I don’t know who she is. I don’t know how she got there. I can guess why she is there.
What lands a woman my age, in clothes like mine, in shoes like mine, in the path of a hissing teargas canister? Any other day, and she looks like she’d be walking to meet me for a drink after work. “Sorry, just around the corner, be right there,” she’d text. “Order me a G&T.” Instead, she’s about to wail on a chemical bomb.
The Istanbul, Turkey, protests started out about trees. Where they’ve ended up isn’t about trees. A plan to raze a popular park touched off its occupation by protesters. But unrest, like water, tends to settle into whatever cracks it can find and split the rock. In this case, as reported by people more proximate than I, anger at the increasing fundamentalism of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan settled in and quickly split the rock.
Women in Turkey are among the decidedly pissed with Erdogan. Maybe it was when he called abortion and C-sections “secret plots” against the country’s growth. Or when he told women it was their patriotic duty to have four or five children to swell the country’s ranks. As a general rule, male government leaders telling women anything about the contents of their uterus tends not to play well with the ladies. And still they shoot their mouths off.
There’s some forensic photographic debate among people who have the time for such things as to whether the woman is about to kick the teargas canister back or is in the process of jumping over it. It’s irrelevant. She’s handling it. Angrily? Unclear. Elegantly? Definitely. Her choice, her action, her style.
She and I, and women just about everywhere, get these things hurled at us every day in the so-called modern world. It’s the anti-choice teenage boys on a Christian school outing blocking the Planned Parenthood clinic entrance whom we pass with gritted teeth. It’s the 23 cents less per dollar than our male counterparts that we walk out of the factory with at the end of the day. It’s the suited and smug pundits on national TV telling us we’re hurting our children by working at all. It’s the guy at the corner who orders us to “Smile!” because we’re not fulfilling his needs and expectations for attention as we walk past, just trying to get to the gym.
Last week, Fox’s Megyn Kelly kicked the canister back. Two condescending idiots lobbed their voodoo science about working mothers undermining the social fabric of America and she destroyed them. Kelly, like many women, doesn’t identify as a feminist. In 9 minutes and 14 seconds she proved it doesn’t matter if we do.
Kick the canister or jump it, angrily or elegantly, in riot gear or a cocktail dress and flip flops… just handle it. Complacency and timidity keeps them coming.