Turkish women who are exposed to the pressure of tradition, family, and religion, and who could not adequately benefit from the state’s education, employment, social security, and health services, first found themselves stuck during the women’s movement led by the left wing in the 1970s. They were stuck amid the concepts of female identity and gender roles, together with the depoliticisation process of the September 12, 1980 military intervention.
In Turkey, which has been experiencing a very rapid and distorted urbanisation process, the process of gaining economic independence for women who have managed to come to the fore with their “motherhood and housewife qualities” has been very difficult. Only one out of four women in Turkey is employed, per International Labour Organisation data.
On the other hand, women who are out of the production process and who are uneducated are constantly marginalised, stigmatised, distorted or presented incompletely by the media.
Meanwhile, the media creates its own agenda by bringing morality to the fore through normalisation, indifference, dramatisation and identification of issues related to violence against women. It normalises gender-related murders under the pretext of femicide or honour.
It even makes these murders ordinary, not as a social phenomenon, but as a judicial case such as the victim having purple eyes, broken ribs, etc. that clearly indicates physical violence.
A Turkish series, which was banned due to the scenes of violence against women, which, according to fans, depicted social realities, refocuses attention on how gender-based violence is perceived by the authorities.
The story in ‘Kızılcık Şerbeti’ (Cranberry Sorbet) series is about two families that have different perspectives on life. A woman from a secular family falls in love with a man from a conservative family.
The series is an adaptation of real-life incidents where society criticises a progressive understanding and ignores human rights. It portrays such a culture by showing what big crises in a marriage can lead to because of the parents’ lack of respect for diversity and empathy.
The TV series takes its name from the Turkish saying, “Vomit blood, say that you drank cranberry sorbet,” meaning we should keep our personal problems inside ourselves and not challenge others to learn. Moreover, we should try to make our bad situation look like a good one.
The series shows typical examples of violence against women in the country. For instance, it shows the forced marriage of a woman, even though she loves someone else; physical abuse by the husband on the night of marriage, where the woman is pushed out of the window; a forced abortion, etc.
It speaks about the conservative-secular conflict through the relationship between the children of two families.
The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) banned the broadcast of the series for five weeks on April 7. It also imposed a fine of 1.5 million liras.
The series was aired on Show TV – one of Turkey’s first private television channels since 1991.
Banning the broadcast of a series that defends women’s rights should be interpreted as a major encroachment on the rights of women, who have been trying to get off the stage in recent years.
On Wednesday, April 26, RTÜK’s decision was overturned after an appeal was filed by the producers of the series. The show will restart on Friday, April 28 evening.
Violence against women in Turkey
Violence against women is widespread and an important social problem in Turkey. In order to understand the violence experienced by women, we need to look at the relations of power and authority in society, and whether there is a gender-based difference in position.
In Turkey, honour is perceived in the form of women’s bodies, their sexuality, and the ability to control them. This is largely associated with extramarital sexual intercourse, virginity, adultery, or infidelity.
The factors which cause violence against women include a man’s desire to establish control over a woman’s behaviour, the shame caused by the man’s loss of control over a woman’s behaviour, or pressure from the family or neighbourhood that triggers this shame in a man.
The male-dominated discourses that are used as a state policy in authoritarian regimes ignore women and invite violence. This is a method that conservative politicians apply along with religious traditions.
It can be observed that the state perceives the authority to regulate everything as a right and a duty, and morality comes first. Therefore, the role of politicians in triggering violence should not be underestimated.
The Turkish series mirrors this polarisation from a realistic point of view and reveals how people are unable to face themselves (read self-awareness). Though these families share opposite worldviews, they apply the same fascism, claiming that they do it for the sake of their children.
Dr Yasemin Giritli İnceoğlu is a visiting professor at the London School of Economics’s Department of Media and Communication.