Julianne, outbound to Turkey

In past journals I have written, I have not been entirely truthful. Because of how amazing my exchange has been thus far I have been blinded to the negative aspects of Turkey. The truth, I think, is more important than the peace of mind of some Rotarians.

My exchange has been amazing. This is no lie, but I have encountered less pleasant aspects of my country that I think it is time I finally share them. One of the most major issues that rings true throughout the country, in even the most liberal of places, is sexism. Before coming to Turkey I knew I supported women’s rights, but I never knew to what extent. In my life I have been lucky enough to be given the same opportunities as any man around me. I was never told no just because I was a girl. I was judged based on my actions and my character, not on the absence of a male sex organ. I am sad to say that this has changed since I entered Turkey. As much as I love this beautiful country with all the wonderful things it has to offer, there is a major gender gap. I live in the most liberal part of Turkey where women have the most rights and to me this is incredibly disheartening. Officially women have the same rights as men in terms of legal situations (to some extent). However in social situations I have to say this is not the case. Previously I have talked about issues in Turkey with cat calling, but it is so much more than that.

I do not want to paint the entire country with one brush and one color. I have met many people and experienced many events that show the fight for equalization of the sexes is well underway in Turkey. When an atrocity was committed to a girl in a city in the far east of Turkey, women AND men wore mini skirts and marched through the streets to show women have rights. The mini skirt was a symbol that no matter what a woman wears, she is not a sexual object. Ever. Turkey is the place where for the first time in my life I was subjected to real unadulterated sexism. I have been told I couldn’t do things because it “wasn’t what pretty girls do” and that “I wasn’t as good at something as a man”.

The gender gap is not as clear to see here as in many other countries because it is hidden in the shadows of everyday interactions, but its still a prominent part of society. Every so often you will have an event that really gives a moment of clarity to the everyday injustices that previously had been unnoticeable. As an exchange student I am told to assimilate to society and the new culture around me, but there are some things that I do not find right and I don’t care which culture they come from; I will never allow them to become a part of my cultural ideology. The behavior many others and I are subjected to on a daily basis is grotesque and completely inexcusable. I don’t care if you were raised in barn; women are not your property, we aren’t your pets, we are your equals. Accept it. This is the twenty first century and feminism is alive and real.

The point at which I truly realized the extent of the issue was the day I found out about some of the archaic and medieval laws that are still in existence today in my host nation. In Eastern Turkey if a girl gets pregnant before she is married, her father has the right to kill her without consequence. This is called an “Honor Killing”. Personally I couldn’t think of a more ironic and disgusting name for this act. There is absolutely nothing honorable about these killings in even the most twisted and demented universe. The shear fact that this law is still in existence makes me want to vomit. As soon as the cloak of Turkey being a modern country is over your eyes they go and tear it off with news like this. Another aspect of everyday life in this magnificent country is the questioning of your virginity. Since when did it become socially acceptable to scream across a restaurant to a perfect stranger asking if they’ve “lost it yet?” If I had to choose which question I had been asked the most this would probably be it.

Every country has beautiful aspects and the aspects that most wish would just be swept under the rug. Turkey is no different. I could name countless examples of this throughout the world, including in my home country. This essay is not to destroy the image of Turkey that most have. It is to open their eyes to see the good and the bad. It is to enlighten those who do not know about the country they are about to step foot in. This is my way of shedding some light on the shadows of the world.