Happy Women’s Day to Us!!!

Articles, General, Uncategorized - Dr. İzel Levi Coşkun - September 4, 2015

We have left behind another Women’s Day. Happy Women’s Day to all of us.

This is a very popular topic which receives wide coverage by the press. Everybody says something; flowers, smiles and celebrations everywhere. Tomorrow is the 9th of March. See you next year then.

This is the new fashion… Polished posters, flowers sent home by the municipality, press releases and special discounts in shopping centres… A terrific marketing opportunity. .

One of the pioneers in this field, Averroes (1126-1198) talked about women rights in the Caliphate of Córdoba when, around the same time, women who put forward their opinions or wanted to perform arts or were interested in science were being burnt alive for being witches.

New Zealand was the first country to grant women the right to vote. This was in 1893. Atatürk granted this right to women in 1934; before many European countries such as France or Switzerland.

This was a very important, pioneering step for equality. Where do the women in our country stand in terms of social status today, so many years after 1934? In the Global Gender Gap Report 2009 of the World Economic Forum, Turkey ranked 129th out of a total of 134 countries.

In line with this, I would like to talk about our women who are otherised through “neighbourhood pressure” in our country where honour killings are still in existence and women are not sent to school. I am talking about Firdevs from the cute Anatolian town of Yaprakhisar, or about Arife whose family emigrated from Sivas to Istanbul… They were not able to go to school; they were not allowed to go to school.

Yesterday, I read an article in the Cumhuriyet paper which said that 4 out of 10 women living in Turkey are exposed to physical violence.

In the Introduction of Le Deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex, 1949), Simone de Beauvoir says “The terms masculine and feminine are used symmetrically only as a matter of form, as on legal papers. In actuality the relation of the two sexes is not quite like that of two electrical poles, for man represents both the positive and the neutral, as is indicated by the common use of man to designate human beings in general; whereas woman represents only the negative, defined by limiting criteria, without reciprocity.”

Do you think anything has changed since then? Yes, actually, but the change is so incredibly slow… It is not easy when we take into consideration that according to Aristotle, women, by nature, are devoid of certain qualities and the fact that Sir Thomas More defines women as men with defects. It seems that it is very difficult for us to break away from the idea of the “other” that has been engraved in our minds for so many years.

As a woman, you become a member to a “Businessmen’s Association”; nobody finds this odd. What would happen if an association which had male members as well as females was called a “Businesswomen’s Association”? Like Simone de Beauvoir says, this is because the society is perceived to be male and women are otherised. We see the same thing in the expression “man of science”. I am waiting in excitement and hope to see the transition to “businesspeople” from “businessmen” and to “people of science” from “men of science”.

Although the Turkish Statistical Institute data show that between December 2007 and December 2008 the women’s employment rate increased by 250.000 people, I still wonder to what extent women are given opportunities in the work place. Everywhere we get those “male managers” who consider what is best for them, who try to protect them. This is something I see very often. We get two employees of the same age and same level of seniority; the man gets promoted. As for the woman, she lacks experience.

The woman is going to be a manager. Her manager says “No, she’ll never be able to take it; it would be too tiring for her. She has a family too; it would be difficult for her.” He makes the decision for her. This is not acceptable, why don’t you ask the woman first, who gives you the right to think for her?

Binnaz Toprak’s book Türkiye’de Farklı Olmak (Being Different in Turkey) contains a chapter on women: “Subjects of Social Pressure beyond Time and Space: Women”. The situation is even worse across the country. I would like to share with you the opening paragraph of this chapter:

“They express well-known difficulties, such as obstacles to their education; unhappy marriages or marriages against their will; not having their own economic means; and their concerns for the future. However, there is one particular problem they speak about and even to express it may help its solution: going out. To go out of the house, to go out in the streets, to walk around, to be a part of public life… however you describe it, they cannot go there. Even if they do go out, there is no place outside their homes where they find comfort.”

Are women living creatures that have all those characteristics that men should not have, as I have mentioned above? Weak, needy of protection, emotional, has soft spots, has to put on make up to look beautiful, inclined to sin and cause men to sin, the other… No, I shall never agree with any of these.

Above all, this is Anatolia. Things like this cannot happen in Anatolia, they shouldn’t. This is the land of the Mother Goddess. On these lands, females are sacred. This is the land of the women who made us win the War of Independence with their sacrifice, efforts and strength….

I am going back to the beginning now and I wish that;

Next year on March 8th:

Our women feel to the marrow of their bones that there is equality.
Next year I want to see more female leaders, more female businesspeople, more female entrepreneurs, more female members of the parliament, more female scientists, writers, artists, teachers, doctors and lawyers.
I want to see more girls going to school.
I want more associations, foundations and non-governmental organisations to be led by women. I do not want to give female victims to honour killings next year. I want women not to be exposed to violence, be discriminated against, dependent on unhappy marriages, and not feel the “neighbourhood pressure”.

I wish women will not be the “other”, I wish they will be free. In short, I wish that next year we will not have to celebrate Women’s Day.


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