One billion rising. I’ve seen a plethora of these three words over the past weeks, and so have the Karagöz puppets (when they sneak on my iPhone or iPad at night when I’m sleeping).
“What billion things, pray tell,” Hacivad Bey leaned in to ask me, “are rising?”
“Balloons?” Safiye Rakkase suggested, hopefully, “pink ones, for Valentine’s day?”
“Yeast bubbles for sourdough bread?” Mercan Bey questioned, his hands full as he was making his new favorite New World bread by hand for the afternoon meal.
“Colorful kites on a breezy day?” Esma, the hippie puppet added in, a glint in her eye at the prospect of it.
“Well no, puppet friends,” I said with concern in my voice, and a serious tone. “This ‘one billion rising’ is a movement that is centered around women on Valentine’s day, which of course, on the face of it, is a day about love –“
“AND COMMERCIALISM!” Karagöz screeched as he swang into the conversation on our chandelier. “DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE MARKET ECONOMY TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THAT THIN OLD THING CALLED LOVE.”
“Well of course, yes, Karagöz,” I sighed, “I was getting to that. But actually, even WORSE than commercialism is the reality of violence against women. The number one billion was chosen, as I understand it, because one in three women will be beaten or raped in her life.”
A collective sigh and hush washed across the puppet troupe standing before me on the dining room table. All of the puppets started looking in different directions, becoming, for example, fascinated in the backs of their hands or their shoelaces.
In the silence of the puppets’ discomfort and consideration, I thought about how violence against women has touched my life. In addition to studying this matter as an academic, I have worked with men accused of committing acts of violence against women, have organized a “Rape Free Zone” to raise awareness of date rape on University campuses (re: both men and women) and have also been a survivor of violent acts committed by men on more than one occasion. The topic of violence against women is one that has, unfortunately, been a central theme in my life whether I like it or not, whether it has been for good or naught. It is also a topic that M. and I speak of openly – and one that he decries, educated by his own Anne (Mother, in Turkish) to “not be a macho, no matter what! And don’t hit women!” I won’t even get into the assumption that some of my well-meaning friends have intimated re: my Turkish husband’s predilection for “culturally normative”violence.
My thoughts were interrupted by Yedhuda Rebbe, who had stepped forth in the silence, head high as a stallion silent and strong in preparation for a race. “Yes,” he announced loudly, “violence against women.”
Silence abounded in the dining room. I waited to see where Yehuda Rebbe was going with this. His voice would hold sway over mine, to be sure, in teaching the puppets.
“I am a man, and over the many centuries I have lived as a member of this phantasmagorical, body-inhabiting Karagöz puppet troupe, I have seen a lot of it in the Sultan’s palaces – and beyond.” A shuffling and whispering commenced amongst the puppets. I tried to retreat into ‘fly on the wall’ status.
“Now, puppet friends, we have lived through much together as a group since our birth in the 1300s back in Bursa, Turkey. And none of you can deny that violence against women has been observed – but also that the tolerance for this is shifting. We see this when we sneak onto M’lady’s smartphone and iPad to learn about the modern world..this is wrong and this shall not be tolerated. We cannot ignore this anymore.”
Raising her fist in solidarity with Yehuda Rebbe, Esma the hippie puppet voiced her support for his sentiments as if her heart had melted into her voice like the snow coming down from the Uludaĝ mountains in the spring rivers.
Zenne, the puppet known as the ultimate nervous Nellie like a bowl of jelly made her way to the front of the crowd, sidling up to Esma – who placed a protective and supportive arm around her. “I may be silent much of the time, and nervous, but I have read of this matter, violence against human women. And I want to take this opportunity to share this information from what M’lady says is a well-done study from the United Nations with you.” (An article about which you can find here – with Turkey featured).
In the old world of the Sultan’s palace, we did not document such incidents, and indeed we likely accepted violence as between a man and a woman – or just a non issue. In today’s Turkey – the remnants of the Ottoman Empire in which we were born – this is as much of a problem as it is here in our new adopted country here with M’lady.” Shivering a bit, she drew strength as the puppets moved their camel-skin hands forward one by one, shoulder to shoulder until all of that puppet love and energy manifested on Zenne’s shoulder
“Here,” she said, her voice shaking, “is what we know about violence against women in Turkey…39% of women report suffering intentional physical violence by a man at some time in their lives. And that’s just physical violence – violence can take other forms.”
“And here,” she said a bit more strongly now, “is what we know about the United States…22% of women report suffering intentional physical violence by a man at some time in their lives”
There were some dejected looks, some crying and some weeping. But before I knew it, the entire Karagöz puppet troupe was rising, floating, gathering hands together and swirling messages of hope and reality to the other Karagoz puppets all around the world – and other tribes of puppets in the United States and beyond (such as, for example, the Sultan of Nutcrackers and his collection down in Provincetown) – and across all of the many the oceans and lands between our dining room and Türkiye. May some of that good energy infuse in all the right places.
Violence against women is a universal phenomenon…you can learn more by clicking this link.
And to learn more about what is happening re: One Billion Rising in Turkey – you can check out a recent article in Today’s Zaman, one of the English-language paper in Turkey.
But most of all, please focus on love today, in all of its shapes and forms.
- The 22 Men Who Voted Against The Violence Against Women Act. (elephantjournal.com)
- I was sexually abused as a child: Anoushka (thehindu.com)
- Rise Up and Dance to End Violence Against Women and Girls (iywg.wordpress.com)
- 10 Reasons to Move to the Music and End Violence Against Women (amnestyusa.org)