Taking on the testosterone in Turkish media

ERISA DAUTAJ ?ENERDEM
ISTANBUL
Alat made the comments ahead of 100th anniversary of March 8 International Women’s Day.
Alat made the comments ahead of 100th anniversary of March 8 International Women’s Day.

Media reports about women’s murders that either romanticize the motives of their attackers or render them invisible in the story perpetuate the cycle of violence, according to a university professor who has researched such news coverage.
“I believe our media has the blood of female victims on its hands by playing a major role in the maintenance and reproduction of dominant violent male culture,” Zeynep Alat, an associate professor of education at Ondokuz May?s University in the Black Sea province of Samsun, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic
Alat made the comments to the Daily News ahead of Tuesday’s 100th anniversary of March 8 International Women’s Day.
According to the research Alat conducted in 2007, media reports about violence against women in Turkey typically take a victim-blaming approach and focus on women’s lifestyles, adherence to cultural norms and what is described as provocative or careless behavior.
“Women appear in the news as participants in adultery, infidelity, abduction, love affairs and domestic violence, as good or bad mothers, or as visual material in criminal cases committed by their male partners,” Alat said.
Stories about women are generally deemed newsworthy due to their perceived adherence to or violation of cultural norms, according to the academic, who said this patriarchal approach puts women at a disadvantage compared to men when it comes to media coverage of violent crimes.
Sensationalist headlines that romanticize murders and violence as “crimes of passion” are also detrimental to women, Alat said, adding that such stories often fail to seriously report the situation from all parties’ points of view. “I remember a recent headline that was just shocking for me: ‘Terör De?il A?km??’ [It Was Love, Not Terror],” she said. “This quite romantic title was actually [a story] about how a female lawyer was terrorized by her client who gathered an armed mob to kill her in her residence.”

Other headlines Alat collected during the course of her research included stories titled “He shot his wife when she did not come to bed,” “She exposed too much of her skin” and “Loved to death with a bitter end.”

If the media is not making excuses for male perpetrators of violence, it is making them invisible by using passive language and keeping their identities unknown, Alat said. “This way of reporting undermines the seriousness of male violence in society and maintains the myth that the family is a sanctioned and safe place for women although the reality might be the opposite,” she said.

Turkish media likewise accompanies stories about violence against women only with pictures of the victims, according to Alat, who said it was uncommon to see the photos of the perpetrators in news about women who are raped or murdered.

Both ignorance and the inaction of law enforcement and the justice system in cases of violence against women have also played a key role in deteriorating women’s position in society, Alat said. She added that such ignorance typically serves as a “guarantee” for perpetrators, implying that they will be protected, while there is nothing in the system to protect women.

“There is an urgent need for a change in mentality,” Alat said. “All of society has to change the way it looks at manhood, but this cannot happen when the country’s prime minister says he does not believe in gender equality.”

The academic also stressed the importance of state institutions in providing shelters and legal and psychological support to women who have already been exposed to violence.

She added that a variety of pressures on men – from increased male unemployment during the recent global financial crisis to societal or family pressure – contribute to violence against women, but said the media’s role should not be underestimated. While it currently contributes to the problem, she added, the press could also be influential in generating solutions in a country where an average of five women are murdered per day.

“Awareness of both men and women has to be increased on women’s rights, signs of violence and the way how jealousy can [degenerate] into violence,” Alat said.


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