The world has gone bananas. The radio spits news of bombs, riots, Ebola, beheadings and conflicts into my kitchen on a daily basis. Meanwhile, social media overflows with videos of people in the Western world throwing buckets of iced water over their heads, screaming and donating money to charity in an interesting cocktail of altruism and narcissism.
In all this madness, one thing made me sit up and laugh out loud at the sheer ludicrousness of what I had just read. Paradoxically, my uncontrollable fit of giggles was set off by a subject that was really no laughing matter. In a speech delivered at the end of July, the deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Bülent Arinç, informed Turkish women that they should refrain from laughing in public to preserve morality. Yet the idea that any normal person could seriously ask anyone else to refrain from laughing, in public or elsewhere, is so ridiculous that in the end, I really don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
So forget the cut and thrust of verbal jousting with girlfriends, and learn how to stem that fabulous, fizzy wave of giggles that bubbles up from deep down in your guts, gushing out of your mouth as your milkshake squirts out of your nostrils. (If you want to read a great post about laughter, I recommend this one by the wonderful Becky over at “Becky Says Things”).
Laughter is a deep-seated social reflex that has been evolving in the human brain since we held our first iStone – without laughter, humans would be incapable of living together. Communication and social coherence are necessary for any group of individuals that coexist, and laughter plays a specific role in this basic recipe for a peaceful community by showing that an individual is open, tolerant and not hostile. So asking someone not to laugh is about as realistic as telling them not to scratch their itching nose.
Whilst it is very flattering to think that women are able to stop themselves laughing, maybe Mr Arinç should try it first. I’m sure that he has already experienced an uncontrollable fit of giggles as someone farts stepping off the bus, or walks into a lamp-post because they were too busy admiring their own reflection in a shop window to look where they were going. I would therefore recommend a series of tests, in public, to see how he reacts to basics such as slipping on banana skins, or oversized trousers sliding slowly down a youngster’s legs to reveal oversized underpants, a bit like this unfortunate young man at the local Préfecture when MM got her driving license.
Otherwise, we could offer an exchange: girly giggles in public can disappear, but only when men have stopped publicly indulging in their much less appealing instinctive basic behaviors, such as scratching and rearranging their meat and two veg, or absent-minded nose picking and bogey flicking.
I am a bit nonplussed about how a publicly happy woman could be a danger to moral values. If a woman commits the heinous crime of making someone else laugh, will she be taken to court and accused of using tongue fu on innocent male bystanders? Chortling chicas in the street just make it a rather nice place to be – except, perhaps, for the kind of guy who will use any lame excuse to mistreat a woman, blaming it on her because she dared to “tempt” him by laughing in public.
Innocent men could be the victims of chick wit, but (to the best of my knowledge) no-one has ever been killed by the odd joke such as “How many men does it take to make a chocolate mousse ? Ten – one to make the mousse and nine to peel the Smarties”.
Domestic abuse in Turkey, however, is no laughing matter, and claims increasing numbers of lives with every year that passes. Anit Sayac, a website commemorating the Turkish victims of domestic violence, reports that domestic violence killed 228 women last year. According to the recent study entitled “Domestic Violence against Women in Turkey”, four in ten women there are beaten by their husbands. More sobering still, courts appear to be disturbingly unconcerned about these crimes – a recent court ruling showed leniency to a man who had stabbed his wife, agreeing that she had “provoked” her husband… by wearing leggings.
So when the accusing finger points, rather than looking at the woman it targets, take a good look at the mentality of the person who is pointing it. Shoulder the responsibility and question the patriarchal system that condones and closes its eyes to abuse, rather than demanding the impossible from women.