WHAT CHANGED ME

Nov 27, 2021
Social Issues Challenges Women's Power Books Inspiration


A CHILD'S DREAMS

I've always had dreams that I thought I couldn't reach. When I was little, I didn't have dreams of becoming a teacher or a doctor when I grew up like the other kids around me. I was going to be an engineer and build robots with different functions and protect the world from all kinds of evil and threats. In another dream, I was a karate master like Bruce Lee, this time trying to save the world by fighting. As a result, there were two distinctive features in each of my dreams. In all of them, I was trying to save the world, and all my dreams were completely against the gender roles of the society I was in. I'll never forget, I could be ten years old, my uncle planned to go to Mecca and Medina for the pilgrimage. And this was a huge event back then because only people had a chance to see a country other than the one in which they lived from the moment they were born. Of course, they also had the chance to buy different toys and electronic items that are not available in Turkey. Before going on the pilgrimage, all people around the person who went on the pilgrimage gave gifts, and the person who went on the pilgrimage would bring a small gift to everyone on the way back. This event means more than a tradition and people see this thing as if it was one of the compulsory things in the religion. This is a very good example that half of what we know as religion is made up of traditions, and how traditions force people rather than religious rules. Because some of the people could not go on pilgrimage because they could not gather enough money for gifts at that time. Now, an easier way has been found, gifts are bought in bulk from Turkey before going on pilgrimage. Thus, it is both cheaper to buy and the carrying load is lightened. But, it is possible to conduct a separate study on pilgrimage culture. So what was I telling? Yes, we lined up in front of my uncle as the children of the dynasty. We wished him a safe journey and kissed his hand, again as a Turkish tradition. My uncle asked us what we wanted as a gift from Arabia. My uncle's daughter, who was one of my closest friends back then, naturally said that she wanted a baby. When it was my turn, I shyly said that I wanted either the train or those light guns. But then the blames started, the saying that the girl plays with the doll and so on. Of course, even as a child, you feel deeply to be different from people of the same gender.


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MY SWEET ORANGE TREE

I loved running and jumping, so I didn't like to wear skirts, I always wore trousers. Of course, both children and adults condemned and made fun of me. Since I was only girl in my family, my mother used to dress me in different dresses and my eyes were red from crying in all the photos in dresses. When those around me did not understand me, I did not become exactly myself, nor did I become someone like they wanted. I escaped to the world of books, where I was happy. After reading the books, I was writing new books in my head where I could make my dreams come true. And, maybe, you won't believe it, but in each of my books, I was saving the world from another problem, but no one was aware of it. The book that really impressed me was “My Sweet Orange Tree” by Jose Mauro de Vasconcelos. I was reading it many times and every time I read it, I cried for hours as if it was the first time. I identified myself with Zeze, the protagonist of the book. Despite being beaten up all the time, he couldn't give up on who he was, his dreams, and his innocent mischief. Even though I said that I would definitely be beaten at the end of this job, I would still do what I was going to do, and in the end, I would be beaten with pleasure. Don't get me wrong, I don't have anger against my parents right now, because the beating was the means of eradicating differences between children at that time. So the beating was not personal, it was a social message. I've had my fair share of that too. The process of standardizing children was also supported with proverbs such as 'The beating is out of heaven', 'He who does not beat his daughter, beats his knee', 'A rose grows where your parents hit'. Of course, beating is no longer as common as it used to be, but sexist messages always continue to be given in some way.



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ISTANBUL

Coming back to my story again, this time I was very immersed in books. Because things happen in books, and the world of characters and events that I couldn't even imagine was pulling me in. This time, the education system stood before me as an obstacle. Because according to my mother and teachers, I was smart, but I was doing nothing but reading books. If I am caught reading a book at school, teachers will confiscate my books, and remorseless people did not return my books, which I have invested all my pocket money on. At home, my mother forbade me to read books. But again, I neither did what they said nor did I manage to be myself. I became very lazy, studying did not go beyond making plans for how to study. Every Monday morning, I would start studying as if I was starting a diet, but of course, I would leave this work for the next week and take a new book to read. This was the best thing I did in my childhood and early teenage years, so I didn't stop reading. And I won college by reading books. I won the city and department I wanted, even though it wasn't the university I wanted. Of course, at that time, I was criticized for this choice. I was expected to be a teacher and a lawyer, but I had made up my mind to study Political Science and become a diplomat. Thus, my university adventure in Istanbul began.


WHAT CHANGED MY LIFE

We can say that there is no unequal situation that I have not encountered due to the events that I will continue to tell later. But what I want to tell you today is that after every difficulty I faced, I always gave up. Even though I didn't fit into the frame they wanted, I've never gone beyond dreaming and making plans. I've always used the inequality practices I've encountered as an excuse to give up. The happy endings in the books were enough for me and I didn't pursue my happy ending. What changed me was not being a refugee at a time of increased nationalism, becoming a pious Muslim at a time of increasing hostility to Islam, or being exiled from a country with the majority population has the same nationality and religion. It was the birth of a daughter who changed me, made me active when I was passive, and made me truly pursue my dreams. Because, in the tradition I grew up, it is believed that whatever the fate of the mother is, her daughter is the same as her mother, even though her daughter has different circumstances. The interesting thing is, as far as I have observed in my environment, this is indeed the case. What I mean is that my aim in my current struggle is to change my daughter's destiny by following and fighting for my dreams.

Written by: Emine

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