Why do (Turkish) women have to choose between clichés?

Why do (Turkish) women have to choose between clichés?

Nazlan Ertan - nazlanertan@gmail.com
Why do (Turkish) women have to choose between clichés Journal, journal on the floor, tell me which is the fairest cliché of all?

Or should I simply ask the question to a man – father, brother, husband, lover, politician, stylist, and moralist – so that he can tell me what is fair, politically correct, ethical, national and universally valued?

Excuse me, sir, how would you like to see me?

Should I be your “headscarved sister” – never looking at you in the eye, never laughing out loud, proud, dignified and self-sacrificing, making sure that my marriage works and my three children are good citizens and pious Muslims – in short, the women after the heart of the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) (ex) heavyweight Bülent Arınç and President Recept Tayyip Erdoğan and ilk? Yes, yes, I am aware that as a headscarved woman a lot rides on me, for it is I who should show the Christian/liberal/secular world that I can be an agile policeman, sorry, policeperson. I need to show that I can make a top-notch president of a military medical academy. I can be part of the cabinet, too, and take over the file on women. I will be your headscarved sister, your soldier, the First Lady or the First Daughter. Those who love you, sir, will applaud my modesty and those who are against you will eye me with the same suspicion, thinking that my headscarf makes me your rib.

Should I be your “revolutionary sister,” then, Sir? Or is this cliché too outdated, a remnant of the seventies?

Should I be artless, powderless, etatist – the type glorified in left-wing novels? Those who love you will compare me to La Pasionaria, to Rosa Luxemburg, or to Simone de Beauvoir and those who hate you will laugh at me, with quips on how my politics would change if I found the right man and put on some red nail polish.

Or, going in the line of revolutions, should I be your bare-breasted Marianne, the symbol of secular France, running toward liberté, égalité, fraternité, but alas, not toward sororité? Would you then tell the whole world, like French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, that my breasts are exposed because I am “feeding the people,” and that I am not wearing a veil because I am free?  He is wrong, you know. The root of my freedom is not my breasts but my dogged insistence and never-ending struggle to be neither a whore nor a doormat. 

Should I be the fighter for women’s rights, sir, or is that a cliché you dislike altogether? Will you laugh at me as I demand/lobby/rally/battle for equal pay/opportunity and for legal protection for my choices, be it what I wear or the sex of the person I sleep with? Or will you just write me off as “a hysterical, unwanted spinster,” “a degenerate who want to sleep around” “a half woman who cannot reach the holy destiny of motherhood,” “a poor female who has lost traditional values?” Or worse, will you tell me that you, the leaders, are the best feminists because you know that women and men are different and you enforce that difference?

Then, should I be your quintessential victim, sir, as you short-charge my labor, censure the words that I utter, limit by mobility through glass ceilings, beat me up if I am not a “good wife,” threaten me if I want a divorce, disown me if I like sleeping with a man before marriage or, horror of horrors, sleep with a woman, kill me to protect my honor – or, rather, your ego?

So what should I wear when I face the world, sir? A décolleté dress and a miniskirt makes me a target for harassment, anything with a “burk” in it, from burka to burkini, makes me submissive or even a potential security threat, my leg hair makes me disgusting, my blonde highlights and pink cheekbones me a Barbie doll, my lack of make-up makes me neglectful and tired, having too many kids make me look retro and no kids makes me a selfish, driven bitch. Most of all, though, I should never, ever look old.

To hell with your clichés! It is no reflection on me but on your primitive minds!