Friday, February 10, 2012


I just finished reading Room by Emma Donoghue. It is the story of a woman who is kidnapped and imprisoned in a small gardening shed by a crazy man for seven years. She has and raises a child named Jack in captivity for five of those years. Because Jack knows no other life, he feels completely safe and loved by his mom. He develops an excellent imagination, a rich vocabulary and solid reasoning skills. He appears to have a comfortable, stress free demeanor. His world is very small but, to him, very happy and secure. I see many parallels between the boy's life and the women in Malatya. From my outside eye, the women appear to be locked in cages. They cannot be out unaccompanied in the evening. They cannot be alone with men who aren't their male relatives. Even though many hold full-time jobs, (some are the primary bread winner) they still do all the cooking, cleaning, child care, etc. I struggle with watching what I perceive to be confinement and domination. When I first came, I wanted to show them that the world can be different.

But from what I sense from conversations, many (not all) feel safe, secure, happy and loved. Many women go directly from being ruled (they might use "cared for") by their fathers to being ruled/ "cared for" by their husbands. I have met women who have studied to be doctors in Istanbul but return to this city because they don't want to leave the safety and security of family (often the husband's family). Like Jack in Room, the women are happy in the security of the known and both wary and scared of the unknown.

My observations also lead me to believe that some of the unhappiest women are those who have had a taste of freedom and then return to the structure and "confinement" (my word) of this part of the country. Although some of the men appear to be understanding of this confinement, they are unable or unwilling to relax their standards because the social norms are so strong for the men to dominate. Even though Jack thinks he wants to go back to the security of Room, he knows he has experienced some amazing new things like the ocean and rain. The women who have lived other places want fewer boundaries on dress, household duties, and relationships and do not want to be stuck in a place where the men make all the decisions.

Thanks to my parents for taking me on vacation, encouraging me to read and participate in discussions, and showing me the bigger world, I've known since I was about 14 that I had to see and experience more than my town could offer. Even though some changes have been difficult, I've always been eager to see what's around the next bend; I've always grown from each new experience. Although there is a tiny part of me that wonders if "ignorance really is bliss" and if staying in one place or a small room would make life more simple, I'm glad I don't have to find out. However, after reading Room, I wonder about the wisdom of showing women how their lives could differ. I'll leave the revealing of male/female relationship equality to Turkish soap operas. In the meantime, I am thankful that I am afforded the freedoms that I am. (Although it's still awkward to go to a restaurant alone...)

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