It was the beginning of 50s…
My father was alcoholic beverages expert at Diyarbakır Wine Factory. I was attending Süleyman Nazif Primary School in Sur, Diyarbakır. I think there were a boy with glasses and two round girls. These three kids were harshly bullied starting from the first days of the school. Our lightest words were cow, fat potato and four-eyes. My heart still sinks when I remember tears of these three friends of ours.
A few years later…
My father was at İzmir TEKEL Factory this time. I was attending Karşıyaka Fevzi Paşa Primary School. There is an increase in the number of boys with glasses and round girls. We carry on with bullying or witnessing in İzmir now. We are adding “Zeki Müren” as insult next to the “four-eyes”. It may sound funny to think that male violence begins like that, but believe me, it truly begins like that.
The cases, which we can describe as harassment continued at Karşıyaka High School and Karşıyaka Erdem College where I attended later, of course didn’t change, on the contrary level of these harassments increased. There were some cliché names given to boys who calmly walk around by themselves or don’t play football: “Girl Ahmet, Niminy-Piminy Mustafa…”
Let me add right now that even though I had no interest in football, I managed to become a goalkeeper because of the fear that I would be nicknamed too, or at least I thought I did.
The situation is direr for the girls. We see all girls ready to do something or go anywhere with us because we are the “boys” of our father or even some mothers!
I am trying to explain this: I guess this male violence, sexual harassment, physical violence, mobbing, however you name it starts from the primary school. We all had teachers saying “Don’t cry like a girl” or “Don’t jump around like boys”. Teachers picked up the education where families left.
The biggest fights I witnessed in a modern city like İzmir were between male students from Karşıyaka High School and Air Force High School.
You predicted the reason for these fights correctly. When a boy from Air Force High School is seen with a girl from Karşıyaka High School, the boy would immediately be battered and the girl would be sent to her home with all sorts of insults.
In the following wekk, Air Force High School students terrorized Karşıyaka with groups of 10 -20 students. The grown-ups had indeed already figured it out. “Hey guys, is it worth fighting over a girl?”
What followed this was the sentence which we would be hearing a lot in the future: “Why did you pick on the boy, the girl must have given him the glad eye!”. And many other things like this…
Of course it is possible to slur over this and blame puberty but unfortunately, it continued.
The same years…
I saw my father, who never hit us once, slapping my mother. It was a very hard slap and my mother nearly fell. I was around 14-15 years old.
Though I scared, I remember attempting to walk up to my father. I also sadly remember that my mother came between us and told me “Son, your father is in the doldrums, you go out” and sent me to the garden.
This didn’t end there. One day, when we came home our mother with a bag in her hand took the hands of my brothers Turhan, Turgut, Taner and my sister Türkan and said, “Come on, we are leaving”.
“Where are we going mom?”, I asked. She said, “We are going to your aunt in Bursa and we will never come back home”. My mother left us at the post office’s door and she entered. Two hours later, she came out with a very pale face.
Young people don’t remember, in the past you were going to the post office and lined up for telephone. If you were lucky, your turn would come in one or two hours so you could speak on the phone.
In a very short time, we realized that we were going back to our home. My mom was pouring out her grief to me as I was the oldest. “Son, your aunt and her husband said that a couple of slaps is not a big deal. Don’t leave your home, don’t come here”, my mother said.
So we returned..
In the middle of 60s, libertatian footsteps of the 70s started to be heard…A great number of young men and women aged between 18-25 including me were in the Faculty of Political Sciences at Ankara University. Half of us were staying at Cebeci Campus.
Three fourths of the 400-people dormitory were men. It was the first time for all of us that we were alone together with life. Everybody was very happy.
Now, one might says, “Things have changed a lot, right, Tuğrul?”
I am afraid not.
Even the progressive ones among us were viewing women, especially the beautiful ones who had boyfriends as “wanton and floozy”. Let me mention someone here who is not with us anymore. Carmen Nursun didn’t only graduate from the Ankara University but also studied at the Faculty of Medicine and had become a doctor. Let me say hi to her.
She was the most beautiful girl of the school. She only dates with handsome men. Of course we don’t do it openly but gossip about women on who is virgin and who is not while drinking our vodka and beer.
Indeed, the only beautiful woman was not Nursun. Other beautiful women had their shares from the gossips: Zerrin, Berrin, Fatoş, Hülya, Samiye, Sema, Ferda, Semra, Ülkü, Sevtap, İpek, Selma, Canset, Vekaa, Işık, Necmiye, Nimet, Hale, Gaye, Ferhan, Sezi…
When the years of 1968-69 came, we saw that these women are not only beautiful but also most reliable people in our lives. This face made us feel like a rock hit our head.
That was the time when I first questioned myself. “Why do you care who is flirting with who, mind your own business!”. But I was 22 when I reached that stage.
And we had a young friend, I cannot remember his name. He was sitting at the canteen and knitting. I still feel troubled for the passive-aggressive attitude we maintained against him.
I hope he reads this article. I would like him to ask “Why did you join the others?” so I can respond “I’m sorry!”. Unfortunately, this friend of ours left the school in a very short time.
These are a couple of occasions of what men do against women and the ones who are not like them. Can we hide behind the excuse “I was young”?
I witnessed in person during the long years I spent in the business life starting from TRT to Sublime Porte that the situation hasn’t changed. I saw elderly directors who were harassing intern girls.
I had tens of colleagues who were looking down on their coworkers just because they were women.
I will not get deeper into this but I hope they read this article and want to say something like “Oh, what have we done!”
Let me say one final thing: I remember Nurcan Akad who served as editor-in-chief in the mainstream media in my journalism career but the number of my women colleagues who took part in the decision mechanisms is extremely low. Can there be a greater violence than this?
I apologize to all young women and men reporters whom I …with or without knowing it.
Let me call on all men, join this campaign of “questioning”. We can all be useful in this or that way. (TE/APA/TK)
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.