An ambitious woman who aims to reach ministerial level knows that she has at least one cabinet post open to her: The Ministry of Family and Social Policies. Before 2011, it was known as the Ministry Responsible for Women. This post, which always goes to a woman, has enjoyed a high turnover rate compared to the rest of the cabinet (seven women have been ministers since 2005 – with a tenure of around two years on average). These ministers have often been the only woman in the cabinet.
Please prime minister, could you not just give the post to a man next time?
Appoint a man who has had no training in gender issues; a man who in the years before he took over the post simply skipped over women abuse stories because they were too depressing; a man who would not read Oya Baydar, Elif Şafak, Alice Munroe, Doris Lessing, or even Hannah Arendt because they wrote “women’s stuff”; a man who thinks (and says) that Turkish women have everything they want, and what they don’t have they get by nagging anyway; a man who thinks history is really his story, with no contribution from women, and that the future would/should be the same; a man with a mustache and a checkered jacket; a man who thinks flirting is no better than prostitution, that decent women don’t laugh, don’t wear mini-skirts, and don’t get raped; a man who thinks good wives don’t get beaten.
If you appoint such a man then both you and we women can end the pretense that your government cares about women’s problems, issues and opinions.
We would then understand why the present policy toward women is marked by reluctance to take action on the real problems of women.
We could then blame the minister for recent attempts to “prevent” divorce rather than try to prevent child marriage, forced weddings and “second wives” through religious ceremonies. We would understand why a parliamentary committee, known as the “divorce committee,” comes up with outrageous suggestions such as marrying children off to their rapists and sending women who have been beaten to counseling, rather than sending the husband to the police.
We could blame the minister’s gender and lack of experience for misogynistic remarks on women’s role in keeping families together and clichés on motherhood and on women’s virtue, which should have been left in the Middle Ages. We could blame the minister for foolish advocacy of any foundation just because it is close to the government.
We could understand why the “Özgecan law,” which aims to ensure that rapists get a full punishment, has not been passed, although the ruling party has agreed to work on a common draft in March.
We could understand why the number of women who are working and studying is falling.
We could understand why businesses are growing but growth does not include a nursing room or a nursery, despite high numbers of women employees.
We could simply look around, roll our eyes and say, “What do you expect? The minister does not understand what it is like to be a woman in Turkey.”
We could also stop demonizing the single token woman, her headscarf, or her clumsy statements, and come to the obvious conclusion that women actually have no place in the government’s decision-making. Period.
The fact that this is the one ministry where you have placed a woman– rather than weightier posts in the justice, interior or economy ministries – should be proof enough for that conclusion. But you know we Turks need it right in front of our eyes to see.
Published in Hürriyet Daily News in May/28/2016