The Foreign Feminist


feminist11Spend a short time in Turkey and you will notice that on the surface, women here are more feminine than the majority of their American counterparts. That’s not to say that American women have abandoned their bras and their razors, but the gender roles here are just somehow different. If you look at the number of housewives (homemakers, whatever) in Turkey versus the number of housewives (homemakers) in the States, I feel like those figures would support my claim. While plenty of women have careers outside of the home in Turkey, it seems that as a whole, Turkish society still allows for women to stay at home.

Since the “f” word has appeared in the title and the photo for this post, perhaps you are expecting me to complain about gender roles in Turkey. Well, I’m not going to. Over the last few days/weeks, I’ve been wondering what the “feminist” spectrum really looks like. Of course, I believe women and men must be socially and economically equal. I believe both sexes are loved equally by God. Both sexes deserve the same opportunities to achieve their goals and pursue happiness. If they have the same job, their salaries ought to be the same. But does being a feminist mean that I HAVE TO want to be top dog at my job? Does it mean that I HAVE TO want to put my career before everything else, including my marriage and my family?

While working on my master’s this summer, I told my advisor about my promotion at work. She liked to patronize me and suggested I only got the promotion because I speak English. I corrected her right away and let her know that I work with many other English-speakers. Then she said,”Well, good for you. Keep climbing that ladder. God knows you definitely wouldn’t want to be a Turkish housewife.” WHY IS THAT A BAD THING?!

Could being a feminist ALSO possibly mean that if I choose to, I can have as many children as I want — which is realistically no more than two — and then stay home to raise them myself? I worked in a daycare for four years. I took care of infants (8 weeks old and up), which meant I regularly had to take babies away from their crying mothers and assure everyone that the babies would be just fine when they came to get them 8 hours later.

Don’t get me wrong – 90% of those mothers were doing what they absolutely had to do in order to support their families, and they were spending a FORTUNE to make sure their babies were taken care of. But deep down, it always terrified me to think that I would most likely be one of those mothers one day, and I wouldn’t have $15,000 to send my infant to the “best” daycare in my area. I would most likely only be able to afford those sketchy home daycares that may or may not double as a meth lab.

I live in a country where it’s normal and acceptable to be a housewife. I’ve seen the extremes, too. There are the Desperate Housewives, who leave their villas looking like a walking advertisement for their plastic surgeon, in an ensemble that costs more than my entire wardrobe combined. Then there are the desperate housewives (there’s a difference) who have at least three kids dangling off of their exhausted bodies, which they have to hoist up onto the bus, along with the stroller and groceries, and they probably haven’t had even five minutes to themselves just to shower in two days.

I’d most likely fall somewhere in the middle, which isn’t a terrible place to be. But of course, at this point, being a stay-at-home mom is more of a pipe dream for me. I’ve crunched some numbers, and I would have to work at my current job for at least 3 more years before a baby could even be a twinkle in my eye.

Then of course, there’s the other side of the coin. Even if Canim won the lottery and we could live in a penthouse overlooking the sea and I could afford to fly to NY as often as I’d like while still being able to afford having my hair blown out thrice a week, what kind of a housewife would I be? You decide:

– I used detergent to mop the balcony (apparently that’s a no-no).
– I look up recipes on the internet – which women here won’t explicitly poo-poo, but they’ve remarked on it with some disdain. Meanwhile, I feel like I should be applauded for actually using Pinterest for recipes and attempting to make them Pinterest-perfect to catch up with my peers in the States!  Excuse me for not having the recipe for dolma in my DNA!
– I have no qualms about paying another woman to clean my home.
– I have no qualms about asking my husband to drop our work clothes off at the dry cleaners so everything can be pressed to perfection (because neatness matters MUCH MORE here than it does in the States).
– If I don’t have polished nails, I can still sleep well at night. How can I clean my house AND maintain a perfect manicure???? CHOOSE ONE.
– I am comfortable leaving my house without makeup, although admittedly I will not go to work that way.
– I can relax and even SLEEP knowing that there is laundry to be folded, floors to be vacuumed, windows to be cleaned (and what’s the point of that?  They always look streaky and the dust outside makes them dirty again a few hours later).
– I love having my own money and spending it or saving it (LOL) as I please. If I had to ask my husband for money, I think it would make me sick.

So, I could be a successful housewife, just not by Turkish standards. But my husband loves me, even with all of the things I listed, and he doesn’t measure me by Turkish standards. My value as a woman does not depend on my domestic capabilities or my professional accolades. It depends on something else, which my husband already seems to understand (hence his decision to be my husband), and I, for some reason, am struggling to figure out.

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