Male Turkey vs. female Turkey
BELGİN AKALTAN - firstname.lastname@example.org
DAILY NEWS photo / Emrah GÜRELI sort of moved house last week. I said “sort of” because we helped our son move house – but because we had so much stuff in his apartment, it felt like moving half of our house. This “full” or “sort of” moving house is happening for the third time in the last two years.
Moving house is such a nuisance in itself. How do you pack a bottle of olive oil? Or your plants? How do you ease the trauma of the poor cat? The movers touch your stuff. Everything. You take a look at the loaded truck and your life seems miserable and concentrated into 10 cubic meters.
Anyway, as part of moving house, I had to do all the bureaucratic work to end the electricity, water, gas, Internet and cable TV subscriptions. A business which I am actually very good at. I still have difficulty canceling my automatic payments from an old bank account… But I know what I will do: I will close my account altogether at that certain bank if they don’t answer me by tomorrow.
Well, I was in Kadıköy at İSKİ, the Istanbul Waterworks Authority. The officials at the information desk started processing my application and after filling in the form, I stepped sideways to stand in front of the numerator, so that I would press a button and get a number. At that moment, I am fully in front of the machine, occupying the one-person individual spot. Then I paused a moment and asked the information desk whether or not I needed a number because they had already started. This whole question took about 10 seconds. Then, a jerk behind me, a tall jerk, extended his arm over me, going to the button of the numerator as if I did not exist there. No “excuse me,” or “sorry.” Or “I’m in a rush, if you allow me.” Nothing of that kind… Just an arm reaching for the button, if possible right through my torso; as if in a science fiction movie, as if I was not there.
Now, don’t take this as an exaggeration, but this is the average level of manners you receive (as a woman) in public places, offices and mass transportation… (If you have your husband or a male accompanying you, then the story is different.)
As the guy was trying to reach the button over me, I was able to recognize what he was doing and reacted at the last split second. I was able to extend my hand very quickly and pushed the button myself, got the number and then told him off: “I AM HERE.” What was he trying to do? Take my number and step in front of me? That would gain him what, two minutes?
Actually it was not the time that mattered; it was the fact that I was a woman, obstructing him. I should not have even been there. Or I should have naturally stepped aside to give way to him.
Hang on, I know I’m pushing this a bit, but listen to this: This is Melike Karakartal’s column in daily Hürriyet’s Kelebek supplement. She was on a trip to Italy and she felt like a princess all through the trip because of the kindness of Italian men:
“When you spend time in Italy, you adopt a mood that could be described as ‘getting used to the average Italian men’s kindness.’ There, you really embrace your new status as a princess, constantly getting surprised at how kind these guy are, no matter what their age is, or their socioeconomic status or education. And such good manners they have… Then, bam, you come to the end of your trip.
“You experience your biggest disappointment at the first moment you come across the average menfolk of your country. That is when you step inside the Istanbul-Bologna plane. It seemed like millions of Turkish citizens were coming back from the leather fair organized here April 3 - 5.
“While I was making my way to the front of the plane, I saw a guy coming from the front to the rear. He was pushing and shoving whoever was in front of him, to the left and the right…
“Now, having gotten accustomed to the aforementioned behavior of Italian men toward women on the street, at the restaurant, at the café, in short at every place collectively lived, for a few days, I expected the guy to step sideways to an empty seat, smile and let me pass…. I had shopping bags, my purse, other bags; my mobility was limited…
“But, what, the guy kept on walking toward my left at high speed. We got stuck in the middle of the narrow corridor. He still did not move backward. I said, ‘You are crushing me, slow down a little.’ You know what he said? He gave up pushing himself, stood still and looked back over his shoulder.”
Now, I have to go back to Turkish as Melike Karakartal wrote it: “Hadi geeeeç, geeeeç!” This could roughly mean: “C’mon, go, gooo!”
Melike Karakartal continued: “Because the guy was herding sheep, maybe cattle. And at that moment, I rescued myself from the mistake I had fallen into: I quickly left my ‘princess mode’ and entered the normal ‘menfolk of my country’ mode and put on my armor.”
Melike asks why we are like this. She wrote that we have one answer: “This is the attitude attributed to man by the dominant culture he lives in. In his world where the man is the only sovereign, where women are shoved; all women should be serving men and should try to make life easier for him. He regards women, in the absence of civilization, as a living body, nothing much different than the cow that gives milk; this is engraved in his brain; consequently, such situations are normal for him. He is indeed angry that I have not stepped aside to give way to him. He is very, very surprised that I warned him.
“This esteemed guy, who is used to treating women as ‘cattle,’ is also very surprised… It is impossible for him to hear what a woman says, to understand it, to regard a woman as an equivalent to him. This is how he has perceived women; this is how he has known women since the day he was born…”
Thank you, Melike Karakartal.