Sixty-five Turkish women‘s rights organizations took out a full page advertisement in a mass circulation daily newspaper Thursday condemning President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over his remarks this week that equality between men and women goes against “nature.”
The advertisement in Hurriyet newspaper, one of the best-selling dailies in the country, comes three days after the president said Islam dictated that women should prioritize motherhood and slammed feminists.
“Women and men have equal rights,” the women‘s groups wrote, adding that Turkey already lags behind international indices in terms of gender equality.
They noted that Erdogan has made similar disparaging statements towards women in the past and charged that the president‘s remarks violates the constitution and international treaties Turkey has signed.
“We are not going to give in to inequality,” the statement said, calling for women to rise up and defend their protected rights.
Well hey now. He was just talking. It’s just something he said. It’s just culture. Hasn’t Christina Hoff Sommers been telling us to stop objecting to sexism in the culture? That’s certainly the message I’ve been getting from Sommers and her allies – that feminism has already done the necessary and we have total equality, so all this talk about stereotypes and tropes is just melodrama and victim feminism.
Let’s see what Erdoğan did say. The Guardian reported on Monday:
“Our religion [Islam] has defined a position for women: motherhood,” Erdoğan said at a summit in Istanbul on justice for women, speaking to an audience including his own daughter Sumeyye.
“Some people can understand this, while others can’t. You cannot explain this to feminists because they don’t accept the concept of motherhood.”
Does he think feminists deny that it takes a uterus and Fallopian tubes to gestate a baby?
More likely, that’s how he chose to frame the fact that feminists think women should not be restricted to motherhood. Feminists don’t accept the claim he started with: that any religion or any other system of ideas gets to define a single position for all women. That’s the claim that we don’t “understand” in the sense that we flatly reject it.
“Motherhood is something else,” he said, claiming that it should be a woman’s priority because Islam exalts women as mothers.
He went on to say that women and men could not be treated equally “because it goes against the laws of nature”.
“Their characters, habits and physiques are different … You cannot place a mother breastfeeding her baby on an equal footing with men.”
Sure you can. Everybody is different. Individuals are different. People are different. That by itself is not a reason to take away their rights.
Aylin Nazliaka, an MP from the main opposition Republican People’s party said Erdoğan “ostracised” women by portraying them as delicate, weak and powerless and limiting their role to motherhood.
“Erdoğan has publicly committed a hate crime … But I will continue to fight this man who sees no difference between terrorists and feminists,” she said in a written statement.
Sule Zeybek, an anchorwoman at the Turkish broadcaster Kanal D, hit back at Erdoğan’s comments live on television during a news bulletin.
“I am a feminist and thank God I’m a mum. I wouldn’t kiss my mother’s feet but I have great respect for her,” she said.
Culture. They’re all talking about culture. They’re talking about expectations, and stereotypes, and discourse. Soft stuff. Not stoning and FGM and child marriage, but more abstract oppressions and subordinations.
Why? Because all of that matters. It matters in Turkey, it matters here, it matters in the UK and Australia, it matters in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. All the places.