Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | January 6, 2010

being a foreign woman in istanbul

this is a question that i am often asked, as many westerners in particular have the idea that women are treated badly here.  some women are– like in all countries there are men who beat their wives or treat women in general with disrepect.  however, i must say that in turkey i have generally been treated with respect, probably mostly because i am a mature white educated western woman.  i am not clingy or whiny or needy or capricious or jealous, like many turkish women (they are not all of these, of course, but turkish men complain about these traits).  a few times as i have been waiting for a ride on a street men in cars have slowed to see if i am available, but i either tell them to get lost or just laugh because they are so stupid.  like in many developing countries, men seem to think that foreign women are loose, and by their standards they are probably right.

in my former professional life as a school director and teacher, i did not ever feel that i was being dismissed for being a woman.  sometimes i shocked people by my directness (one of my idiosyncracies, not always a good one), and perhaps it was because they did not expect it from a woman and also because turks are usually not quite so direct.

as far as the bureaucracy of doing business is concerned, i feel that being a western woman is to my advantage.  first, it is often surprising to the bureaucrats that i have a business, since they often equate foreignness with being a tourist.  some turks advised me not to go to city hall myself, for example, but i have found that going myself gets better results.  as many friends know, i have had some problems with the zabita, the business police, and many people have assumed that they wanted money from me.  perhaps i have not read their body language right or i missed a verbal cue, but it seems to me that they have not asked for money from me.  i am not sure that i would have given it anyway, unless that was the only route.  however, i know one foreign woman who regularly paid people off and a turkish woman paid a sizable “special fee” to get her cafe open.

turkish men often come on to foreign women, as i mentioned before.  in fact, in certain areas of turkey there is a flourishing sex trade especially for older women.  young men don’t mind being gigolos for older (and even old) women if they are entertained and paid well.  in addition, i often see older women with younger men who profess great love for the woman until he gets a ticket out of the country.  some women marry turks and are happy and, like everywhere, some marry and soon divorce.  some turks take advantage of women who fall for them, unfortunately.  i have my antenna up, especially since i used to get many marriage proposals from taxi drivers and other people i would not even consider!  that said, i have been close with some wonderful turkish men and still have great feelings for them.

in general turkish men of all classes are very handsome and they pride themselves in being gallant and chivalrous.  turkish men open doors, pay when they take a woman out, give women a seat on public transportation, and generally treat women like ladies.  the last time i was in the u.s. i was really reminded of how polite turkish men are compared to many american men.  i was going through a door at the same time as a man who not only did not open the door for me, he did not even hold it open for me after he went through.  that would not happen here.

all in all, it is good to be a woman in turkey. i am a feminist but i like to be treated like a lady, and this is the right place for that.

r e s p e c t


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: