Feminist websites flourish in Turkey

While Turkish media suffers the consequences of limits on the freedom of expression, Turkey’s feminists use the opportunities of online platforms in the most effective way to voice women’s stories.

After the void left by the closure of the iconic feminist magazine Pazartesi [Monday] in 2007, women found other ways to give write about their place in the society and gain confidence.

“Women’s enthusiasm for writing never ended. At that time they found new mediums, now there are internet sites. They cannot silence us. If I could not write in a magazine, I would go and write on the walls. Because this is also a part of the history of women’s struggle,” said Beyhan Demir, who used to write for Pazartesi.

“Writing, learning to express yourself by putting your thoughts in articles, getting curious about what others would write, learning how to write and report, all of that entered into my life through that magazine. What excited me most was seeing that I cold do satire,” she said. 

The feminist website Çatlak Zemin [Cracked Ground] was launched in 2016 by a group women to provide a space for commentaries on feminist politics. Selime Büyükgöze, one of the editorial team, said they preferred an online platform rather than a printed magazine not only because of the cost, but because they wanted to have flexibility to combine feminist theory with activism.

In the beginning the articles on the website were mostly written by its founders, but other people started submitting articles. “Seeing the pieces written by other women in fact encourages women, Büyükgöze said. “As those articles become more visible and shared by many, we learn types of sexism that we have never known, types of violence we have never heard of”. 

The website is mainly followed by young and middle-aged women living in urban areas and receives articles from people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, said Nehir Kovar, a member of the editorial team. Women share not only academic knowledge but combine daily practice with theory, discuss solutions for discrimination against women, find solidarity, establish contacts, and heal each other by sharing their common problems, she said.

“The media can be in a devastating situation. The streets, the justice system can be in a devastating situation,” Kovar said. “But these are temporary, seasonal things. We continue to think and to share our thoughts.”

Ekmek ve Gül [Bread and Rose], another website, started its journey as a television programme in 2008. The group behind it decided to continue publishing via an internet site, after the channel broadcasting their programme was shut down by government decree in 2016. They are also struggling to keep a print magazine alive. 

Sevda Karaca
Sevda Karaca

Sevda Karaca from the editorial team said that in male dominated societies women were expected to use a uniform and approved language, while women always managed to trespass those limits. “As women, who are most of the time forced to build up sentences like ‘who will listen to me’, ‘who cares what I think’, ‘who cares my problems’, ‘what change can come from my words’, we have a mission. We believe in the transformative power of a solidarity network that will make us feel what we think, say, experience and suffer from are important,” Karaca said.

Readers of Ekmek ve Gül also hold small meetings across the country. “Our insistence on those meetings led to invaluable experiences, razed many prejudices, allowed women to share with each other thoughts they had never expressed before,” Karaca said. Thanks to those meetings, the website now has a large network of women reporters.

The story of Mizgin, a pseudonym used by an unknown contributor to the website, shows how feminist mediums can transform women’s lives. In 2015, Mizgin wrote a letter to Ekmek ve Gül. She said she had got married at an early age, was subject to violence, was thrown onto the street and banned from seeing her children. 

Her first letter expressed her excitement at finding a medium to forge solidarity with other women. Three months later, in her second letter, she explained how the women’s solidarity, which made her realise that she was not in an impossible situation, had helped her overcome her fears. 

In her third letter, she said she had taken steps to build a new life with her children and found a job. She was this time talking about problems of working women. In her fourth letter, she was criticising the violence women suffered in public, because of their clothes, and called on all women to stand against that social aggression. 

“We wanted to have a medium where we can have our say on the daily experiences of women, particularly Muslim women, our understanding of social issues, our interests, curiosities, problems, hopes, concerns, and struggles,” said the feminist blog Reçel [The Jam]. As a blog particularly appealing to Muslim women, but not limited to them, and as a medium that appreciates the feminist methodology, Reçel publishes contributions touching all aspects of women’s daily lives, from families, marriages, divorces, and child care to travelling and sexuality. 

In an interview last year, the blog’s founders Feyza Akınerdem and Rümeysa Çamdereli, said the agenda of the blog was decided spontaneously by its contributors. “We helped the emergence of issues that could not be determined by macro politics, or identity politics in its widest sense or any other political trend that are written with capital letters,” said Akınerdem, a sociologist. 

Çamdereli said Muslim women were perceived as a homogenous group, with the same experiences and tastes, while in fact they were living quite different lives.

“There is no single image. No single identity. I think Reçel opened a space to expose that diversity,” she said.