A day before 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, President Erdoğan made a statement about the difference of nature or disposition (fıtrat) between women and men. Previously, in 2010, he had stated that he did not believe in equality between women and men due to their dispositions. We replied to this statement by saying that “the more you tell us not being equal with men, the more we get killed.”
On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women we, as feminists, have a lot to say about what we have gone through in the last twelve months. Erdoğan’s words one again clearly depict what we are living through.
By using the term fıtrat Erdoğan naturalizes gender roles as if these were an unchangeable law. According to this, women are supposed to get married, do the housework, bear children, and carry out the child and elderly care. Also, women are expected to join the labor market only through jobs that fits their traditional gender roles, that is jobs that are ‘feminine’, often part-time, flexible and insecure.
Male violence against women is the outcome of the material inequality between genders. Men apply violence to women to control women’s bodies, labor, and identities, and to consolidate their authority. There are many forms of violence: Men slap us, kick us, humiliate us, and forbid us to work, harass us verbally, rape us, and hinder our success at work. Violence sometimes starts with a slap, other times with a humiliation or a simple “I don’t want you to see those people” and sometimes ends with the murder of the woman.
Once the gender roles are fixed, it is forbidden to leave the marked territory. By offering fıtrat as an excuse in a country where femicide is a daily routine, Erdoğan becomes the perpetrator of women killings. He legitimizes the punishment and the killing of women.
It is this very state which insists on fıtrat, protects the family rather than the women with its showpiece laws, looks for the consent of women in cases of rape, releases verdicts of “unjust provocation” and supports the ISIS which has given a rape fetwa against women.
Erdoğan is right. We do not care about fıtrat. We reject the gender roles imposed on us by the patriarchy. We do not think that we have to bear children simply because we can. Nor do we think that we should be the only caretakers of children. We know that family is not the only means to exist and different forms of solidarity are possible. We never lose our faith in a world where women and men are equal. We fight for equality, justice, and freedom.
The only way to achieve real justice, not male justice, is equality. It is obvious that the statements and policies which are based on the idea that women and men cannot be equal pose a threat to women’s freedom. Therefore, we make a call for more women’s solidarity and organized struggle against the policies of the President Erdoğan and the AKP which sharpen gender inequality.
Long live our feminist struggle!
Istanbul Feminist Collective
*An Arabic word with Islamic roots which describes the ‘pure’ and ‘natural’ human disposition.