When people ask me what is the hardest thing about living in Turkey, I will from now on point them to Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan’s latest comments about equality between the sexes. Whereas I love Istanbul’s vibrancy, cultural outputs, its people and their hospitality, the history, the grandness in the air, what I struggle with most intensely is the inequality between men and women—and when the person leading the country voices it so blatantly, what hope do the rest of us have?
At the Women and Justice Summit hosted by the Women and Democracy Association in Ankara yesterday, Erdoğan came out with such gems as: “Sometimes, here they say ‘men and women equality.’ But ‘equality among women’ and ‘equality among men’ is more correct. However, what is particularly essential is women’s equality before justice. Equality is turning the victim into an oppressor by force or vice versa. What women need is to be able to be equivalent, rather than equal.” Where in the world does equality turn the victim into the oppressor? What does equivalent even mean? To me, this sounds like gibberish from a misogynistic oppressor who is clutching at straws to make his unfounded argument.
Reiterating a past comment, Erdoğan said: “You cannot bring women and men into an equal position; this is against nature.” And he went on: “You cannot subject a pregnant woman to the same working conditions as a man. You cannot make a mother who has to breastfeed her child equal to a man. You cannot make women do everything men do like the communist regimes did… This is against her delicate nature.” Delicate nature? Are you kidding me? Does this man strike you as someone living in 2014?
Feminists got a verbal beating too. “Our religion [Islam] has defined a position for women [in society]: Motherhood. Some people can understand this, while others can’t. You cannot explain this to feminists because they don’t accept the concept of motherhood,” he said. Forget about women making their own sexual reproductive choices: in Turkey, motherhood is the prescribed profession.
As I’ve said many times in this column, Turkey and Istanbul are full of liberal-minded people who think Erdoğan is full of shit. The outrage on social media—from public commentators and the public alike—underlines this. But despite this, this is the person leading the country, a person who wields his tongue to manipulate the less-educated members of society by citing religion and preying on their base feelings. They’re so no way to sugarcoat this: Erdoğan thinks women and men are not equal. I feel sorry for his wife and daughters.
Title image source: www.irishexaminer.com