August 5th, 2014
03:02 PM ET

Turkey's debate on women no laughing matter

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Laughter can be the best medicine – but can it cure misogyny?

Last week, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç gave a speech that sparked a massive social media reaction. Women, he said, shouldn't burst out laughing in public, should know what is appropriate, and should preserve their "chastity." So women shouldn't laugh out loud, and men, he said, shouldn't be womanizers. (Not really equivalent moral standards…)

Hundreds of women responded by posting pictures of themselves laughing in public. There were more than 160,000 Tweets following the comments, using the Turkish words for "laughter," "resist laugher" and "women defy."

The oppression of women in Turkey isn’t a laughing matter, of course. A 2009 report found that 40 percent of Turkey's female population had suffered domestic violence.

This week, the first round of the presidential election begins, and a top challenger to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (who is a favorite for the presidency) tweeted about the incident, saying women in Turkey needed to laugh more, not less. But Arınç stood by his comments, suggesting people focused too much on that part of his speech.

Well, if you say something absurd, condescending, and demeaning to 50 percent of your population, don't be so surprised if people focus on it!

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Topics: Last Look • Turkey

soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. chri§§y

    Good grief! If men werent so goofy over there maybe women could curb their laughter huh?

    August 5, 2014 at 3:39 pm |
    • mary

      have you seen tarkan dance? not so goofy

      August 6, 2014 at 2:20 pm |
  2. Ferhat Balkan

    I'm sorry, but Bülent Arınç is an IDIOT. I don't know how people like him get to high positions like deputy prime minister. The founder of Turkey Mustafa Kemal Ataturk would have had him removed from office as soon as he uttered those words! What a disgrace! As a Turk living abroad, I feel appalled and angered towards such ignorant authoritarian backwards thinking men like him.

    August 5, 2014 at 4:57 pm |
    • thanks forthat ferhat

      I guess you are not such a turkey after all, considering you are from turkey and all. just kidding, my friend. the biggest problem with the entire Islamic world, is that they are stuck in the eleventh century, where women were treated like crap and supposed to only be pregnant and in the kitchen. the rest of us have since discovered that it is actually smarter to allow your women to fly free, and men should just fly along with them and enjoy the ride. how long more do you think it will take for the Islamic world to discover this? 100 years? 200 years?

      August 6, 2014 at 11:24 am |
      • love this comment

        Islam was created approx 600 years after christianity. judaism was well established approx 600 years before christianity. it is not unreasonable to imagine that everything the Islamic people are going thru, especially regarding how they treat their women, has a "600 year delay" attached to it...........

        August 6, 2014 at 3:57 pm |
      • love this comment

        so to answer your question, try 2600 AD........... that's when the burkas will come off......... 🙂

        August 6, 2014 at 4:26 pm |
      • Harry

        No matter where you are, who you are, or whoever you are hearing it from, beware of those that use quantified noun phrases such as 'the entire Islamic world, the whole Christian world, all Westerners, every Asian man, all African women, all the Jewish people, every Hindu, etc.' – they come as a result of simple psychological processes, not sophisticated thinking. It is also easier to use these for others than the group one feels part of. So most often, it is advisable to expect some form of harm from those who often use such phrases, and therefore avoid them. On the other hand, only informed minds will be more conscious of out-group variations, and rarely use such phrases. It might be better to be around such people instead.

        August 7, 2014 at 4:31 am |
  3. chri§§y

    Lol amen @ Ferhat! I would think he would be glad that women were laughing instead of crying! Of course its all about control i guess! Too many control freaks!

    August 5, 2014 at 5:26 pm |
  4. Well

    Well, that's ISLAME for you.

    August 5, 2014 at 5:46 pm |
  5. dr. abdu halakamir harper M.D. E.


    August 5, 2014 at 6:47 pm |
  6. dr. abdu halakamir harper M.D. E.


    August 5, 2014 at 6:55 pm |
  7. dr. abdu halakamir harper M.D. E.


    August 5, 2014 at 6:57 pm |
  8. dr. abdu halakamir harper M.D. E.


    August 5, 2014 at 7:00 pm |
  9. chri§§y

    Must i out you AGAIN @ JR, dr harper, etc? Knock it off you nasty little man!

    August 5, 2014 at 9:36 pm |
  10. dazzle

    No laughter can not cure misogyny in Turkey or anywhere on earth. Laughter is a curative for many ailments and I choose to laugh a lot. @chrissy I'm laughing now.

    August 5, 2014 at 10:55 pm |
  11. chri§§y

    Lol yea i guess @ long as your laughing with me and not against me! Lol

    August 6, 2014 at 4:29 am |
  12. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    I find laughable those men whose mentality causes them to prefer a religion that encourages the subjugation of women through such devices as silence and excessive covering of the body.

    August 6, 2014 at 6:25 pm |
  13. Common Sense

    I think we should go to war with Turkey so they can stop domestic violence, becasue as we ALL KNOW domestic violence does not happen in the Great U.S.S

    August 6, 2014 at 6:29 pm |
    • more turkeys for thanksgiving

      Yes, let's go to war with turkey. we need more turkeys to eat for thanksgiving! and besides, I work for a US military industrial complex company. we need constant wars which use up American made military hardware, so that we can give ourselves huge raises and vacation in Tahiti.........

      August 6, 2014 at 7:50 pm |
    • Common Sense has no Common Sense

      what is the USS and a war will do more damage than it will fix.

      August 7, 2014 at 1:27 am |
      • portgasdace121

        She is being sarcastic . You know because America already has a very big domestic abuse problem already.

        August 7, 2014 at 1:41 am |
  14. Ferhat Balkan

    The biggest problem with women's rights isn't Islam nor any other religion for that matter. Islam is a religion, not a culture. It has thousands of forms. In Turkey, it has always been more liberal than in the Arab countries. Turks have more liberal views of Islam. When it comes to women's rights the problem is cultural driven by lack of education and in most cases poverty (which can be the underlying cause of the previous 2 problems). There are cases of women abuse all around the globe (not just Muslim countries). In this case, Turkey (which some of you may not know) is a secular country currently ruled by a democratically elected Islamist party (AKP) with prime minister Erdogan at the helm. Erdogan appeals to the the working class and the poor in Turkey, because AKP has provided jobs and has managed to stimulate the previously disastrous economy. This is the reason why his political party wins during the elections. Erdogan also has a huge support among Kurds to the East who have seen positive reforms with Kurdish rights under Erdogan. On the other hand, Erdogan and some of his cabinet members have been growing increasingly authoritarian. One can clearly see this example with the Gezi Park protests that took place during mid 2013. Unfortunately, some of the ruling AKP members (like Bülent Arınç) have fundamentalist views and make idiotic statements or demands. Fortunately, Turkey has been and always shall be a democracy and more importantly, Turks have always valued their freedom of choice. Those are the principles that have guided Turkey since its founding days (largely due to reforms Kemal Ataturk put in place). Let me point out that Turkey has historically, championed women's rights. The first female fighter pilot in the world was a Turk (Sabiha Gokcen), Tansu Ciller was the first female prime minister of Turkey etc. Still, as is the case with any country, women's rights and abuse towards women is still a problem. To state that the problem is Islam, is in my view a very simplistic analysis of a problem which is far more complex and much broader than just one country or one religion.

    August 6, 2014 at 7:51 pm |
    • thanks Ferhat

      Thanks for a great insight into Turkey. They seem to be the most evolved or forward thinking of all the primarily Islamic countries, probably because they had to "rub noses" with the West a lot more than other Islamic countries. Do most women in Turkey wear a burka? Are they allowed to drive a car, unlike Saudi Arabia? We all know now that they are not permitted to smile or laugh......... just kidding......... 🙂

      August 6, 2014 at 8:57 pm |
      • Ferhat Balkan

        Women in Turkey are free to choose how they dress (according to law). Some choose to wear the hijab, others don't. Most Turkish women (that I've seen) choose not to. They're also free to drive or even fly a plane as I mentioned earlier.

        August 6, 2014 at 10:13 pm |
    • Common Sense

      Turks are not in poverty nor are they undereducated

      August 6, 2014 at 10:40 pm |
      • Ferhat Balkan

        To state that there's no poverty in Turkey is like saying there's no poverty in the US. Of course there is! Especially in the Eastern regions of Turkey. As for education, the same disparity exists between the East and the West. Do you honestly believe that it was the educated Turks who voted Prime Minister Bülent Arınç to power? Certainly there's a lot of room for improvement in Turkey considering recent events... But I have good hopes, because there's a root strength in the Turkish people and that is a spirit to promote freedom and liberty.

        August 6, 2014 at 11:25 pm |
    • Common Sense

      Also, I was not taking shots at Islam or Turkey, the point I was making is that Americans are always in other people's affairs as if they live in a Utopia. The United States is one of the most DANGEROUS places in the world for women, and the Safest place is actually a muslim country- the U.A.E

      August 6, 2014 at 10:43 pm |
    • Common Sense

      First off, I did not say that poverty does not exist in Turkey, I made a general statement saying that most Turks are not in poverty. Second, its there DEMOCRATIC choice to choose there representatives, are Americans not educated because they chose Bush?


      August 6, 2014 at 11:48 pm |
      • Ferhat Balkan

        Calm down. I believe you, of course it's a democratic choice and I respect that. Sure, there's less poverty in Turkey now than there was when the AKP came to power. They made sweeping changes to the economy which had a positive impact overall. And I recognize that and appreciate it. But just like the Republican party in the US, the AKP party in Turkey has conservatives and right wing politicians who want to rule through fear mongering and authoritarianism. I wouldn't call the US the most dangerous place for women, but I agree with most of what you say.

        August 7, 2014 at 12:11 am |
    • AnotherPerson

      Associating Turkey with militant islam, subjugation of women, etc. is silly. Turkey has been militantly opposed to islamization since ataturk.

      You don't have to look too far in *any* direction to find misogynists among us. Do we really have to pull up the misogynistic statements made by leading Republicans in the US in recent times. They exist, and they exist everywhere, and they are a sad lot. And, while each of them will tout some religious belief as the basis of their silliness, the common denominator is the misogyny, not the religion.

      August 7, 2014 at 10:35 am |
    • Linda

      I have visited your country and it remains one of the best trips I have ever taken. I am broken hearted to watch as the AKP seems to forget the meaning of democracy (seriously dictating people's facial expressions!). While I truly respect the peace made with the Kurds and the way the economy has stabilized and grown, i think a change in government is in order for Turkey.

      August 7, 2014 at 12:08 pm |
  15. RLTJ's

    He thinks giggling women are lovable. He must be turned off by boisterous laughing women.

    Well, if 50% and more Turks agree with him then they can put them into law.

    August 6, 2014 at 8:55 pm |
  16. RLTJ's

    I am not a woman but...hahahah.

    August 6, 2014 at 8:56 pm |
  17. Thomas1

    If it's possible to laugh at their corrupt politicians, by all means. Give me a Turkish woman who laughs, and I'll show you an idiotic Deputy prime Minister. On second thought, just give me a Turkish woman.

    August 6, 2014 at 9:58 pm |
  18. les

    And this country wants to join the EU.

    August 7, 2014 at 12:10 am |
    • Ferhat Balkan

      Actually, most Turks do not want to join the EU. In light of recent events within the EU, who would want to join? Still there are many within the government elite, who want to join due to business opportunities.

      August 7, 2014 at 12:15 am |
    • join the EU?

      join the EU???............. eeeeeeeeuuuuuuwwwwww............... impotent cowards that dare not stand up to a Russian tyrant (Putin) ........ because he sells them oil at US $ 2 below market price........................ eeeeeeeeeeeuuuuuuuuuuuwwwwwwwwww................... yeah, stay away from the eeeeeeuuuuuwwwwww................. 🙂

      August 7, 2014 at 1:51 am |
  19. Advisor

    This is very unprofessional journalism. How are you any different from RT? At least they are open about their bias and don't fill you with truck loads of lies about how impartial they are.

    CNN – American Liberal Secular Propaganda Machine

    August 7, 2014 at 1:13 pm |
  20. Eddie Fonseca

    Mustafa Sandal and Demet Akalin who are both Muslim Turkish pop singers who's song's have been played across Turkey, and the Middle East radio stations they are both well traveled an educated about the global politics and cultures in other countries and Turkey as well. Demet Akalin a former model for Turkey who is a Muslim she recognizes their is lot's of progression being made with young men and women's rights in Turkey but just like any other Arab country there are going to be setbacks with right's of men and women. Turkey a growing country that is a split between old traditions and the new western modern way's they are learning to adapt to both traditions, yet men and women of Turkey should have the same rights just like American's freedom and liberty which is not just an American tradition but a shared global right. Being an American who has traveled to Turkey and the Middle East, and talked to men young men and women who are college and university educated, there is a shared notation between both groups that Turkey needs to change it's way's to allow men and women to have equal rights when it comes to voting and other basic human right's as well. As Americans we live in a nation which supports basic human right's from being able to vote for the next president of our great nation, to being able to buy a regular coffee at the local Starbucks in New York City. Without Turkey being able to have the same basic right's like America for it's citizens will we have to help this young nation that strives to be more like other Western and European nations, in terms of supporting women and men human right's for their citizens in Turkey for years to come.

    August 10, 2014 at 10:54 pm |
  21. Rolly Bobo

    I have to say, the picture of the laughing women is just, psychologically speaking, pretty awesome.

    Something looked really funny.....

    This must be what attracts people to comedy.

    August 12, 2014 at 9:23 pm |
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