Turkish Manhood

I never thought I would say this, but being in Turkey makes me feel like less of a ‘man’ at times.

What does that mean exactly? What does it mean to be a man? Is it a concept, an ideal, or a living organism? It’s unclear to me because less than a month ago in Washington, D.C. I was fully a man, and now it seems that in order to be a man in Turkey I have to eat meat, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol (of course, I already do that), and worst of all — I have to be jealous when it comes to my relations with women. The last attribute is what I want to explore here because it’s come up numerous times since I arrived. I should note, though, that I am not quoting from any official ‘how to’ manual on manliness when I cite these attributes. Yet, they are not so far-fetched — as some friends have already attested.

What is jealousy? Is it a normal response that arises from true feelings of love or affection? Or is it representative of an underlying weakness — an insecurity? Back in D.C. I strongly agreed with the latter explanation (assuming there is no third theory on jealousy), but I must say that I can see the other side — not only because I have felt the sting of jealousy (and the accompanying rage) myself but because I have just been made aware that it is possible that some may interpret a lack of jealousy as evidence of weakness. No man, no matter how progressive, wants to be perceived as weak. Still, I wonder if it could be a ‘both and’ (we are learning in our classes not to see everything in terms of ‘either or’) — could it be that men are weak when they are jealous and weak when they are not? Men are far from perfect after all. Maybe a tinge of jealousy is ideal. On the other hand, it could also be a tinge of weakness.

I don’t have the answer. All I know is that I would never want a woman to feel a jealous rage on account of me that would lead to any pain on her part (or lead her to hurt someone else). I do not associate that with love. Of course, it is less socially acceptable for women to act that way in most cultures than it is for men. There is no way for me to know if I am really progressive on this or if I am just keeping with the gender stereotypes. Further evidence that I am only keeping with gender stereotypes is that I (admittedly) am enticed by the idea of being given a long leash (in other words, freedom) by my partner. I would not associate a person allowing me freedom with having a lack of feelings for me. Maybe it’s arrogance and/or narcissism  but I think just about every straight woman either secretly or not-so-secretly adores me (or they would if they knew me better). Narcissistic though it may be, it is likely the antidote for jealousy. If a woman gave me freedom in a relationship, I would just assume it was because she cared about me, my interests, and my needs.

I wonder if it is in any way compatible with the dominant Turkish view of manhood. Then again, why do I care? I hardly ever follow the dominant view on anything.


1 Comment

  1. Patty Courtney said,

    October 16, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    From as far back as I can remember, you have never submitted to the dominant view of anything — totally validating that insight! I think jealousy also serves a productive response within the individual feeling jealous; it is a symptom of something far deeper, especially if the jealousy is not sparked by insecurity.

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