When I agreed to write a piece like this for bianet, I hadn't thought of one thing. Attempting to scribble anything on "male violence" means confronting dark, strange and buried moments of your personal history as well. Saying, "It'll be a piece of cake, I'll talk about displays of masculinity and be done," doesn't cut it.
I even considered delegating the piece to a student, whose punishment would be to write "I'm afraid of confrontation" 100 times in his notebook. I'm afraid of confrontation, and I cover this fear up with my anger. I am afraid of women, and the more I get afraid, the more I fill with hate. I'm afraid of masculinity, and the more I get afraid, the more I exact violence.
I tried writing "I'm afraid of confrontation" for pages and pages but couldn't. I think that also made me afraid.
In the end I dared postpone the "deadline" and jumped into the well of confrontation.
I am seven years old.
My dad decides to take me to a match one Sunday.
Thermal underwear, woolen undershirt, warm sweater... I am dressed to withstand winter in Ankara. We take two vehicles to get to May 19 Stadium. The crowd outside gives me a thrill. I salivate staring at the meatball sandwich stands despite having been overfed at home.
The moment we enter the stadium I am fascinated. It's just so big... I have this hope that I'll see Fenerbahçe. "It's a second league match," says my father. This is a bit disappointing. But whatever. I'm still enjoying myself – I'm "doing something" with my father after all.
We take a seat in the bleachers. It's not easy watching a game in a stadium. I try to figure out where to watch and what to get excited about. Ten rows behind us is a rowdy group with flags. My father, watching the game with a calm expression, jumps up at a certain point yelling, "How could you miss that?" I immediately mimic him. I get on my feet and emit a deep "Ahh!" Watching a game calls for this I guess.
Our disappointment at the missed goal annoys the rowdy group. It seems they support the rival team. One of them says something to my father. He doesn't turn to look at them. But it's easy for me to see that there is something wrong. Five minutes later when we rejoice over a goal, the storm breaks. Two people walk up to us menacingly, one says, "Pray to God you have that kid with you," while another spits on us. My dad turns red. At once he's holding on to me, and making sentences that contain the words, "gentlemen, please, rude". I don't remember if there was a scuffle and which swears were used. All I remember is that we left the stadium before the match was over.
My story of "doing something" with my father gets drowned that day in those angry men's spit.
Years later I wanted to talk to my father about that day. I was curious about what he had felt at that moment. He didn't remember it. He recalled us going to the match, but not why and how we left the stadium. A man's mind deleted those moments when he is "defeated by" other men.
My story of "confronting something" with my father was deleted that day through an angry male community's teachings on power.
Another incident from those years sticks out in my trip down memory lane.
We are playing catch on the street. One of the boys –I think his name was Abidin– who is four or five years older than me suggests we "play Dr. Kimble" to make our game more film-like. It's a reference to a very popular television series of the time. Someone is to be the runaway Dr. Kimble, and another, the man sworn to catch him, Police Lieutenant Gerard.
I proudly accept the role of Dr. Kimble. I manage to run for a while. But in the end I get caught. Abidin, as Lieutenant Gerard, doesn't stop at catching me. He says I must also be given a punishment.
They tie my hands at the wrists with laundry string, which I don't even know how they found. Then they hang me from my hands down a drain pipe jutting out of the apartment building wall. They hang me and just leave. I remember quite clearly how much they enjoyed hanging me, how they laughed. Oh memory, how cruel you are!
I know the rest from what I was told. My sister, seven years my senior, saw me like that on her way back from school. Hanging from a pipe, face wet with tears, blood settled in the wrists, half-stunned, and having pissed a little in his pants. She immediately took me down and straight home. Then she took off her school uniform, "put on her pants", and got back out. She gave Abidin and a few other boys a good beating in the middle of the street.
To protect me from male cruelty, she rushed in like a man. She put on pants, swore, used her fists, and responded to violence with violence.
In all frankness, my sister's "one man army" story was always told with pride among the family. For years I walked the path of life with the comfort of this feeling of power. After all, I had a sister powerful enough to beat up all the Abidins I would encounter.
My father, on the other hand, didn't remember the incident at the May 19 Stadium. He left this world before we could have that confrontation talk.
I thought about these two incidents in the days I was trying to get this piece done.
On the one hand, a story that strives "to talk and to tell all", on the other, one that "responds to violence with violence".
Well, what story am I telling today?
I know that you have to tell, in order not to reproduce that language of "hegemonic masculinity". First to yourself, and then to everyone else. You need to understand it to be able to tell it, and confront it, to be able to understand it.
Now let's bring out our elementary school notebooks and write for pages and pages: "I'm afraid of confrontation!"
Only afterwards will be begin to overcome our fears, to confront, to understand, and to tell people that part we have understood.
Right away. Right now. (YK/APA/PU)
52 WEEKS 52 MEN
"This campaign has been produced as part of Sivil Düşün EU Programme, with the support of European Union. The contents of this campaign are the sole responsibility of IPS Communication Foundation/ bianet and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.
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