Who knew that the selfie, a homegrown bit of digital expressionism that regularly stars in American corporate branding misadventures, could make a cutting tool of political resistance in Turkey instead?
On Monday, Turkish deputy prime minister Bulent Arinc announced that he had something to get off his chest: Women were really losing their chastity game. He then went on to bemoan modern Turkish women who dared laugh in public. He continued, as translated by the Hurriyet Daily News: “Where are our girls, who slightly blush, lower their heads and turn their eyes away when we look at their face, becoming the symbol of chastity?”
It wasn’t long before women answered Arinc’s provocation, posting hundreds of thousands of laughing selfies to Twitter and Instagram. Some of the first were launched by Turkish journalist Ece Temelkuran, who asked that other women tweet out theirs. By Tuesday, #kahkaha (Turkish for “laughter”), #direnkahkaha (meaning “resist laughter”) and #direnkadin (“resist woman”) had amassed troves of images documenting Turkish women chuckling all over the place.
This week wasn’t the first time that Turkish women took to social media in response to statements made by male politicians. In 2012, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan equated abortion with murder, which women then responded to by posting pictures of their abdomens with a statement translating to “My body, my decision.”
Arinc’s protest against women, however, wasn’t just limited to laughing. He proceeded to pick apart more enemies of virtue, including talking for too long on mobile phones. The deputy prime minister’s priorities are an irony not lost on many Turks, whose country boasted 18 female members of parliament in 1936, well before much of Europe achieved universal suffrage.