There was a steep hill just at the end of the street. We started to go up the hill together with my father in that summer's heat.
My father was grumbling, "How on earth can the entrance to a hospital be like that?" He was right. The hill was indeed steep and long. When we reached the entrance to the hospital, the duty officer said "Hello" and asked, "Are you here for the medical examinations?"
I was about to turn 14. There had just appeared my moustache. We went inside, submitted our documents, registered and moved on to the garden of the hospital under the guidance of a marine.
At least 50 young children of my age were waiting at the garden. They had just hit puberty and their families had become anxious about their future.
The examinations lasted around 10 days. They had examined each and every part of our bodies, even our toenails. It was also on these days that I encountered homophobia for the first time in my life.
Because they had also checked whether we were homosexuals or not and this examination was done while we were all together. There is, of course, no need to describe the feeling of humiliation this examination gave to us.
'Marine' or 'Kevin'?
It was how my military student years, whose levels of testosterone were always extremely high, began.
From then on, the mechanism, which would inscribe the merits of becoming a "marine" and the key points of living like a man/soldier on our brains, started to operate with all its solemnity and cruelty.
In this method, - at least, in those years -, there was no place for women. In our preparatory year, we did not encounter a single woman, except for a first lieutenant, who was an English teacher.
As for the other male officers, they just looked the female officer in the eye and talked on and on about the superiority of men to women.
In fact, one day, one of them crossed the line and started his speech by saying, "Sea is like a woman, it is treacherous, you need to be careful" and continued: "That is why, they call the sea 'marine' (bahriye); otherwise, they would have called it 'kevin' (bahri)." I remember that we laughed a lot at this teenage boy joke, at least on that day.
Can there be a woman on board?
In that period, being a soldier was a highly important profession. In fact, three coup d'états that were staged in ten-year periods (except for the attempts) were behind us. Turkey was going through a dark period, which was under the administration of soldiers and created by the fascism of September 12.
Just as in every other area in the country, in the military as well, the issue of woman was one of those subjects, over which no one found it necessary to think: Woman had been placed at the center of the bad jokes, where scornfulness and machoism intertwined, as in the example of "marine-kevin".
And, by the way, for centuries, sailors have been trying to persuade everyone that a woman on board brings bad luck. In other words, men try to cover the reality that they are incapable of controlling themselves with the help of rumors.
As you know, marines wear white clothes in summer. It was rumored that women love those summer clothes of marines the most and marines were secretly proud of it.
As for the army and aviation officers who wear uniforms in other colors, they made fun of the marines because of these white clothes by calling them "aunts-in-law". Marines got very angry about it.
On the one hand, tons of humiliating jokes were made over women; on the other hand, it was recommended that if a young woman was about to sit on a bench in the ferry, a white napkin that the marines carried in their pockets should be put on the bench so that her clothes would not get dirty. However, chivalry was, without a doubt, not that, which I would understand later on.
Adaptation to the civilian life
The adventure of military school that lasted almost five years ended when I left the Military Academy. Period of adaptation to the civilian live was not very hard for me.
Since I spent most of my education life in an all-male boarding military school, coeducation gave me the opportunity to know and understand myself on the one hand and to know and understand women on the other.
Women were also allowed to study in the military academy, if not in the high-school, a year after I left the school, though. I was not a witness to that period. But, I can still guess the hardships that a very few number of women went through among those several male military students.
Struggle against the imposed doctrine of machoism
It was just another mistake that was left from the military school years to spend the period of adolescence and young adulthood with summer loves, to conclude that I had figured out woman-man relationships and to approach life with these poor experiences.
We had all accumulated little love stories resembling hunting stories, where a mountain is made out of a molehill, just to be able to say something to our friends about the issue of women and relationships.
And, of course, none of these stories gave much of an idea about the mixed life "out there". That is why, it was not very easy to shake off those states of manhood that the military considered above blame.
As someone who was subjected to the doctrine of machoism, which the founding ideology standardized to a certain extent in the 1920s and has managed to survive up until today by, unfortunately, with a little wear and tear and based on the principle of continuity, at its very summit and at a very young age, would it become possible for me to look at the woman from a different perspective?
I tried to proceed by trying and failing, by stumbling and, of course, by feeling my way.
Afterwards, there were times when I quarreled with a woman who was my colleague or my lover at the top of my voice in the middle of the street and were also times when I offended other women with various discourtesies.
At times, I also explained things to a woman as if I was her teacher – in that attitude called mansplaining – and crossed the line by intervening in her decisions regarding her body.
There are some behavior patterns that the generation of men cannot fix even after knowing and understanding the struggle for women's rights. For instance, I remember that I had such times when I supported the libertarian attitudes regarding the veil issue only half-heartedly at the beginning, but, afterwards felt sorry for my behavior.
Against sexism and homophobia...
At the end of all this process, I have been striving to see life from a different perspective by being against sexism and homophobia and siding with the struggle of feminism, I have still been striving.
Because, as far as I can see in both myself and the ones around me, that macho inside the man does not leave him easily.
As if society, politics and, of course, state mentality do not otherize women enough, a meaningless anger against women is also being injected to men at home, at school, in the military and at every level of society.
And especially the inferiority complex created by a strong woman on a man is, unfortunately, not something that can be overcome easily.
It requires self-struggle.
If we turn to me: I still have distance to cover in terms of treating the house that I live in and my partner in a more attentive manner. (MU/ŞA/APA/SD)
Images: Kemal Gökhan Gürses
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