Open Democracy - 1 September 2014
Stirring up moral anxieties over women's conduct and propriety is key to a populist discourse that pits a virtuous “us”- the people- against an immoral “them”. But despite its potential for authoritarian control of gender relations, this new populism holds many attractions for women.
When Turkey's deputy PM, Bülent Arinc, declared
during a public address marking the Bayram festivities at the end of
Ramadan that women should refrain from laughing in public and must remain
chaste (iffetli) at all times he created a furore in both the local and
international media. Some women protested by posting pictures of
out loud, using a combination of ridicule and non-compliance as a form
of resistance. The deputy PM proceeded to compound matters when he
added , in reaction to the media storm he stirred up, that those he deplored
were “women who go on holiday without their husbands” and those “who
cannot resist climbing a pole when they see one”. This oblique reference to
pole dancing, a decidedly marginal phenomenon in Turkey, must have proved
irresistible in terms of its potential for sexual innuendo and the
opportunity to project immorality and
dissolute living onto certain sections of the citizenry.