone to love ourselves, to love our bodies and identities as women. And this could even mean reconciliation with our mothers, who on the contrary, maybe had traditional values compared to us or even reconciliation with our mothers who might have been independent but could not save themselves from the grip of traditional values. I do not claim that we should find inner peace via this reconciliation and questioning and I do not claim that it is the aim to have perpetual peace with everything in life (as far as I am concerned it is not possible). But what I mean is that we as women do not have to be obsessed with making other people happy to such an extent that we waste our most precious time for useless ribbons in pink.
A paragraph on Happiness
Sara Ahmed (2010) says these about happiness: “happy housewife is a fantasy figure that erases the signs of labor under the sign of happiness. The claim that women are happy and that this happiness is behind the work they do functions to justify gendered forms of labor not as products of nature, law, or duty, but as expressions of a collective wish and desire.” (p. 572-573). Ahmed (2010) gives examples from Rousseau’s Emile in which Rousseau suggests that women and men should be educated separately for their roles are different. The quote from Rousseau (p. 578) demonstrates: “she (a good wife) is happy by making her parents and family happy”. She can achieve happiness via other people not by herself, in other words. This is exactly what I meant by the craziness of women being engaged with these presentations, wasting their times to prepare these things for others while diminishing their existence just to a presentation and to colorful cutlery.
From a statistical and psychological point of view
Turkish statistical institute shows that labour market involvement amongst males is 71,3 percent in men while it is 30,3 percent in women. 9,2 percent of Turkish women are not literate while 1,8 of males are not literate. While there are such exigencies, while the space for women to exist in education and work life is limited, being obsessed with the domestic presentations for others, is pathological and it shows that all the gains for gender equality are at risk. Women will earn their happiness via their own means and values, not via what is demanded from them as socially acceptable. I would even go further and say that all these presentations you have seen in this above link, are a demonstration of loneliness and desperation. Controversially, it has nothing to do with happiness. Maybe even a cry to be seen by the society, by the family members and a cry of sadness and disempowerment, a suicidal attempt to show that meaningful work and labour are not accessible to them.
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 http://begenmeyenokumasin.com. She has always been interested in authors such as Sevgi Soysal, Simone de Beauvoir and Nancy Fraser and feminist interpretations of novels and films.
Read more from Sahizer
 Burns, J. (2013). Migrant Imaginaries: Figures in Italian Migration Literature. Peter Lang
 Butler, J. (1990). Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, London: Routledge
 Ahmed, S. (2010) Killing Joy: Feminism and the History of Happiness Signs, 35 (3) pp. 571-594. The University of Chicago Press