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The Municipality of Kepez in Çanakkale has announced that it will hold a discussion panel entitled “Being a Woman in Kepez” on March 8.
The panel has sparked controversy on social media since all of the invited speakers are men: Kepez Mayor candidates for Republican People’s Party (CHP) Birol Arslan; for Justice and Development Party (AKP) Alper Altınok; for Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Serkan Ön; for Democratic Left Party (DSP) Erhan Özel; and independent Mayor candidate Gökhan Bayram.
The moderator is also a man, namely Assoc. Prof. Mehmet Şahin.
While several social media users have criticized that it will be the men who will talk about “being a woman” on March 8 International Women’s Day, some social media users have also speculated that the image of the panel leaflet circulating on social media might not be real.
Upon seeing these doubts and speculations, we called the Municipality of Kepez yesterday (February 26) to find out whether they are indeed planning to hold such a panel or not. The first municipality employee that we could reach stated that the news were true and said:
“Such a day has been organized for ladies*. People are calling us and ask whether it is true or not. I have been on duty for the last hour and we have been called for at least 25 times. No one has called us like that before.”
When we asked, “Why are there only male speakers on the panel”, the employee said that we could get more detailed information from Mr. İbrahim, the Principal Clerk of the municipality.
When we reached him on the phone, Mr. İbrahim also confirmed that the panel would indeed be held and added that the municipality might also organize other activities for “ladies.”
Principal Clerk Mr. İbrahim shared the following information with us:
“There will be other activities on the same day. As you know, local elections are approaching. There are eight female** village and neighborhood head candidates as well. We did not write their names on the image [of the panel leaflet]. They will also express themselves with one sentence. But, with local elections approaching, male candidates have to express themselves. They need to express themselves.”
In response to our question “How can men explain the state of being a woman”, Mr İbrahim answered: “They can empathize. They can explain what women want on local elections.” (EMK/EKN/SD)
*/** Both municipality officials that we reached by phone referred to women as “bayan”, which is a derogatory equivalent of “lady/female”, used as a supposedly “polite” form of address as opposed to “woman” which is considered “vulgar” in some and particularly conservative circles.