Feminists in Paris gave a name to invisible murders: Femicide!

25/11/2016

In France a woman is murdered by a man they know every 2.5 days. Lea G. aged 18, Fabienne S. aged 56 and Maryvonne G. aged 73 were all murdered in France this year at the hands of men. This year alone 100 women have been murdered in France.

Parisians woke up on the 25th of November to witness a feminist intervention on 100 billboards scattered around Paris. INSOMNIA, a feminist squad based in Paris, took over the streets during the night of 24th November for a subversive collective action. They replaced 100 billboards on the major boulevards of Paris, with posters of the 100 women who were victims of femicide. Each poster detailed the name of one of the women, their age, and who killed them. They were murdered by their husbands, partners, ex-partners, fathers or brothers, men who were close to them. INSOMNIA declared that their motivation is to give a name and an identity to these women whilst emphasising their cause of death: femicide!

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INSOMNIA declared that their aim was to influence the French Government to recognize femicide as a crime, like it is recognized by Italy, Spain and seven countries in South America. Currently, the French Government is discussing a new law proposal called: “Equality and Citizenship” where the sex of the victim would be considered as an aggravating factor. INSOMNIA are demanding that this new law is passed and once it’s in place, it should be applied by jurisdiction.

Femicide is not a common crime, it is not a private family matter, and it is definitley not a passion crime. The media, by not naming the victims and perpetrators, demonstrates their ignorance towards male dominance in society and contributes to the normalization of these crimes. INSOMNIA calls for the media to portray femicide with the proper and correct acknowledgments when publishing news stories on femicide.

INSOMNIA is a new feminist squad formed in Paris who combat sexism with subversive street action at night. Their first action took place this summer, they covered the windows of a bagel shop, Bagelstein, in Paris due to a sexist advertisement they displayed. This summer, Denis Baupin, the former deputy speaker of the French Parliament was accused of sexual assault by his colleagues. Bagelstein used this sexual assault story as “humour” to adversite their bagels. The advertisment posters were pulled down quickly after the action and changed by “le jury de la déontologie publicitaire” the French governing body who make judgements on advertisment ethics.

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Today, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women INSOMNIA took the streets once again to revolt for the all the women who are victims of femicide and victims of male violence! They call for proper action to take place in order to end femicide!

 (This article was published on European Young Feminists Blog on 25/11/16)

An open letter to the men of Turkey

25/02/2015

Dear men of Turkey,

I see that you are in an odd state of shame and unacceptance these days. You keep asking: “When did all men become perverts?” “How did we come here?” “Why do we read about femicide on the news every single day?”

You read about femicide on the news each day because male violence is happening on a daily basis in Turkey. You did not hear about it before because “somehow” these stories of women who were murdered by men, who were harassed and raped by men, were dissolved within the rest of the savagery news on the third pages of the newspapers. Nobody enjoys reading the third page and getting upset, no?

Finally more women started to raise their voices and with the fake attention of the media, femicide is a hot topic at last! Yet I find it quite ironic that this topic has just started to interest you… You act like you’ve just learned about male violence and I find it surprising to realize that you were so distant from the violence women have to face on a daily basis. I mean, really, are you sure we live in the same world? Or are you just estranged aliens?

I find it hard to believe… You really think all of these cases of femicide, the violence against women on a daily basis, the continuous pressure women have to face and the obsessive desire men have to control a women’s body is a new thing? It’s been 12 days since Özgecan was murdered and in these 12 days, 8 more women were killed by men in Turkey. You think it’s the state who’s responsible for this? You think it’s the perverts and only the perverts who are responsible? You think everything will change once the laws are applied? Once the “perverts” are put in jail? You are wrong! Sexism and patriarchy are responsible for this. Isn’t it time that you face the dirt you’ve been sweeping under the rug? Your own dirt!

You were not aware of male violence against women before, simply because you were a part of it. Come on now, you cannot solve this problem without accepting the fact that you are a part of this patriarchal society.

Hundreds thousands of women told their stories on how hard it is to live as a woman in Turkey with the hashtag #sendeanlat (#youtelltoo) Did you read them? After reading them could you say #ididittoo or #iamashamed ? How ashamed are you really? Do you know why you’re ashamed? You think all of those #youtelltoo stories are about men you don’t know? You think they’re all strangers? They are not! These are our stories and we are all a part of it! All of us! And now if we are to fight together as women and men, isn’t getting rid of our mentality that is infected with patriarchy, sexism and misogyny should be the first step?

You think of violence against women only on a physical scale, but why can’t you think of the psychological, sociological, educational, economical and political dimensions as well? These may seem like “minor” details for you but for us women, they are so tiring! If I was to talk about only one dimension, the other dimension would be left out. I’m not talking about the fact that when you’re walking as a woman in a dark street alone in Turkey, that you have to be cautious. I’m not talking about taking the licence plate number of each Taxi we take and texting the number to our friends in case he decides to kidnap us, or the fake phone calls we make during the taxi ride to our “owners” (fathers/husbands) so that he would not dear to flirt with us. I’m not talking about the possibility of harassment that is directed to our physical existence. We were thought how to fight that and how to develop tactics to protect ourselves, since the day we were born as girls. As if this is human nature… What I’m talking about is a different thing. It’s how your male minds oppress and violate women on a daily basis. What I’m talking about is how women are and have to be left behind in this patriarchal system.

What I’m talking about is when I said “I hate those men who rape me with their eyes as I’m walking down the street, as if they’ve never seen a woman before” my ex-boyfriend replied “but why do you look into their eyes?” What I’m talking about is when I said “they ask me if I’m married or not on job interviews and my job efficiency is questioned according to my fertility” my friend replied “but this information is on your ID, why would you refuse to provide it?” What I’m talking about is when female celebrities’ naked photos leaked online and when I warned my friend not to look at them, he replied “but they are celebrities because they love attention, they should have been more careful , it’s not my fault the photos leaked so I can enjoy looking at them.” What I’m talking about is when I said “women should have the right to have their own last name after marriage – even though that it comes from their father” my friend commented “but how will we determine the ancestry of people if they take any last name they want?” Or when I said “I don’t think we should use swear words that provoke sexual violence” this man asked me “so you will re-invent the language?” What I’m talking about is that when I said I find the Oscar Academy judges biased as they are 93% white, 76% male and with an average age of 63, some men tried to guilt me into being “politically correct” and who belittled my fight for women to be equal on all grounds and labeled it as “extreme sensitivity!” Or the time when I complained about women being shown in the media with the focus on their bodies, clothing, partners or children, my colleague replied “why do you complain about this instead of fighting for women women who are being raped?”

What I’m talking about is YOU! Your masculinity, that you have to prove at all times, your willingness to indcate that you know better about the difficulties women face. Your consistency to insist on proving your masculinity, and how you don’t understand this willingness to prove your maleness creates the men who rape women just because they would like to prove their masculinity. You think it’s only the women who have the capability to give birth, but you know nothing about the society which gives birth to gender roles, therefore “masculinity”.

As a person who defines herself a socialist, I have to comment on my leftist brothers as well. I accept the fact that feminist fight has changed over time and today feminists fight as well for the power defined by capitalism, which was created by the patriarchy. I accept that women fight to gain respect which is only gained by being aggressively masculine and using violence as a weapon. I know, economic income, the capital, has become a material for this fight of power. Perhaps one day we can sit down and discuss how power ended up being equal to being masculine and having capital, and how women are delusional to belive once they reach the power that is defined by this system, they will finally gain freedom!

I’m not against discussing all of these, yet you have to understand the main fight that we combat is gender equality. When you define the oppression women face on a daily basis through the fight for power in capitalism and private property rights, you forget about one thing: patriarchy. You tell us to give up on our fight with patriarchy and fight against capitalism instead. You tell us to give up on our fight with patriarchy and fight with religion instead. When we look at the history of humanity, of course it’s easy to see what capitalism has done to women, as women did not have the equal capital as men, and as they still do not, they fell behind on this competitive system. When we look at the history of humanity, of course it’s easy to see what religion has done to women by owning women as property and daring to have control over their fertility. Yet you fail to see the bigger picture! You fight so strong against capitalism and religion, that you forget it’s patriarchy that created them both!

Do you know what sisterhood means? Your race, age, language, religion, class or political views do not matter, as long as you protect your sisters. While you are so busy prioritizing what to fight against, how about you put patriarchy as a priority for once? Huh? Because just like Simone de Beauvoir said: “the combat between classes is deceptive, unless it’s consolidated with the combat of the women.”

So please, try to take a look at the bigger picture. Try to see what patriarchy has done to women, to us, as a society. Because for me, and for many other feminists who’ve put effort in this fight, we cannot combat together with men, who don’t understand patriarchy is the main problem, with men who do not see themselves as a part of this problem.

Can men be feminists?

21/02/2015

Do you believe that men and women should have equal rights?

– Of course!

Do you believe we should fight for these rights?

– Of course!

Then you’re a feminist as well!

– No I’m not! Why should I fight for women’s rights?

You have to see the fake comfort that you benefit because of patriarchy and fight against that.

– Women should fight for their rights and they should earn it. Why should I bother fighting for them?

Are you talking about the rights that patriarchy took from women? The rights that they should’ve had from the beginning?

– This is none of my business, this is not my fight; it’s the fight of women.

This was a dialog that I had with a man I once loved. We had argued on discussions like this for many times. I tried to justify his resistance. After all he was a man and he did not understand the respect that he automatically gained by being born with a penis. I was unable to bring myself to accept the fact that I was with a man who was not a feminist, so I blamed the penis and tried to justify him. Heterosexual feminists who have penises. Is that even possible?

Now he and others like him decided to support the women’s resistance in Turkey after the murder of Özgecan Aslan. Actually, they’re more in solidarity for stopping femicide, rape and sexual harassment in Turkey. This is a good start; yet how will they solve this problem without including themselves into the problem? Of course I don’t imply that all men are rapists or all men are potential criminals. What I’m saying is that without bringing patriarchy down, we cannot solve all the problems we face because of patriarchy, including rape.

Let’s make this clear first. Women are not under the custody of god like Erdoğan, the president of Turkey claims. Nobody is under anybody’s custody, and nobody owns anybody. It’s not the men’s responsibility to protect women. When you see women as a secondary gender who needs protection, you’re declaring women as impotent. You cannot stop rape by the possessive perception such as “how would you feel if this was done to your mother or sister?” (Unfortunately this is a very common perception in Turkey.) What will happen to the women who are not mothers or sisters? What will happen to those women you call “unclaimed for”? Do you think rape will end in a system where you have to stake out a claim for your mother, your sister, your wife? What will happen to them, when you fail to protect them? Someone said “we will stay in the bus until the last women on the bus gets off.” What will happen to that women after she gets off the bus? You think women get raped only in buses? What will you do for the fathers who say “why can’t I taste the fruit of my own tree?” and rape their daughters? There’s a TV campaign from KADEM Turkey which says “Real men don’t hit women, be a real man!” How wrong it is to believe violence will end by the help of the “real men”! This definition itself is masculine; it’s a part of patriarchy. There’s also this video from India that got viral in Turkey. A young girl is walking by herself in the street and two men corner her. She gets scared and she cannot do anything. All of a sudden, other men arrive and they form a circle around her and the harassers escape. A women, is saved from a man, by another man.  Isn’t it enough that you’ve pumped up your egos by saving princesses? Of course, this entire paragraph was for those men who do not comprehend the feminist ideology, those who define “manhood” upon power and those who are macho and possessive. They’re called “benevolent sexists” in literature. They do not commit sexual harassment or rape; yet they do not help to solve the issue either. They’ve already left reading this paragraph in the middle so let’s continue with those who are still here.

When we see the violence against women, rape and femicide as an individual man’s issue, when we label those men as “sick” or “psycho” we refuse to accept the sociological and cultural dimension of this problem. This problem can only be solved by the change in the collective perception of both men and women. This problem can only be solved by understanding what patriarchy is and accepting feminist ideology in order to fight against it.

I’ve defined feminism so many times before. Let me do it again: feminism is defining, building and defending equal political, economic and social rights for both genders. I do not understand those men who don’t see themselves as a part of this fight and those women who don’t want men to be a part of this fight, as this fight would enable equal rights and treatment for both genders, and it’s beneficial for both genders. Of course there are those men who hijack feminist protests and try to manipulate the feminist ideology by turning this fight into a men’s fight with their masculine and possessive behaviour. Let’s ignore those. How much of a feminist a man can be? This is debatable as well, yet I’d like to explain why men should be feminists.

We have to elaborate the definition of the primary seed of patriarchy: misogyny. Because misogyny is not only hatred or dislike of women, but it’s also humiliating and ignoring anything that is feminine and female. At this point, any adjective that is associated with femininity – emotional, passive, quiet, kind, self cautious, innocent, weak, nurturing, soft, obedient – gets humiliated and made fun of, no matter which gender performs these types of behaviours. In masculinity, which is loaded on any men’s shoulders by birth, there is no room for these types of behaviours. Boys cannot cry “like girls.” They cannot wear pink or play with dolls. Their emotions that are pertain to human, yet associated with femininity, are constantly oppressed. They are taught to protect their mothers, sisters, girl friends from a very early age. When you say “teach your sons to protect women” you have no idea how much of pressure you put on them under by teaching little children to take responsibility of someone else, other than themselves. The comfort that patriarchy provides to men is indisputable, yet this comfort comes with a price. Men have to prove and protect his masculinity at all times. Boys who show feminine behaviour at school constantly get bullied, beaten and excluded by their macho male friends. Adolescent boys who do not have facial hair get made fun of; boys who do not join their friends when they humiliate girls are asked “are you a f.ggot?” Sometimes they think the only way to protect their masculinity and prove that they are not feminine is violence.

Heterosexual men grow into a system where they have to be the one to earn money and provide economic comfort to their families. Their wives can work, but cannot earn more money than them; because this would cause them embarrassment in their social circle. They would question themselves: “Am I not man enough?” There is also this perception of men wanting to put their penises inside anything basically, just because they cannot control their sexual needs. Sexual needs are only associated with men. A man’s penis always has to be hard and ready in front of a woman. There are so many men whose sexual life is ruined because of this pressure and they face erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation problem. Men are also not allowed to take care of their children, children that they co-created with their partners. Because men who take care of their children at home are not seen at the same level with men who make money outside of home. Men are deprived from their own children’s care. From nurturing, communicating, forming an emotional bond and many more. Patriarchal system does not imprison only women and LGBTI, it imprisons heterosexual men as well.

Let those men who refuse to see this imprisonment walk as privileged penises in their fake comfort world. When we change the definition of power, the power they think they have, will not be provided by maleness anymore. And by the way, I have no intention of putting men into the position of victims. I would not dare to compare what patriarchy has taken away from men to what it has taken away from women. As patriarchy takes the primary right, the right to live away from women, men do not have this problem. I would not want to blur anyone’s resistance, yet I don’t understand why fighting for gender equaliy, a problem of both genders, is still the responsibility of women only.

The feminist resistance in Turkey following the murder of Özgecan

17/02/2015

TRIGGER WARNING: This article contain information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors

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On February 11th, Özgecan Aslan, a 20 year old student in Mersin, Turkey, was taking the bus home from school. She was the only one left on the bus when the driver took a different path. She got scared and started arguing with him. He stopped the bus in a deserted area, and when he attempted to rape her, she resisted and sprayed pepper spray in his eyes. (In Turkey it’s the number one purse item for women.) He got mad and took his knife and started stabbing her. She scratched his face trying to resist. Finally he used a crowbar to hit her until she died. He took her dead body to his father and his friend. The three men took her to the woods, cut her hands off so that his DNA would not be found under her fingernails burned her body to destroy the evidence and left her there. I’m nauseous from anger.

I’ve grown a new habit of cracking my knuckles when I get angry. My fingers struggle to type. I’ve been a feminist for 29 years, and a feminist activist for one. And people who laugh in my face when I say I’m a feminist are mourning for Özgecan today. I want to spit in their faces.

48 days of 2015 are past us. In these 48 days in Turkey, including Özgecan, 37 women have been murdered by male violence. Nobody knows their names. Nobody protested their murders. For none of them has social media been “shaken” with worldwide trending topics. I’ve lost my voice from screaming about the femicide in Turkey and those who have questioned my screams with “don’t you think the wording women massacre is a little strong?” are now shedding crocodile tears for Özgecan.

Men and women who are embarrassed to call themselves feminists, hypocrites who play house with society’s gender roles, talk about Özgecan today. I want to puke. When they have done nothing up until today for all of the other women who have been victims, now they rub their show of sensitivity in  our faces. How is Özgecan different from the 13 year old girl sold for a “bride price” who gets raped by her 50 year old “owner” every night? Who knows that girl’s name? Who talks about her? Nobody. Because that girl is not an educated member of the middle class. Those who take offence at imagining themselves in that girl’s shoes have no problem with empathizing with Özgecan though. Even corpses have class in this system. And murders are categorized by the level of attention they receive. The more savage, the more horrific, the more attention the violence gets. It’s not enough to be raped and murdered, your body needs to be cut in pieces and burned on top of that to get enough attention for people to actually talk about you.

When Özgecan’s murder was first revealed, the news was shared on the third page, yet once the social media attention increased, they pulled it to the headlines. Not because they cared about Özgecan, but for the “clicks” it would bring to their sites as a hot topic. The last time a femicide was featured on the front page of a mainstream newspaper in Turkey was when the chief editor of Habertürk, Fatih Altaylı, published the photo of Şefika Erik, naked and dead, with the knife that her husband stabbed her with in her back. It was published as murder porn. Come on, let’s be realistic, everybody condemns femicide in Turkey, but nobody really gives a damn about it. Our sensitivity just moves along the current of the daily news, whatever is the hot – or horrific – topic. I saw the photo of Özgecan shared on Twitter when she was missing. Somebody shared it and said they were looking for her. One scumbag commented to say “Why are you making a big fuss about it? It’s been only a day, she probably just hasn’t woken up yet.” In other words: “She’s sleeping in the arms of some man, relax.” The man who commented on the news of the women who has been raped by her husband by saying “But it can’t be rape if it’s her husband” now says he’s in solidarity with Özgecan. The man who said “But you’re only talking about it to get attention” when I talk about street harassment now says he’s crying for Özgecan. The man who asked “What, so you’re going to invent a new language?” when I said I was uncomfortable with swear words that imply sexual violence now says “Stop femicide!” Excuse me, but how are we going to stop femicide? Without changing the collective perception of the society, the norms and the de facto acceptances, do you think we’ll say “Ok everyone we’re stopping femicide” and poof, femicide will magically disappear? Without understanding the correlation between the man who says “f.ck you” and the man who physically f.cks you without your consent, how are we going to solve this problem?

I had a big breakdown 3 weeks ago. In between e-mails coming from different women asking for help and the stories of harassment, rape, violence, murder, the question “But what can I do on my own?” echoed in my head and I couldn’t swallow my sobs. The articles that I started writing and could not finish, the women I wanted to help but couldn’t collapsed on top of me. I wanted to buy a rifle and form an armed patrol unit. One task force that hunts down those who commit street harassment, another one for those who beat women, another one to track rapists and one more for those who kill women. You might think I’ve gone insane, but I’ve come to the point where I think that insanity itself was invented by patriarchy.

So if you’re the sane ones then I have to ask you, you think we should wait for government –  which is men from head to toe – to free women? Especially in Turkey… You think a president who defines gender equality based on creation (using an Islamic term I won’t use here) and says that men and women are not equal will help stop femicide? Maybe you don’t know, but in Turkey there is no ministry for women. Women issues are dealt with under the “Family and Social Politics Ministry.” And the head of this ministry that defines existence of women only within the family, Ayşenur İslam, says “It’s unnecessary to make a fuss about femicide in Turkey, it happens everywhere.” Will this “woman” minister who refuses to meet with women associations solve the problem? Will this government who pays for each child born, as if women are breeding animals, solve the problem?

The government who turns sacred mothers into house workers? Really? You think lawyers will solve this problem? The lawyers who claim that if the government makes monthly payments to single men so that they can have sex with sex workers they will stop raping women? This is the reality of Turkey.  And now people are saying they want death penalty back in Turkey. As if they don’t know that in countries run by Islamic regime, women who have been raped are seen as a part of the crime and are murdered by execution as well. Let the death penalty arrive and you will see how the sultan of Turkey will implement it.

It hurts to think about it. Özgecan resisting the bus driver Suphi Atındöken as he tried to rape her. Spraying pepper spray, scratching his cheeks. How could he have enough knowledge to remove the DNA evidence from under his fingernails; yet no acknowledgement of a woman’s right to not be touched against her will? Of course there should be deterrent punishments, yet who will give these men deterrent consciousness? The Daddy state? Schools? Or collective perception of society?

You will give them this consciousness. We will give it to them. A society that has adopted feminist ideology will give it. A community that fights for women’s rights will give it. The people who should have reacted against the man who kicked a young woman on the bus the other day in İstanbul just because she was crossing her legs will give this consciousness. The street will give it. Continuous protest will give it. The We Will Stop Femicide Platform will give it. The support and donations we give to this platform will give it. The people who have the courage to react to the men who catcall women on the street will give it. The people who do not define people according to whether they have a vagina or a penis will give it. The men who can be “like a girl” and the women who can be “like a boy” by saying that what matters is being “like a human” will give this consciousness to our society. Özgecan’s slaughter is no different from any other woman’s slaughter. We cannot complete this fight without showing equal support to every woman who has been murdered, raped, harassed, belittled or left behind just for being a woman. This is not the fight of women but it’s the fight of the whole society. My heart goes out to the women who were and will be on the streets in Turkey, yesterday, today and tomorrow. This will be the new turning point of our resistance. I invite all the women of Turkey to talk about the harassment they have faced, the sexist moments they had to fight. They’ve already started with the #sendeanlat (you tell too) hashtag but the sharing shouldn’t stop here.. I invite all the men in Turkey to say “I’m a feminist” without being embarrassed. If you really are in solidarity with Özgecan, it’s time to finally take real action!

(Special thanks to Abby Comstock-Gay who helped to edit this article. She’s a woman from the US living in Turkey and she contacted me saying that she wanted to translate my article. I had already translated it by then, so she helped me with the editing. This is what being in solidarity is like!)

(This article was published in Turkish in T24 and in Greek in fylosykis.gr)