Turkish Tongue Fu.

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.

A girl smiling or laughing.

An affront to morality? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

How to quite literally "hang out" in public, and provide an irrepressible fit of the giggles for MM. Photo taken for your eyes only,  at MM's perils and risks.

How to quite literally “hang out” in public, and provide an irrepressible fit of the giggles for MM. Photo taken for your eyes only, at MM’s perils and risks.

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.


63 thoughts on “Turkish Tongue Fu.

  1. Hard to imagine anyone with half a brain suggesting less laughter could possibly be better. For anyone of either sex. It’s just another way to oppress women in a society where men feel threatened. Sad.

  2. had me laughing from the start and nodding in agreement at the end – where have all the feminists gone I ask myself? All in purdah by the sound of silence it would seem

    • What I find strange is that this happens although the mothers bringing up their children suffer from this “cultural” problem. I’m sure they must bring their boys up to respect women, and their daughters to believe that they are not secondary status citizens, so why does this happen nevertheless? There are women in government who are fighting back, but they are outnumbered by the more traditional male politicians.

  3. Any man who thinks women should refrain from laughter is obviously deeply insecure and afraid they are all laughing at him. Grrr! Great writing as always, MM.

  4. Laughter from giggle to full blown belly is surely a human right. Where is the progress in this world? And what has happened to feminism in my lifetime, a lifetime that saw bras burned, oral contraceptives swallowed, Rita get educated, Shirley Valentine find herself and domestic violence escalate. We live on an increasingly small planet but our voices seem to carry less and less by the day 😦

    • I couldn’t agree more. Women still have to fight to be heard, but having the simple right to exist without being mistreated is still to be obtained for many women, and that isn’t just a shame, it’s shameful. think that this kind of breed is a dying species – at least, we can hope so.

    • I hope that you are blushing slightly and looking down, as he explained in his speech, and that you refrain form sharing recipes with friends over the phone, as he finds that a little too over the top for a woman too.

  5. Thanks for this post MM; it’s so ludicrous and yet so terrifying. Attempting to stifle people’s laughter is an insidious form of oppression. It’s the first step in shaming them and killing their spirit. I used to work with a lovely Qatari lady who was fully veiled. All I ever saw were her eyes, but they were always smiling. That’s because she was always smiling. The abaya, hijab and niqab couldn’t touch her spirit, but had someone forced her to stop smiling … well I just can’t imagine how that would have destroyed the beautiful person that she was.
    Years ago, a casual ‘friend’ invited me to her house for a potluck dinner to meet some of her inner circle. I didn’t know many of the women there, but we all got along really well straight away. At one point in the evening, my ‘friend’ looked at me and stated really loudly that my laugh when I was drinking wine could really end up fraying someone’s nerves. The room went silent, everyone who’d been laughing just seconds earlier all of a sudden toned down, and it was just overall uncomfortable. Personally, I was quite embarrassed, being the new girl on the block and all, and it really has stayed with me all these years later. To this day I’m very conscious of not laughing too loudly or too enthusiastically when with anyone other than close friends and family.
    Granted I know that she was probably just insecure that I was getting along too well with ‘her’ friends, but the effects of her attempt to stifle me have lingered.
    I make it a point to encourage my daughter’s chortling, snorting, giggling, and belly laughing. There’s no greater cure for all that ails than to laugh long, laugh hard, and laugh true.
    Loved this. xoxoxoxoxox

    • It’s the oppression side of it that I just don’t get, Gypsy. I have an Iranian friend. She, too, has eyes that smile. And funnily enough, the more you hide a woman, the more the face, then the eyes, become beautiful. The more feminine the voice becomes. Some women have been covered up so much that with a black sheet behind them, they disappear completely from view. This isn’t religion, or faith. It’s controlling women rather than behaving properly oneself. And it’s wrong.
      As for your laugh when you drink wine… Don’t drink with her again, she doesn’t deserve you. I’d suggest that she gets herself a Darth Vador mask so that if she does dare to laugh, nobody will recognize her. How sad. Don’t change for people like that – be yourself, because there’s only one of you. All the others are taken. Love n hugs, gypsy!

  6. An interesting ‘cocktail’ of serious subject matter and laughter, MM, making your topic very readable and thought-provoking. My only solution, sadly, is to turn off the radio.

    • Hi there, cupcake! Yup, it is better to switch off the radio, but somehow I can’t. It is a constant reminder howe important it is to bring your kids up to respect others, and not to underestimate the chance they have to live in a country where they don’t have to fight for basic rights.

  7. This is no laughing matter ! I did not hear about this. Are women actually attempting to refrain ? I cannot imagine!

  8. Firstly, thanks so much for the plug! Secondly, this is the most preposterous story I’ve ever heard and I will immediately book a holiday to Turkey equipped with my ‘Jokes to Tell in Turkey Amidst a Ludicrously Sexist Political Outburst’ book; and thirdly, well said 🙂

    • You’re welcome. I love your blog, and stick man is just a staaar 🙂 I would like to come with you. As I said earlier in the comments I think we should organise a laugh-in in front of the government buildings.

  9. I must be getting old as my first thought was, ‘What is the world coming to??’ I’ve given up reading the news as it’s just too depressing and I couldn’t even look at Facebook over the summer due to an allergic reaction to the tide of screaming ice bucket videos. I was succeeding as a laughter-free woman until I read your blog 🙂

    • Where did my reply go? Pfft. I can understand people wanting to give money to a good cause, but I can’t work out why everyone has to make such a big show out of it. there are so many other ways that we can give, and so many worthy causes. There are people who haven’t thrown ice cubes on their heads, but who do so much for others nevertheless without slathering it all over the social media. Cynical mode *off*.
      Keep on laughing, girl!!!

  10. Ataturk must be turning in his grave. There are definitely a few heads that need banging together in the Turkish government. Turkish women used to be much better off under the secular system. Now that the loony fanatics have access to power, it’s downhill all the way, and I’m sure the increasing abuse towards women is a result.

    Makes you weep really.

  11. What a strange thing for a deputy prime minister to be spending his time on… I’m sure he must have better things to do than try to stop women laughing!? How odd! I did laugh at your blog though. Not being a woman, I guess that’s fine, I won’t show it to my wife though, just in case…

  12. It’s deeply disturbing that there are so many deaths from violence in the home and all the ramifications of this. Having political figures further subjugate women legitimises the behaviour. It will be a long road out but I seriously (:-)) like your idea of a laugh-in as a protest.

    • Isn’t it awful? It is unforgivable for political figures to condone this behaviour. Particularly surprising when Turkey recently expressed a desire to become part of the European Union – they have to get rid of political figures with ideas from the dark ages first.

    • Hello, Lynn, and welcome to MM’s pad! Don’t take it off your bucket list. Go. Laugh. Eat ice cream. Dance in a fountain. I’m sure that everyone else would join in, and Turkey would chuck out the old world ideas for new found freedom; all because you went there with your sister. And they all lived happily ever after… Sigh…

      • Thing is, Sister and I have a silent laugh. We just walk around jiggling … perhaps they’d be none the wiser. We wouldn’t bring new world order to Turkey but we might escape the judicial system. Not a great time to visit that part of the world, sadly, but Istanbul stays on the list.

  13. WOW, I am sad to read the this. More sad than amused regretfully. Though, I love that posts can make one think, laugh, and educate simultaneously. I take to heart the plight of women. Especially in Muslim countries. Ugh, I feel they always seem to take one foot forward and twenty back. 😦

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