Why(nstein) not in Turkey?
Thousands of Turkish women, just like their counterparts from Gaza to Guatemala, have been furiously tapping on their computers under the hashtag #metoo for the last few days. The meaning of the cryptic #metoo message is clear: Me too, I have also been harassed. Me too, I hate Harvey Weinstein and his bully of a brother and all who think that just because they are powerful/star-makers/employers they are allowed to impose themselves on a woman, harass her and threaten her that her future relies on what comes out of their mouth. Me too, I want this sort of harassment acknowledged, condemned and taken before a court.
It is amazing how Harvey Weinstein’s image has changed in a short time. The man, nicknamed “God” or “Genius” because of the award-winning films produced by his company, Miramax, suddenly turned into a pariah. He lost his job at the company that bore his name, he was expelled from the Oscars organizing committee and his wife filed for divorce.
Whenever a sexual harassment case claims international headlines, I ask myself the same question: could it have happened in Turkey? Could an award-winning Turkish producer face a downfall because he harassed actresses? Would Dominique Strauss-Kahn, whose ambitions to become France’s president were thwarted in 2011 after he raped a maid in a downtown hotel in New York, have had the same story if he had been a Turkish politician, or if the rape had happened in a Turkish hotel?
Just think back to Beren Saat, one of Turkey’s young actresses, who wrote a post on the harassments she faced in her life two years ago, after the rape and murder of a 21-year-old student, Özgecan Aslan. An activist and human rights advocate, Saat wrote that growing up she faced a long series of harassment and violation from school to the streets, from work to private life. “There was a drunken TV chain manager who tried to grab my ass,” she wrote as she cited harassments and slights one after the other.
Encouraged by Saat, women from all over Turkey posted under the hashtag #sendeanlat, “tell your story too” in Turkish. “My father gave me pepper spray when I became a university student,” wrote one. “When you complain about harassment to the police, they respond that it is only natural,” wrote another. Very few of the stories ended with the disgrace of the harassers, let alone with them actually put behind bars.
Thanks to women’s organizations and specialized media, there has been increased awareness and public pressure on child abuse, rape and domestic violence. Yet, this does not translate into an umbrella of support or action taken against all harassment cases, particularly when it is done by powerful men and when it does not end in death or serious injury.
Had Weinstein been Turkish, the women who would have launched the complaint would have been accused of “making money” off a famous man. The actress(es) who would bring forth their charges would be reminded of the old saying that “the way to fame is through the bed of the director,” and it is highly likely a few politicians from the ruling party or conservative writers would find a way to tie the sexual harassment to the actresses’ “loose morals”—with the usual “decent girls do not go on stage” reaction. Ah, also, you can count on his wife to make some sort of supporting statement, as if her abuser of a husband was some sort of victim lured by the “conniving sirens.”
Think I am wrong? Just look at social media’s reactions to Beren Saat and the number of people who have told her to “get another job” if she does not want to be harassed—and innuendos suggesting a grown woman does not get harassed so she must have invited it!
Turkey is unlikely to have its Weinstein moment unless it stops blaming the victim in harassment cases and learns that it is the harasser who should be named and shamed, not the person who is harassed.