Hypocrisy on women’s rights in Turkey
On March 8, thousands of women marched in unison on Istanbul’s central İstiklal Avenue. According to the “We Will Stop Femicide” platform, in February alone 48 women in Turkey were killed by men.
A big social awareness movement has developed in Turkey because there are no effective laws to keep women safe from violent men. NGOs, individuals and even brands feel the social responsibility of taking an active role on developments regarding women’s lives.
But when it comes to the media there are two faces to the situation. Women are repeatedly objectified in the mainstream media in Turkey. Provocative headlines are used even in news reports about harassment simply to get more clicks. At the same time, however, media outlets often purport to defend women’s rights and stand against sexual violence. This is one of the big dilemmas in this age: Women’s rights vs. populism and capitalism. The latter almost always wins.
Today, click bait stories and provocative headlines are new forms of sensationalism and yellow journalism. Poisonous narratives create a negative effect on perceptions of women. They objectify, target, use women to profit and yet, all outlets are mirroring each other to compete. Headlines that are used for news reports about murder are often as provocative as headlines for news reports about celebrities.
If the media continues to use this strategy to get more clicks, they will only be feeding the problem while supposedly standing against it. Do media outlets really care about women? Or are they only interested because their sad stories bring good traffic to their websites?
Populism damages people. See what it does to us: When a report about the killing of a women or a violence is published, a big reaction is provoked. The story is clicked a million times. Social media is stirred. Readers are furious. Thousands of people stand up to say: “We’re with her.” The victim believes that she is saved.
But just a couple of days later you can hardly find a trace of what happened. Where is the victim now? Where is the assailant? Where is the parliament member who promised to follow up the case? Is anyone doing anything about changing the law? Where are the social media users who were very angry a couple of days ago? Where is everyone?
Let me answer these questions for you. The victim is now all alone. When the incident captured the attention of “important” people, the assailant was detained, questioned by police, and released. He has been free ever since. The media has already lost interest because something new has happened and the focus has shifted to the “something new” like a ridiculous statement from a celebrity or a political scandal. The truth is that nothing has changed for the woman who was a victim of sexual violence a couple days ago. She is still in danger; the man is still free; the laws have not changed.
But the populist system has gotten what it needed: Millions of clicks and traffic for the story.
Women are not only victimized by men. They are also victimized by populism.
What kind of hypocrisy is this?