Of Tesbih and Testes: First Layer of Disgruntleds

17 Responses

  1. I am sure I would feel just as you do.

    Lately I’ve been quite frustrated on my MIL’s behalf–there is so much she wants to see and do, but doesn’t because she is of the generation that stays by her husband’s side–and he knows this and won’t just say, “Go–I’ll be fine.”

  2. Lil says:

    I would feel exactly like you. I can’t even fathom a world where women are relegated to the sidelines. And yet, that is precisely a great majority of the world.

  3. Deborah says:

    I’m so glad you wrote this while still in situ – the edge in your voice might not have been so sharp once you were back in your comfort zone.
    I would have a very hard time with the whole thing, too and imagine that your frustration has led you to fantasize about firing up a kind of trade-union, women’s-rights organization that would topple the male-heavy hierarchy in a Turkish, gender-specific Arab Spring.

    When cultural differences involve what we consider to be basic freedoms and rights, they are extremely hard to accept. Were you ever able to have a conversation with some of these women about their lot? I’d be curious to know if their attitude is one of ‘we don’t miss what we don’t know’. It could be that for the older ones, talk of equality and division of labour would simply be incomprehensible.

    As always, you are even-handed in your observations and criticism, acknowledging what is positive. I like that a lot about you.

  4. lime says:

    wow, that’s quite a radical shift culturally. i didn’t realize village life was so segregated in turkey. i’d have expected that of other islamic nations moreso. the observed division of labor is also surprising. i can see why it was crazy making but it also raises more questions for me regarding the culture. more than ever i wish we could sit down and have a long debriefing chat when you get back to the US.

  5. geewits says:

    I was curious that in your imaginary scene, the guy takes the house and the woman goes for her own walk. I’d like a scenario like this: “Hey Fatma, grab the little ones and lets all go for a nice walk.” Or “Hey Fatma, have Zafer watch the younger ones while you and I go for a nice walk and watch the sun go down.” Or “Hey Fatma, ask the neighbors if they will join us for a couples game of okey.” I think it’s bizarre that the husbands and wives don’t do things with their spouses. Yeah, as you can see, I would have a hard time with the whole thing.

    • Jocelyn says:

      This is so funny, Geewits: I feel the same way and was observing that out loud while in the car with a long-time expat (she’s in a 12-year relationship with a Turkish man). As we drove through the village, I was observing that all the sitting-around men should go be with their families, and she noted “If you were that guy’s wife, would you really want to have him around all day? When you look at him, do you really think you just want to spend more time with that guy? Nope? And not that guy, either, right? Or that guy? Or that one? I’m not seeing any that I’d want to have a lot more time with.” Hmmmmmm.

      • Jocelyn says:

        Oh, and also: I hoped that the husband staying at home might do some laundry or make dinner while Fatima was out walking. That way he might start to get an inkling of what her days are like…

  6. Vicky says:

    As always, a lovely piece of writing. You have to explain though that Ortahisar is as village as it gets even for Cappadocia! Even in our village men and women would be working in the fields side by side, even if the household tasks are only done by women and girls which means essentially that they have 2 jobs like many women in other societies. It is also fun when you hear the women’s angle on it when you get into those women-only activities!

    • Jocelyn says:

      Absolutely, Vicky! The women are definitely equal partners when it comes to working in the fields. Men and women side-by-side…or, as in the photo of the two women in the field, just women helping women drag the plow around. Heehee.

      As we traveled around the country this year it was interesting to see how every mid-sized village had this dynamic–and how different the larger cities were. It’s like there are two Turkeys, for sure.

      (great to see you the other day, btw)

  7. I saved this because I wanted to read it carefully. I vividly remember the first time I stayed in Saudi Arabia. Seeing the women in their burkas, hidden within so much cloth, just made me achingly sad and angry. The men in power don’t feel a need to step up – they think the unequal system is best for them.

  8. I’ve always admired your ability to turn a phrase -and I’m sure I’ve said that before to you too (or words similar to that anyway) but today, I really loved the “a few peppers short of a full kebab!” It’s definitely going to find a place in my repertoire for sure!
    The division of powers though that you talk about here, makes me sad for those women but also serves as a bit of a reminder that quite often in this little village where I live, stuff like that still exists. Actually, as long as women in this country earn less than men, it will always be there, won’t it? Women’s work is still undervalued regardless of what it is -paid employment or the background stuff we do at home still takes a back seat to men and their hobbies and/or pleasures much of the time. Oh, there are a few here and there that are the exception to that rule, but overall, we’re still not as good because we were made from a man’s rib I think is much of that controlling factor. Still kind of a can’t win situation but it’s not as bad as it was.

    • Jocelyn says:

      Oh, thank you, Jeni. I like the “few peppers short of a full kebab,” too! Must admit I turned to Groom for help on that one, speaking of shared labor.

      Your point here is one I’m getting to, as well: it all feels so different here, but is it really? I mean, it is in my life, but is are the genders really so equal in the U.S.? Same problem, different pants.

  9. Green Girl in Wisconsin says:

    This reminds me of a radio program I heard years ago–an American-raised nephew of Karzai who returned to Afghanistan. He spoke about what an effect the absence of women had on the collective psyche–and this coming from a teenaged BOY! So I can only imagine the way it must be perceived by another WOMAN!

  10. Choochoo says:

    I don’t think I could get used to living like that. I need the freedom to at the very least take a walk when I need one. I’d lose my mind if I was going to live that way. Then again, I can see how these women wouldn’t miss what they’ve never had. Some of those men might enjoy doing things like cooking if they tried it, but it might not even occur to the to make changes to their life. Sometimes tradition can be weird.

  11. kmkat says:

    Such a thoughtfully written essay. I too love your even-handedness and honesty. We may not have full equality here in the US, but we have a lot more of it, plus freedom of action, than in most countries of the world. Thank FSM. It would make me spitting mad to have to live like that. (I cannot even watch the tv series Mad Men, no matter how much people rave about how good it is. I lived through some of those years, when women were the ones who made the coffee and took the notes and never, ever got to make the decisions, and I absolutely cannot stomach seeing it on tv.)

  12. chlost says:

    This is such a thought-provoking post. My husband has always pointed out to me that many men don’t want to lose the special privileges that they have in societies….why would they want to do work when they have someone to do it for them……….but that they are missing so much as well in not having an equal partner in their lives. As to your friend’s comments as to who would really want to spend more time with these guys-are many of the marriages arranged? Is there generally love in a marriage within this culture?
    How are things within the cities of Turkey? I would imagine that things will change in the small villages after they have changed in the cities. Is this seen as westernization or anti-Islamic for the cultural changes, and that is slowing acceptance of changes?
    I don’t believe that everyone has to be like us, but it is so hard to see women treated in such a way. I am curious as to their ideas on their roles of society, especially the young women.

  13. Pearl says:

    Well, well, look who has finally enough time to belly up to a post! 🙂 That’s me, in case you were wondering…

    Have never been to Turkey, but sounds suspiciously like a local restaurant — a buffet — men sitting outside, and inside, and in their cars, and stationed about the parking lot… They’ve never been anything but kind and yet I wonder, every time: where are the women? And why aren’t they with them? What are they doing, all day, that they have time to sit here, drinking tea and playing chess?

    I admire you greatly, Joce. The trip, the writing, the humor.


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