Friday, March 5, 2010

Irritating TV: An Open Letter To Selma Aliye Kavaf

Dear Selma Hanım,

When I first read about you over on Nomad's blog and in the "news" I imagined you must look something like this:

Then I did a little research, and I discovered you look like this:

Which means you have a much kinder and more reasonable face than I originally thought.

But seriously, when you go around censoring kissing on TV can you blame me for thinking you would look like some pious and pale Victorian battleaxe with a stick up her bottom?

Let me quote from the Zaman article I linked to above, and let my readers see which picture of you gets painted in their heads:

"Just last Friday, Family and Women’s Affairs Minister Selma Aliye Kavaf said she was very irritated by the “erotic” scenes in the series..."

So you find kissing on TV irritating, do you? Irritating? So that means you (an appointed government official) get to dictate what people may and may not watch on TV based on what irritates you?

Here's my idea. How about make me the Minister of Family and Women's Affairs for a day and let me ban everything on TV that irritates me. Here's my list:

*The sudden and startling volume increases when a program cuts to commercial.

*Cuts to commercial at exactly the wrong time.

*Perfectly good foreign programs spoiled by poorly-acted dubbing. First, I want to ban all dubbing with a woman listlessly going "Eeeeeehhhhh" while the woman on TV is clearly screaming bloody murder. Next, I want to get rid of all dubbing where children's voices are done by women speaking in a nasal falsetto with teddy-bear speech impediments.

*All talk/news/magazine programs that are just three or more people all shouting over each other the whole time, and two of those people (one of whom is usually the moderator) saying nothing but "Bi' şey söyleyebilir miyim?Bi' şey söyleyebilir miyim?"

*Sensodyne commercials with the "real-life" dentists talking about sensitive teeth. Those make me want to go out and punch a dentist, which is arguably more dangerous than kissing.

*Children's TV stations that have 30-minute commercial segments for every 15 minutes of programming. Because of these, LE desperately wants Coco Puffs (way worse for kids than kissing), a Mouse-Trap type game that's much too advanced for him, and a pink tent with fairies on it (I don't mind, but I'm sure the Traditional Family Values camp might find something worrying about this).

*Children's stations that mostly show Japanese cartoon characters kicking the shit out of each other. When LE watches people kissing on TV, do you know what he does? He kisses me. When LE watches people and animals kicking the shit out of each other, you know what he does? He kicks me. Which is the negative example? The former, according to you, Selma Hanım.

What with the blurry cigarettes and no kissing and my list of things that irritate the hell out of me, there'd be nothing left to watch on TV at all.

Here's what I can't figure out. With all the problems affecting women and families, how is it you have so much time on your hands to watch kissing on TV, get irritated by it, then go through the whole rigmarole of banning it? I'm talking about problems like domestic violence. Honor killings. Lack of family planning education. Child labor. Poverty. The hordes of free-range street kids. Public education and the state of the schools. Pre-natal care. Childhood nutrition. I'm sure I've missed some things, but I think you can see where I'm going here. All of these things should be way more irritating for you than kissing on TV, especially because you're the Minister of FAMILY and WOMEN'S Affairs. I lose sleep over some of these problems, myself. Maybe it's from watching too much kissing?

But apparently you're losing sleep over stuff too. In the above-mentioned Zaman article, you went on to note:

"...that such scenes were a factor in encouraging people to become sexually active at very young ages. A recent report prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that people become sexually active in Turkey as early as 13. “I am very disturbed about such scenes,” Kavaf said."

Wow. As young as 13? How many of those 13 year olds are girls forced into marriage by their families? And out of the total number of kids having sex in Turkey, how many of them are 13? I somehow doubt it's a large enough percentage to warrant this sort of action. Sex ed in school might be helpful, but somehow I suspect that's not next on your To Do list.

But it's the kissing on TV that disturbs you. Truly you are a woman who's got her priorities straight.

Selma Hanım, I hope your reasonable appearance isn't as misleading as it would seem. Don't be a Victorian battleaxe and let us have our TV tongue-kissing back. You have this position of power. Maybe you should think about making your mark on this earth by doing something that matters.

With all due respect,

P.S. You know how there are all those anti-AKP folks with the slippery slope theories about AKP's insidious plan to make Turkey an Islamic Republic? Well, things like this are totally not helping AKP's attempts to act like they're dispelling these "myths."


Nomad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nomad said...

I thought this post was some kind of magic trick or peek-a-boo blogging. One minute it was there and then the next it wasn't.
Violence of TV is, of course, more dangerous than "fervent" kissing. (I am deeply impressed with this phrase, by the way. Only I am slightly worried I have never been kissed fervently enough.)
Here is a graphic illustration of why violence on TV should be limited around the wee ones.

Nomad said...

This high-handed approach is a continuation of the past methods of governance, based on the rule of incontestable authority and God-smitten punishment.

A more productive idea would be to conduct a conference of broadcasters and ask them to draw up a guide for a review board. For example a certain amount of community-oriented broadcasting, a standard for the times for "adult" material, (which would include fervent kissing, smoking and violence, regulations regarding advertising, especially for children's programming. There would rules about how minorities are portrayed and the description of what would constitute "objectionable" programming.)

This set of guidelines would then be worked and re-worked until both broadcasters and the ministers are satisfied. Then, every year- or twice a year, say, for the first 5 years, each channel would undergo a independent review in order to obtain their licences to broadcast. Any station owner that did not abide by these guidelines would lose their license. Broadcasting without a license would be punishable with fines, and court action if necessary. At the very least, the ruling party- whoever that might be- would have a strong legal basis for issuing fines and the whole process would seem much less arbitrary.

None of this is, of course, revolutionary thinking. Turkey need not re-invent the wheel. There are plenty of models for television and radio broadcasting which Turkey can choose. The FCC (pre-Reagan) is a pretty good place to start, I would think. But I suppose it is easier just to slap a fine on individual stations than to come up with something long-term and logical.

Stranger said...

Peek-a-boo, eh? You must have managed to visit just as I was doing my after-posting editing. Unless you mean a few days ago when I posted on accident instead of saving before the post was finished, then in a panic about all the typos other messes accidentally deleted the whole thing...

The word "fervent" is very evocotive, isn't it. Way juicer than "passionate." Maybe because it sounds a little like "furtive?"

An FCC type thing would make way too much since. It also troubles me that cable TV can be censored like this. I understand if they want state-run network stations to reflect their Victorian principles of morality, but as an American I feel like if I pay, I should be able to watch whatever the hell I want. Digitürk has parental controls for people who think it helps to shelter their kids from sex.

seamus said...

Other shocking things about the series ask - i - memnu is why that young woman is married to a man twice her age and why his handsome young nephew is living with them along with an aunt. Recipe for disaster.

When it comes to family planning why does nobody have any idea about the morning after pill?

Stranger said...

Do they even have the morning after pill here? For normal people, I mean-- not just the rich. I thought they were still hesitant about unmarried women and condoms.

seamus said...

The supermarkets are full of condoms even if they are pricey. I notice that OK the local brand of condoms now do their own brand of "play gel" in an aerosol. It stands to reason that unmarried people buy them or is it only married people?

Contraception and working class locals begggars belief. I have it on reasonable authority that abortion is widespread and quite cheap.

Nomad said...

I've seen condoms being sold at the checkout.. like chewing gum. Talk about impulse shopping!

seamus said...

I like the way they sell "hustler" condoms in the market stalls in Eminonu-in the middle of the summer in the open air-God knows how old they are and there is a porno picture of a man in hipster briefs on the front. Ugh.

Stranger said...

Condoms appeared in the supermarket about 5 years ago I think. You could only get them in the pharmacy before that, with everyone staring. Even the market under the mosque near my house started selling them about 2 years ago, right up at the checkstand as you say, Nomad. Often the colorful OK boxes are at kid-eye level with the candy. LE is intrigued because he thinks they're candy.

I think you're right about abortion, seamus. I think it's more stigmatized here than in then US, but less regulated and easier to come by. I figured all those dodgy jinekolog offices made their livings on abortions and hymen reconstructions.

Gulay said...

abortion is relatively easy to come by and is sometimes the equivalent of the morning after pill in Turkey, some friends of mine have had 2 or 3 due to forgetting their protection. As for condoms and the like they have been available for longer than 5 years in the supermarkets. I moved to the US 5 years ago and was able to buy them in the stores before I left. Bear in mind that its not that long ago that you had to produce a marriage certificate to rent a hotel room for the night. I remember having difficulties with this in my younger days. And believe me unmarried sex is just as frequent in Turkey as in other countries.

Stranger said...

A German friend of mine and her husband along with their 3 year old were refused a room in Yalova recently because they didn't have their marriage certificate with them, and my husband had to do some serious convincing a few years back to get us into our room in Cyprus without the certificate. But that could be special for foreigners.

I came in early 2002 and for sure there were no condoms in grocery stores, but I don't remember exactly when they appeared. Could be 7 or 8 years ago.

It's still shockingly late. As you say, Gülay, it's only an illusion people don't have pre-marital sex here, though I can imagine the logistics are infinitely more complicated than the US because so many people live with their parents :)

As for abortions, I don't know very many people who haven't had at least one.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Oh you so you are covering our esteemed politicans now. I was looking into this over in the TPA blog. It also appears she likes Kurtlar Vadisi. I don't know what that bit of info does for Nomad's point about violence.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Oh, and, condoms have been available on the street (from the isportaci) for as long as I remember (70's). I'm not the only one who remembers this.

Stranger said...

Politicians can be astoundingly stupid, but this one really blew my mind. She makes Nancy Reagan look sane and cuddly.

That Kurtlar Vadisi comment gave us a good chuckle over the paper yesterday morning. Is it sitll on? I only watched it once or twice (though my evening lessons during the first couple of seasons were often cut short by popular request from students who wanted to get home to watch). That show had one of the most disturbing scenes of beating/torture I've ever seen on network, anywhere.

I'm sorry I never got to hear the condom seller song. But I'd wager that neither the street nor the neighborhood eczane were places most women would feel comfortable buying condoms... Not great for men either, I suppose, but eyebrows would be raised in a different way.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

I've never seen that show. One reason why I can remember such important stuff as what brand of condoms were sold by street vendors in what manner decades ago is that I am good at avoiding today's important stuff like Kurtlar Vadisi.

You are right, I don't think it would have been a comfortable experience for a woman to deal with those street vendors. (I know of two occasions where women got remarks from (male) grocery store cashiers in the US too (late at night). But in those cases the timing might have been a major factor I dunno.) I don't know if women here feel comfortable buying them now from grocery stores either. In fact I don't know if they buy them at all.

As for politicians, I was going to quote Mencken on what representative democracy produces, but then I realized she's probably merely appointed to be elected by the glorious and truly elected one.

Stranger said...

I don't know if women here buy condoms either. Someone must be buying them though, right?

I think for most people anywhere buying condoms is slightly more emotionally charged than buying, say, paper towels. There are just some products that are nicer to buy in an anonymous setting with as little interaction as possible. Rather than having to approach someone and ask for condoms, you can just toss them in the groceries amongst the asparagus and dish soap. Much easier, and less like sharing your family planning specifics with a complete stranger.

pisipati said...

I am 29years old and virgin,I've never been kissed,a guy can only hold my hand,maybe a hug if I'm not married to him.My family is from Afyon(I live in Istanbul by the way)and they are very conservative,and I share the same values with them.And my sister and most of my unmarried friends are like me.Some are covered,some are not.I have 2 unmarried and not virgin friends and I know that they don't have abortion experiences.So Gülay represents some Turkish girls and I represent some others.Unfortunately I don't know anything about how random or not abortion is in my country.My married friends are using birth control pills and most of them believe if you are pregnant,you have to give birth.In Islam its sin is equal to murder sin.But I'm a pro-abortion person,it's women's freedom.This AKP lady is a biggot and a lazy creature.They all are.Me being conservative doesn't automatically make me an Akp fan,because I have a brain.Because of my english knowledge and nerdiness I've heard morning after pills,I think nobody around me knows what they are?Another news,NR1(music channel)edited Shakira's Gypsy music video,because there is a kissing scene between her and Rafael Nadal in it.I understood this when I watched the full video on youtube.It was a shock to me,they even edited the part when Nadal and Shakira rub their noses to each other.It's a shame,those scenes are so beautiful.At the end of the day what Akp does is instead of facing real problems,creating aimless controversies and changing the current agenda.Homosexuality is not a disease,it's a reality of human kind.But what do you expect,couple of years ago one of AKP minister said this sentence ''Our women are the decorations(süs)of our houses.Idiocrasy is everywhere when it comes to AKP.

Stranger said...

"creating aimless controversies"-- wonderful!

I'm glad you weighed in as a conservative thinker, pisipati. I probably also make the mistake of lumping conservatives and AKP as one group, and it's comforting to know all conservatives aren't AKP.

I wish a political party here could find some middle ground between "pious fools" and "rabid nationalists." Ideologically there must be some compromises that would work. And there must be a lot of people who are neither of these things, but the fools and the nationalists are really, really loud.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

AKP is conservative the same way neo-cons were (that is, they are not). Our grandpas would probably have wanted to chase them with clubs and our grandmas would have gone tsk tsk at them. For one thing they tend to flash their wealth and their base seems to like it. This would not have been acceptable to my elders, nor is it acceptable to me. There's a conservative strain in many of us, including myself and the AKP people's behaviour is actually rather insulting to that side of us. (I'd say, in that regard, Stranger herself is closer to my conservative side given the displeasure she expresses (or hints at) about conspicuous and rather stupid consumption than the utterly corrupt specimens from 'old money' families and the AKP-rich. There's more to life than sexual mores.)

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Now that I googled and found it, I might as well use it here. Stranger, you said:

I wish a political party here could find some middle ground between "pious fools" and "rabid nationalists."

This doesn't happen, in part, because the sane cannot be herded as easily. I'm no political scientist, but I know of one attempt at explaining this phenomenon. Here's some French guy quoting Hayek on this issue.

Nomad said...

Bulent, I was always taught that an ostentatious display of wealth is vulgar. Nowadays, it's as if you don't have wealth unless you are shaking it in people's faces.
As far as abortion in Turkey. When I lived in Balcova, in Izmir, it was more like a village than it is now. A lot of villagers moved to that part of town. Anyway, everyday I would walk past a clinic and written on the window was Kurtaj. I thought I knew what it meant but, given the situation, I knew I had to be mistaken. But it was an openly advertised procedure, it would seem.

seamus said...

A girl who my wife worked with and was married to a useless tosser got pregnant. They could not afford to have the baby and she had an abortion at one of those evening clinics you see on Bahariye in Kadıkoy. There were two price options one with an anaesthetic and one without. She chose without and never missed a days work.

Stranger said...

Oof. As though making the choice to have an abortion weren't enough, the anesthetic has to be an option too?

That Hayek quote is interesting too. Quite true. I wish things didn't have to be that way, but unfortunately they are and always have been. That's been the problem of the American Democratic Party for a long time-- that they've never been able to come up with unified positions on anything except that they don't like Republicans. All very silly. It reminds of the revolutionary group in "Life Of Brian," spending all their time trying to agree on what they believe in, and they can't remember if they're the People's Front of Judea or the Judean People's Front.

And yes, displaying wealth is tasteless and lacks the class that I expect of political leader. Shit, even Bush was a classy dresser (I come from cowboy country so a nice bolo tie counts as a tie for me).

Showing off how rich you are is for people who don't know any better. It speaks to much deeper problems and always bodes badly.

seamus said...

My wife told me the story without the slightest embarassment or any acknowledgement of it being out of the ordinary. I guess private medicine is private medicine. Having said that I had microsurgery which entailed one night in hospital in Istanbul and the care was fantastic. Of course I could pay.