#ChallengeAccepted: What is Happening to Turkish Women?
Editör Notu: theMagger’ı uzun süredir takip edenlerin bileceği gibi normalde içeriklerimizi Türkçe olarak yayınlamaktayız. Ancak bir süredir hepimizin ana sayfalarımızda gördüğü, #ChallengeAccepted hastagli, İstanbul Sözleşmesi’ni desteklemeye yönelik siyah-beyaz paylaşımların yabancı medya tarafından tam anlamıyla anlaşılmaması nedeni ile süreci anlatan ve çeşitli soruları yanıtlayan bu yazıyı İngilizce olarak yayınlamak istedik. Dilerseniz siz de bu yazıyı, konuyla ilgili sıkça sorular yönelttiklerini tahmin ettiğimiz yabancı dost ve çalışma arkadaşlarınızla paylaşabilirsiniz. İyi okumalar.
Last week, we’ve seen dozens of black & white posts on our Instagram feeds, shared by women, supporting women, challenging them to do the same, and then it all got a bit confusing. I’ve seen the international media trying to understand what it is all about, celebrities sharing it typing ‘I don’t really get the purpose but why not supporting women?’, people asking if it is about Turkey, how it even helps anything, or what Istanbul Convention is anyway… I’ve tried to explain them all.
Answers to the Most Commonly Asked Questions
What is the origin of the black and white #ChallengeAccepted posts on Instagram?
Well, there’s a New York Times article about the origin that misses the whole point, and I’ve seen some comments insist that the #ChallengeAccepted hashtag started back in 2016 to raise awareness for cancer, resurfaced several times for different causes, Rep. AOC’s recent speech fused it (discussed further below), also a Brazilian journalist shared her picture with #womensupportingwomen hashtag like 10 days earlier, so that the origin can’t be rooted in Turkey just because of the recent horrible incidents happening here.
On the other hand, horrible incidents are happening here, which are caused by the rising violence against women, and this social media spread has given us a silver lightning.
It’s #ChallengeAccepted, a widely common phrase, very likely to be used again and again for different causes from now on as well. Then, do we really need to discuss the origins further, while we can make a noise for the violence against women in Turkey and all around the world? There are millions of IG users in Turkey, who have used this move as a positive, hopeful protest, and somehow it’s worked. Lost its meaning a bit along the way, but still.
So what is it all about in Turkey?
In Turkey, the violence rate against women has been alarming for years now. We see news on social media about sexual harassment cases, rapes, or –murders– as different types of violence and hate crimes done by men, daily. NGOs keep the records by themselves, since there is not a relievable official research for it. According to We Will Stop the Femicides Platform, between January and June 2020, there were 23 femicides and 27 suspicious deaths of women.
During the defense, the common portrait used by men is “the helpless, passionate lover, sometimes affected by alcohol and some ‘unacceptable’ actions of women”. Which also followed by some courts to finalize these cases with “good conduct abatements”.
While we are calling the government to do its job; educating and protecting its citizens, and giving fair, deterrent punishments to the responsible people; they are now discussing to withdraw from Istanbul Convention. İstanbul Convention is the most comprehensive international agreement to fight with the violence against women; regardless of their age (includes all children), race, skin colour, sexual orientation, sexual identity, refugee status or any other criteria. The convention that already not being applied fairly or properly is now wished to be left. Then among all these arguments, we heard about a 27 year old university student, Pınar Gültekin.
Case of Pınar Gültekin and how it sparked the challenge on social media?
On July 16, she was reported missing on social media by her friends, and on July 21 we heard her body was found, murdered by the man she refused to be with. I won’t get in detail, because it harms the cause stating how women got murdered exactly, while the murderer has already been taken in custody. Reliving the horrifying moments in our minds makes us to get accustomed to these cases, and normalizes it for the men that the policies are willing to protect.
Maybe because of the 5 days in between, seeing her friends trying, and the joyful, lively energy of Pınar’s photos hit us very hard. It has been our breaking point and caused an outrage throughout the country. Personally, I felt terrified. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I felt sick. I’m still feeling sick reading these posts every day, or guilty because of not doing enough.
It could be me next time, or someone I love, someone I know. It could be our neighbour, whom I argued with last month because of the massive noise he’s making… Or the delivery man… ‘Cause, what is stopping them?
Since I’m receiving friend requests on Instagram from strangers every single day, men I get scared even by seeing their profiles, I changed my profile picture with an irrelevant painting and deleted my bio, so it wouldn’t be clear for anyone that I’m a ‘woman’. I was aware it wasn’t healthy, I knew I should have been doing just the opposite, but couldn’t find myself doing it. Got away from social media for 2 days, listened to Taylor Swift’s recent magical gift Folklore on repeat as slowly feeling like myself back again, rarely read what my country freshly offered to get shocked and frustrated. Then my cousin asked, “So, are you ready to post?”
I don’t think I’d catch how it got sparked at first had I spent time on Instagram those previous 2 days, no one did. We didn’t care either. All I know is seeing all these women I’ve met over the years; being all over the places, laughing, looking without smiling, or making funny, sexy, whatever faces, encouraging one another, giving sisterhood messages felt so damn good. And I thought “Of course we’ll be all over the places, wherever we want, however we like, who run the world anyway?!!”, then immediately changed my profile picture back with one of the most free spirited versions of myself and posted a B&W picture from good old free days.
Does sharing a B&W picture make any change really?
There’s a reason of them being black & white, and, also, we need to refresh our minds to change the reality. We don’t want our names to become the hashtags on some protest papers, written by women we don’t know. And we don’t want our pictures to be seen on timelines, newspapers, TVs; as black&white, depicting we are no longer alive. Also, how can we continue to our lives if we accept what is expected from us and which is to live in fear? Even if it starts with posting some whatever picture, it helps for fighting back and empowering each other.
So nothing with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s speech?
AOC’s speech is wonderful. I watched this twice, back and forth. As she states in her response, “It is a culture lack of impunity, of accepting of violence and violent language against women, and an entire structure of power supports that.”
The style to use of violence and to the choice of impunity is different in Turkey than in the US, but the reason remains the same; the structure of power. That’s why we also use the slogan (and hashtag) #kadıncinayetleripolitiktir; “femicides are political” while protesting. If the society is not getting proper education for human rights, if the government cannot protect the women citizens against violence, if the criminals are not punished with justice; then the femicides are indeed political. Violent language against women is cultural and political as well. So I suppose it was merely the time, because we’ve fed up globally.
When did it get lost in translation?
I believe initially it’s our mistake for it to lose the true meaning, because the #istanbulsözleşmesiyaşatır (Istanbul Convention Saves Lives) message got lost in the way, and it felt like a bit lazy protesting. Then when it has gone viral internationally, it seemed like a #womensupportingwomen selfies flying.
How has it gone viral and who are the accounts spreading the word?
Turkey is the 6th biggest country with the Instagram users’ numbers and the outrage is vital. There’s this fire burning inside our chest, we’ve known for years and years that we want to cry our hearts out to the heavens. And the social media is our refuge, since even without a pandemic we never know if it’s save to protest in the streets.
So, when it was seen all over the feeds without the initial message, some Turkish-English speakers made little IG posts explaining what’s happening, then activists and journalists followed them. The 3 main sources which explained the protest in its entirety were: Auturkishculturalclub (the Turkish student club in American University, Washinton D.C; who later deleted the post because of the hate comments), Beelzeboobz (a Turkish-British citizen I suppose, continues following the cause), and Fayedsouza (an activist and journalist). These 3 posts have gotten more than 1,5 million likes in just a few days.
After it was clear that things going on in Turkey, some great women with big platforms have supported our cause such as: Jameela Jamil, Sophia Bush, Emmy Rossum, Munroe Bergdorf, Aimee Lou Wood, Pink, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Biel, Demi Moore, Cobie Smulders, Salma Hayek, Eva Green… <3 I love how it has united with Breonna Taylor’s story and hope this will continue until the justice is secured.
Why everyone is so confused how and why it all started?
Since the Turkish journalists can’t do their job properly without losing their freedom, young people had to take the case for spreading the message, however, there were just a few English posts as you see above and they couldn’t express themselves soon and well enough to the international community. But we still have very good, experienced journalists (now compulsory working mostly via social media) I hope and am sure will respond the demand quickly.
Most importantly, what is the Istanbul Convention?
Istanbul Convention is the most comprehensive international agreement, developed by the Council of Europe, to fight with the domestic violence and the violence against women; regardless of their age (includes all children), religion, race, skin colour, sexual orientation, sexual identity, refugee status, anything.
It basically gives responsibilities to the member states to fight with domestic violence and the violence against women to achieve the gender equality, inside and beyond the Europe. In a very brief summary, it mandates 3 basic policies for signatory states to follow:
- Create a society that the violence cannot make an appearance itself, by making changes in men and boys’ minds and hearts.
- Take precautions to protect women and children, until the society evolves.
- If you fail at protecting, give the fair, deterrent punishments to the responsible men.
I’d like to say that, on the LGBTQI+ issue, as a society, we still have so much to learn comparing to the West, but we are educating ourselves. So please remember, even it may seem like a male violence upon females, as the Istanbul Convention states, our fight and this issue include ALL women.
But now our government wants to withdraw from it, suggesting that this is not our society’s ‘values’ to support the LGBTQI+ community and they even frankly say they don’t believe in gender equality. I’m aware that the exact same conversation has been debated in some US states for the recent years, and also, Poland is now preparing to quit the Convention for similar reasons. So, this is a global issue, caused by the power structures. Leaving Istanbul Convention means letting men do whatever they want, so we need your help.
Then what should we do? And how to help?
- Educating ourselves on international agreement, Istanbul Convention, uniting our causes, spreading the word, and not letting this issue to be gone are essential. Pass on the message with us; #istanbulsözleşmesiyaşatır #istanbulconventinsaveslives.
- If you consider donating, I can give you two suggestions; Mor Çatı Women Shelter Foundation and Flying Broom Foundation, which are working for women in Turkey for years.
- Also, you can sign the petition on change.org for us to stick by the Istanbul Convention.
Kapak Fotoğrafı: businesswomensmegamixer.com
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