Turkish Mini Skirt Protest: Helping or Hindering?
A fortnight ago a 20-year-old Turkish student was murdered after allegedly fighting off an attempted sexual assault by a mini bus driver. In response men in Turkey and Azerbaijan have taken to wearing miniskirts in protest against sexual violence.
The hashtag #ozgecanicinminietekgiy, which translates to ‘wear a skirt for Ozgecan”, the student who was murdered, has taken over Twitter.
— Grant Francisco (@Grrantaloni) February 25, 2015
Hulya Gulbahar, a Turkish lawyer and activist, said that “The women’s movement is trying to tell society, ‘My dress is not an excuse for your rape or sexual harassment. People try to find excuses for rapes and killings. But they didn’t find any in this case, because [Ozgecan] Aslan was very innocent, purely innocent. The protest shows that a short skirt is not an excuse for rape.”
Turkey has been making strides in women’s rights. UN Women and Turkish conglomerate Koc Holding’s CEO, Turgay Durak, signed an agreement in December in regards to bettering women’s economic and social standing.
Are men participating in the protest against sexual violence hindering the voice of women, however? Of course, there is no denying that sexual violence does happen to men. However the catalyst for this protest was the act of violence against a woman, in a country that is only now starting to think about equality.
This wouldn’t be the first occasion where men have hijacked women’s opportunity to take charge and speak out. After Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree in California the hashtag #YesAllWomen began. It was intended to show that all women have been harassed at some point in their life.
Men then began the hashtag #AllMenCan. It was intended to support the hashtag created by the women, however the attention then shifted to be a part of what “real male activists” look like. This took the focus away from women and what they were trying to say. Instead, people were focused on how great it was that men were starting to get involved.
It is sad that in order for women to be heard, and things like sexual violence to be stopped, men must be the mouthpieces. Men may find it easier to understand things from other men. In countries with a male dominated government, it seems as though this is the way it has to be. However, it’s very difficult for men to navigate women’s rights without their position of privilege changing aspects of the argument.
Clementine Ford poses the same arguments in her analysis of Q&A’s panel about domestic violence, “Limiting the access women have to both participate in and lead discussions that are politically and culturally important isn’t just related to the structures of violence that oppress us – it is a fundamental part of its very foundation. It isn’t good enough for women to just be given a scrap of space to speak, particularly when it’s about matters that directly affect our lives.”
It is necessary for to men participate in the fight for equality for and speak out about sexual violence. All parties must work together for the issue of equality, and in totally demonising sexual violence, but women should be able to lead the fight. Women must control the conversation, because it’s womens lives that are being affected. This is to ensure that what is necessary for change isn’t blurred by male privilege.
As Clementine says “If you are a man and you want to challenge men’s violence against women, don’t tell men to listen to you. Tell them to listen to women.”