By Ayşe Baykal
In my mother’s opinion, the profile of a successful woman is one who has a degree, is married and has children. Yes, I am going to write about how the twin daughters of a mother who prioritizes marriage were not able to get married.
There are numerous difficulties holding women back from marriage in Turkey.
My twin sister and I were never keen on getting married and we moved forward with our lives as unmarried women, even though we had many visitors intended for potential arranged marriages. I used to draw lots with my sister about “who will take this one now?”
Was it because we love our family too much? Or because we could not dare to be separated from each other? Or the fear of making a wrong decision? For reasons I am not able to name, we could never make a decision.
We did try to make an effort just to make our mother happy, saying, “At least one of us should get married so that mom can have a son-in-law.” To be frank, my sister Hanife put more effort into this than me.
She even made Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pledge that he will be a witness at her wedding, back when he was the head of our provincial organization.
When we went to visit Mr. Tayyip after he became prime minister, she said, “Chief, you promised that you were going to be my wedding witness.” When he answered, “We will see. When is the wedding?” Hanife said, “Chief, there is no groom yet.” She thus went down in history for obtaining a pledge for a wedding without a groom.
Of course, it was not as if the suitors were willing to marry us and we always turned them down. We also had some suitors who we found satisfactory, but they, somehow, in turn said, “You deserve better than me.” We were sure they knew better…
Women to marry
There is a perception that Turkish men regard women in two categories: There are the ones to have fun with and the ones to marry. This is correct, but only partially.
There are also “holy” women. I think this is why my twin sister and I, because we fall into this category, were not able to get married.
You might ask me, “What kind of a group is this?” Allow me explain as follows: Holy women are the ones who are appreciated and respected, but also the ones who lack the courage to marry.
For example, you cannot fool a women in this category by saying, “This is how it is written in the Quran,” because they know what is written in the Quran and how men have twisted and turned them around.
These holy women are not only in our “conservative” neighborhoods, they are present in every neighborhood. These women are sensitive to incidents in their country and in the world. They identify with any kind of injustice done to a woman in any part of the country.
Why would a Turkish man want to marry such a woman, while he has the option of appreciating, applauding and being as far away as possible?
Imagine, while the woman is talking about hunger in the world, how can the guy say, “Hey, I’m hungry?”
It could be quite frightening for a man to think about the reaction of a woman who has had injustice done to her, especially if she is the type that is unable to keep quiet when injustice is done to another woman who she does not even know. Why would he take the risk?
Well, this is our story…
Difficulties for an unmarried Turkish girl
Now, let’s address the difficulties of being an “old maid” in Turkey. We are a nation that loves tradition.
A young girl grows up and reaches the age of marriage. She marries and has children. A comment such as “I have been married but I am not happy” is a situation that is near impossible to be accepted. Even if she is battered, she should not divorce her husband. If she has children, she maintains her marriage for the sake of her children; if she does not have children, she grits her teeth because “what would everybody say?”
The possibility that a woman can be happy as an “individual” is unthinkable.
This is a general pattern in our country. If you go outside of this societal norm, then you are treated as if you are “out of order.” The conversation goes exactly like this:
- Do you have children?
- No, I’m not married.
- Oh, are you divorced?
- No, I was never married.
- No, never.
- Engagement, betrothing, etc.?
- Oh, why is that? You are a decent-looking girl…
- Well, kısmet. It just didn’t happen.
Do you think they will let go of the topic? Absolutely not. Our aunties are never satisfied; they need a valid, tangible reason.
But there are also those good-willed ones. They see you being unmarried as a sad situation and search for consolation in a phrase like, “Never mind. Look we got married and nothing has happened. You are doing your best.”
After all, it is tough to be a woman in Turkey. We need to be able to understand each other as women before we can expect men to understand women.
We will one day form the Old Maids Association...