Women? Laughing? IN PUBLIC?! Not on Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Arinc’s watch! In a speech this week, Arinc decried supposedly immoral women who dared to visibly chuckle. “A woman should be chaste,” Arinc said. “She should know the difference between public and private. She should not laugh in public.”
Although ludicrous, Arinc’s stance is not altogether shocking given prevailing attitudes toward women amongst Turkey’s leaders. Stifling a women’s ability to laugh – to express and experience joy – is part of a larger effort to stifle women’s rights in general.
Women and progressive men in Turkey found Arinc’s words to be, well, laughable, and as such took the most appropriate course of action: laughing a lot in public. Throughout the country, citizens posted photos of themselves on social media unabashedly laughing, tagging their posts with #direnkahkaha, which translates to “resist laughter.”
“[Arinc’s] words perfectly illustrate his and the AK Party’s attitude towards women,” said Mehtap Dogan, a member of the Socialist Feminist Collective. “In their eyes, women should not have any rights, they treat us like a separate species. Using moralism to hide behind, they defend violence, rape, and sexism.”
Meanwhile, Arinc dismissed claims of any wrongdoing, calling it a “disgusting, ugly, and unfounded fabrication.” Granted, he definitely did say those words in his speech, but he didn’t intend for that to be the takeaway, apparently. “I believe I have made a useful speech,” he said. “If I had only said women should not laugh, then I have done something irrational, but my speech was about manners and moral rules.”
Arinc elaborated that it’s women who indulge in “fake laughter” (whatever that means) that really upset his sensibilities. He also took the opportunity to make a swipe at ladies who “never miss the chance to wrap themselves around a dancing pole,” further demonstrating his general disdain for women.
While Turkey’s feminist activists have been attempting to steer the conversation toward ongoing violence toward women, it’s a shame that the prime minister continues to blame women for supposed wrongdoing rather than promoting positive change.
Fortunately, not all of Turkey’s leaders believe in limiting women’s happiness. Presidential candidate Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, a member of the oppositional party, publicly denounced Arinc’s comments, telling his supporters, “Our country needs our women to laugh and to hear everyone’s joyful laughter more than ever.”
Indeed, the defiant women are taking that call to heart by refusing to bow to unreasonable pressure. In this case, literal laughter is the best way to laugh off Arinc’s sexist condemnation. May the women of Turkey continue to snicker at these antiquated “morality” claims and pursue gender equality.
Photo Credit: Twitter User @Revoltistanbul
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