But the pragmatic logic used to voice this has managed to get the attention of even the most indifferent of people. Whoever came up with the slogan “If there’s no headscarf-wearing candidate, then there’s no vote” for this campaign should be congratulated. While I personally don’t approve of this type of pragmatic thinking, I do think it has managed to influence the mentality of the male-dominant conservative segment of society.
No matter how much they prattle on about tradition or talk about the deficiencies of modernity, they won’t be able to escape the reality before them. There is a demand for change that they can’t prevent. The culture they live in is generating a new form of modernity, and now conservative men who can’t adapt to this new condition are facing the threat of becoming outdated. From now on conservative women, not others, are going to show them how democratic they truly are. In fact it is already like this. The natural dynamic of change becomes effective in just about any society when dissident and discordant views are expressed from within the community. Canan Arıtman can talk about modernity and human rights all she wants to Ali Bulaç. It won’t be effective. But the groundbreaking approach of a headscarf-wearing woman can shake the notions of conservative men.
Whether you accept it or not, as a society we are at a different stage. As Turkey rapidly transforms, identity-based demands are running high. Behind these demands is a group of women. The representation of women in politics is one of the major demands being voiced. Demands, the content of which change in light of the cultural sensitivities of different groups, become more pronounced when it comes to the topic of women, on which we should have a more “essentialist” perspective.
There are still some groups that only think about the women in their own groups when discussing the representation of women and who present their claims as if fighting for democracy. I think there is something wrong with the democratic perception of certain women’s groups who separate women who wear headscarves -- who are victimized and excluded from the public space -- from their cause and defend secular values.
According to spokespersons for this group, the more women there are in Parliament the more democracy will develop. But experience has shown that women in positions of power do not enhance democracy just because they are women. Tansu Çiller was the first female prime minister in Turkey, yet she is remembered in our glorious history of democracy as a ruling figure whose term was tainted by unsolved murder cases and who failed to uphold the values of womanhood and motherhood. Condoleezza Rice was called the “queen of war” for making the most ruthless decisions in the history of American occupation. The same goes for Sabiha Gökçen, who dropped bombs over Dersim, and even Arıtman, the icon of modern Turkish women. I think by now everyone knows that the blonde, white-suit-donning Arıtman had an obsession for weapons. Apparently the honor of being a modern citizen from İzmir is not enough for Arıtman; she feels a need for the power of weapons.
All in all, it is no secret that womanhood does not in and of itself contain a democratic essence.
Hence, it necessary to advocate the proper representation of women in a political system that has effective democratic mechanisms, not the presence of women in an authoritarian regime. This is what will help enhance democracy. This is the only way to march toward democracy in an area dominated by the militaristic fervent guards of the status quo, without becoming a target of Arıtman and those like her.
The same logic can be used to evaluate the topic of headscarf-wearing deputies. Women who wear headscarves should be supported not just because of the focus on women but because they represent diversity in society and contribute to the democratic culture.
As someone who defends fair representation all the way I believe the following criterion is indispensable: An anti-militaristic attitude should be the benchmark for women who seek to enter Parliament. That is because we can learn democracy only from women who don’t approve of policies that promote violence and who are distant from the status quo.