Sunday, May 29, 2011

More Women, More Wine: An Argument For Polyandry and Drinking

So a couple of weeks ago I was ranting on about how individual Turkish people seem to care very deeply about what the outside world thinks of Turkey, and how the government or the Establishment or the Man or whatever appears to not give a shit.

The fact that this article, "Istanbul Consultant Suggests Allowing Polygamy" was published in English (as well as Turkish) kind of proves my point. Here are some gems:

The celebrated author, bearing the smug look of a first wife.
“A man looks for friendship, sexuality, motherhood and good housekeeping qualities in a woman. Unless you possess these attributes, you ought to be ready for being cheated upon. This is a righteous search for a man,” said 35-year-old Sibel Üresin, who has worked for the largely conservative municipalities of Fatih, Ümraniye, Bahçelievler and Eyüp, among others. “A healthy woman who analyzes what she will have to go through in the case of a divorce should, in my opinion, consider polygamy as a form of salvation.”

"Polygamy is already a fact of life because 85 percent of men already cheat anyway, according to Üresin."

Honestly, had they not published this in the English edition of Hürriyet for me to post on Facebook for all my friends to alternately snicker at or be rightfully horrified at, there's a good chance I wouldn't have even heard about it until the whole discussion was two weeks out of fashion, at which point I never would have blogged about it because I don't want my imaginary readers to think I'm uncool. No, wait. They probably already think I'm uncool, but I don't want to be the kind of uncool that gets upset about something that's, like, so last week.

I don't real feel a need to air my views on what all this says about women. I mean, I do feel a need, but whatever I would say would be boring and obvious.

Instead, I'll jump to the logically following notion that what all this says about men is almost (but not quite) equally as sickening. Does Islam, and let's not pretend it's not Islam behind this, I don't care how fucking liberal you are, does Islam, oh okay, Mormons too and also some other people but they're almost always religious, does Islam really take such a dim view of men, that they're all animals barely keeping it in their pants, at all times ready to mistreat women? Are all men really such shits that insufficient blow jobs, undercooked chicken, and being a grouchy mommy is reason enough to betray one's spouse or partner and mother of one's child(ren)?

I know, and I have known, a lot of men. About half the people in my life are men, because about half of the people in the world are men. Most of them are good men because they are good people. Very few of them are complete shits, and those that are shits are probably only that way because they think they're supposed to be shits, for whatever reasons.

So this doesn't really match up. When I think of men I think of my father and brothers and son and grandfathers and uncles and friends and cousins and colleagues and complete strangers and literary constructs and virtual folk and statistics. Taking this view that men are all the sort of people who would, by nature, deeply hurt the women in their lives by betraying them and exposing them to STDs because of improperly washed socks, is the kind of thing that just turns my world upside down in a not-fun way.

This part is tangential.
And I prefer any world upside-down-turning to be the fun kind, thank you very much. Like when I learned ancient Greek and Roman statues used to be painted, or that dinosaurs were more bird-ish, or that Pluto isn't a planet anymore, or that I can push a baby out my vagina then milk comes out of me and then everything turns out fine and the baby turns into a person who will one day be of the man sort.

The idea that the fish who used to live in my tummy and get the hiccups in there will, by nature, become the kind of person who doesn't think women are people too, well, that just really creeps me out. And it creeps me out enough that the fish who used to live in my tummy turned out to be a boy. That's another thing that turned my world upside-down.


Our dear Sibel goes on to add, bafflingly enough:

“Polygamy exists in our religion. Not everyone can do it, but you cannot ask someone why they did it; that amounts to polytheism. It is written in the Quran,” Üresin said."

Uh-huh (imagine I just wrote "uh-huh" very slowly, otherwise it's not funny).

Apparently the Quran needs to get a dictionary and look up the word "polytheism," because I'm pretty sure what it wants to say is "sacrilege." Or "apostasy." It depends what the Quran is on about here, which is not at all clear. If my student wrote this in the Quran, I would mark "polytheism" with "word choice" in red and give it a lower grade if it were the final draft.

Now, I haven't read the whole Quran but I'm pretty sure it doesn't say in there you can't ask a polygamist why he is a polygamist. Just like I'm pretty sure it doesn't say in there that powerful people have a moral obligation to stop regular people from looking at stuff on the Internet.

Open Letter To Religion: 

Dear Religion,

You know what would have been really cool? If your books made sense. And also if you quit trying to rule the world because quite a few of your ideas are really fucking boring.


Ironically, it's a Selma that blurred the cigarettes
Lastly, a final thought from Sibel Hanım, curse her for ruining the name "Sibel" for me, just as I curse Selma Aliye Kavaf for spoiling both the name "Aliye" and for making me think of her, instead of Selma from the Simpsons:

"Men go after women who are more flirtatious, laugh more and who can satisfy them sexually.”


Me, in the 5th hour of TOEFL proctoring today.
I just got a crazy idea. As long as we're going around completely changing the words in the Quran towards our own ends, how about I just go ahead and completely change the words in this quotation to my own ends?

"Women go after men who are more flirtatious, laugh more and who can satisfy them sexually."


Woman behavior could very well be like people behavior, just as people behavior could very well be like chimp behavior!

Now this next bit from our dear life coach just doesn't need changing because it's what I've been meaning to get at this whole time.

"If I were a man, I would have been polygamous.” 

When I was but a wee lass, I used to wish and pray every night I would wake up a boy. There are lots of reasons for this. I'm sure you can imagine some of them, but even at that tender age I totally got what was true.

It may be an insurmountable truth, but at least it's a good song

The fact that I didn't become a man, plus the whole Santa Claus thing, is definitely one of the bricks in the wall.

Marriage: It's just not natural
Look, I'm pretty sure that marriage is a crock of shit. I mean, kudos to everyone who has managed to sustain a more or less happy marriage, because as far as I can tell, the only reason marriages survive is either a) because the people in them do lots of good things for each other, which they would do whether they were married or not, b) economic reasons that prevent one of the partners from leaving, or c) religiousness, or cultural remnants thereof.

Wishing I were a man won't get me anywhere, so I'll just have to be happy with turning the tables. Here's why I think women in Turkey need multiple husbands:

1) There should be at least 3 husbands entirely concerned with the sexual aspect of the polyandrous marriage, because women are very complicated. I apologize for mentioning this in what is supposed to be a family blog, in that members of my family read this blog, but fuck it. I'm almost 40 and we're all grown-ups here and if I'm allowed to say "fuck" then I'm allowed to do it too.

2) Another husband could concern himself with making sure the bills are paid because the actual logistical bother of paying the bills with the money I earn is a pain in the ass. This husband could also be in charge of going to the market if he turned out to be adept at selecting produce.

3) A further two or three husbands could be put in charge of homemaking and the boring bits of child-rearing. When they start bitching about how hard it is and that it's too much work for three people, and how it's mind-numbing and invalidating, I could just remind them that in a regular marriage I would be in charge of doing all of the above, plus working full-time so shut the fuck up or I'll get rid of all the other husbands and you can see what it's like.

4) A guy who fixes things really, really well.

This would leave me lots of time to play games with my kid and write do lots of good things for my husbands and grow a garden and watch stupid movies on TV and herd goats and have a social life or whatever because everything irksome about my life would be taken care of by someone else that I didn't have to pay.

Too much of a good thing? Or just too much?
Because that's what the polygamist fellows here are getting from just one wife. What the hell makes them think they need several more? What the hell makes them think they even deserve just the one wife?

I can sure see what it is that makes these guys cling to the Stone Age ideas in their old-ass books that make no sense. I would too, if I were a man.

Now, I admit I took some of Ms. Üresin's comments out of context. Here's the whole context:

""If I were a man, I would have been polygamous,” said Üresin, arguing that legalizing polygamy would empower women who are already engaged in polygamous marriages."

Wife good!
In the beginning of the article, it mentioned that Ms. Üresin cited both religious and secular reasons in support of polygamy. I think this bit above must be the secular part. While I could only actually advocate legalized polygamy if it also included legalized polyandry, let's not forget that none but the first wives in polygamous marriages have anything remotely related to the legal rights I'm sure Ms. Üresin enjoys, if she is married. Why should she care if her husband has other wives to take care of the boring stuff while she gallivants around handing out advice and appearing in newspapers when she's entitled to half of what her husband has, and everything if he dies, while the other wives are entitled to jack and shit and jack left town?

I totally stole that line from Army of Darkness. It was on purpose.

    In Turkish, it's Bay Parlak Pantalon

In conclusion, drinking wine makes people feel a whole lot better about a lot of things, even if it's just for a short while. And that's how I've related the post to its title and I don't want to hear anymore about it.
Wine good!


Nomad said...

There were so many things wrong- abysmally wrong- with that life coach's statement, I didn't even know where to start. First I was shocked to hear such silly things, esp from a woman, and then I was angry. After about three hours, (and a blog post) I decided that, in some ways, this discussion isn't so bad a thing.
DO NOT MISUNDERSTAND. I don't support anything she says but I would say. Needless to say, her ideas belong on the crackpot category. The shameful part of it is mainly that she earns a salary for saying things like this.

However, taking a critical examination of the entire institution of marriage is probably not a totally bad thing. I was shocked, when I first came here, to find so much open cheating going on amongst married Turkish men. As a man, I was allowed to ask about it. From a non-judgmental sociological view, the things I learned were intriguing and gave me a new way of looking at men and women and how different their emotional needs actually are. (Turkey is my lab experiment!!) Anyway, it's a bit too long to go into as a comment but I'll try to explain more in a blog post sometime. Stay tuned.

Stranger said...

I'm interested to hear it, Nomad. I haven't talked to men about this much, except for ones who are bragging or lying. I always supposed the cheating went on simply because it could-- because no one really expects men to man up and act like people, and because bad man behavior is sanctioned by both religion and culture.

I also figured that marriage must be quite different here, and is more clearly an economic agreement rather than a partnership agreement-- cheating wouldn't matter so much so long as the man kept supporting his wife and family (except for the hurt feelings if a wife really loved her husband, or the kids not seeing their dad because he's always off with his mistress). I expect there are a lot of couples who don't love each other much and who look elsewhere to have their other needs meet, emotional or otherwise. I expect the men are getting more of those needs met, and the women are staying mainly because they either believe it's the right thing to do, or they are financially unable to leave.

The lack of equality is the problem. It's not like the Roosevelts, who had their reasons for staying married and who mutually benefited from the marriage while being rather open about their outside dalliances. Unless it works both ways, the women (who are already losing in the marriage agreement, in terms of what they're getting out of it) are getting completely screwed, and are in a delicate and dependent position indeed. Same goes for the mistresses, for that matter.

Nick said...

The polytheism comment has to do with a fairly standard Muslim worldview. Polygamy is sanctioned by the Quran. To question someone who practices polygamy is in fact to question the Quran itself, a grave grave sin. The reference to polytheism is that it's one of the greatest sins in Islam and by questioning the Quran you are opening the door to other beliefs, polytheism being a standard reference as its eradication is one of Islam's main tenants.

As for the legalizing bit, that's exactly what she's saying. She's saying by legalizing it, women would have rights just like any other married woman. Right now they do not in Turkey as polygamy isn't real.

The idea that men must cheat is rather stupid, but accepted fact by most of the world and throughout much of history, the West included.

It's certainly a different worldview, but the logic is quite sound if you come from that worldview.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

The translator[s] for Hurriyet used 'polytheism' for shirk. She means banning something that God allows amounts to accepting another authority than God that can reverse God's laws.

If we had a good press corps and an intellectual class that actually explained things to the people you wouldn't have been puzzled. This line of thinking does exist [with some basis in scripture] and it may actually be the case that the state teaches this in state schools that teach religion. If legal secularism hadn't been taken to mean, for example, that we chase headscarved girls away from institutions perhaps this discussion would have happened years ago. There are several real problems here that need real solutions.

In other news, I'm sure you'll be heartbroken to learn that Sema Aliye Kavaf hasn't even been renominated.

A Seasonal Cook in Turkey said...

First of all, this woman is just ridiculous. Secondly, your take on it and your comments really really make me laugh. I just wonder how you get on in everyday life here?? I love your blog.

Stranger said...

Thanks, Bülent (and how cool that's where we must have gotten the word "shirk" from in English!). I figured something went awry in translation there, but had no idea what.

It isn't just the polytheism that's confusing-- it's also the sentence before that makes it sound like asking a man, "Why are you a polygamist?" amounts to sacrilege, where I suppose what she really means is that questioning the practice in general is sacrilege.

But maybe she, or whoever wrote the translation, meant that to question a man about what he does is to question religion, if you're operating on the assumption that Muslim men are somehow better than women and people who question religious practices.

It's a sticky problem, the legalizing part. I don't disagree that the women entering into polygamous marriages deserve something better (I hesitate to use the word "protection," as I'm guessing many of these women are consenting adults, however brainwashed and foolish they or their families may be). Like the headscarf thing, it's just another way for women to get screwed somewhere in the middle of legislation and religion.

I'd say just go ahead and slap huge fines on the imams who perform these marriages, but who would enforce that? It would just force the practice underground anyway, thereby glorifying it somehow.

This woman is, as you say Claudia, positively ridiculous. Since there is pretty much no mention of the hardships not-first wives face, I don't really accept that this interview/article is an honest attempt to start a rational debate on women's rights within Islam and how these rights may be protected under secular law. That she's paid by municipalities (presumably with taxpayer money-- is that where it's disappearing to is people like her?) pisses me off beyond measure (I get a paystub now, and watch my salary dwindle away month by month, and the strategically-times Haci Osman metro station is doing little to make me feel better about it). So I feel free to make fun of her, and this particular light in which Turkey and Islam are cast. There's a lot of "shame on you" to be cast around here, but Hürriyet's editors should be first in line for now.

A Seasonal Cook in Turkey said...

I am having problems leaving comments on my own blog so here's a reply to yours: muscovado sugar doesn't exist here, you are right. I bring it back from the UK. But for any recipe that requires it, you can mix regular white sugar with a little pekmez and that will do the trick. As for other foreign goodies, Makro or Carrefour are probably the best. Or there's Metro but you need a card to shop there. For pork, there is really only Şütte but it's pretty pricey :).
How are you commenting on your own blog??

Stranger said...

I seem to have avoided the latest blogger breakdown, knock on wood.

I'd actually never heard of muscovado sugar until last night. I had to look it up on Wikipedia.

Still, definitely Carrefour is way better over there than the ones I've visited here (the one in Beylikdüzü was appalling!), and I was only a little bit impressed by Makro. Real was pretty good, but the only one I know of was pretty far away.

Still, I'll have to pay a visit to that pork butcher when we get back from the US.

xx Thanks, Cook!