Men and women’s relations in Turkey

I posted before about how intimidated I was when I first got here, since there seemed to be no women on the streets. Well, since then I’ve learned more about the situation. Many women are housewives, so they don’t really go outside of the house much. This explains the imbalance of men and women on the streets. But as one of my friends pointed out, it has some other interesting repercussions. Since women are so much rarer in public, they are a valuable commodity. So, men have to be really aggressive about trying to get a woman’s attention.

Many women are simply flooded with men’s attention. So their response is to be standoffish towards all of them. But this only intensifies the problem, as the men have to work even harder to get a response. It’s an interesting dynamic. And I, being such a friendly girl, am usually misunderstood. Many guys have gotten really excited when I would talk to them, thinking, “Wow, a girl is actually talking to ME! This is amazing!” And I have to be like, dude, back off, I was just showing polite interest.

I think women aren’t expected to be able to hold an intelligent conversation. Even women who go to university don’t plan to have a career after– they plan to start a family and sit at home. Mostly, the girls I’ve met have been really concerned with silly stuff, like fashion. It’s obvious that they spend a lot of time on their nails, hair, makeup, with few exceptions. It’s sometimes hard to deal with people who have come to expect women to be like this, and don’t really know how to interact with an intelligent girl. I have to work to prove, and then remind, that I can handle not being treated like an idiot.
At the heart of it, even though Turkey is trying hard to be modern, this is still the Muslim world. Men and women lead mostly separate lives, except when it comes to sex. This causes a lot of understandings for me, a girl who feels more comfortable in the company of platonic, male friends than in a group of girls. I’ve had some exhausting and horrifying experiences while trying to maintain this lifestyle here. The worst was when, after hanging out late with a group of my roommate and his close, childhood friends, I decided to crash on their couch. A trusted connection, I thought. Well, I woke up to the guy in the same room, staring at me, pants-less.

Now I have a few quality friends, but they were hard, and tiring, to find. But despite some bad experiences, I do generally appreciate the way the good guys (and even the bad ones) here naturally treat women. They are so polite and chivalrous, opening doors, always letting them have the seats on public transportation, and never letting a woman (even one who’s really just a friend) pay for anything. Whenever I am out with friends, they always try to help me down the stairs, or place a hand on my back to try to guide me out of traffic’s way. Okay, that’s maybe a bit overkill, but the gesture is nice, I think. And even though I’m often underestimated as far as what I can do, I think that’s kind of good– I don’t want to reveal my hand too soon… mwahahaha

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