Friday, May 14, 2010

Nesrin Baytok in the Media

PHOTO from Milliyet

Frequently referred to as the "secretary" in media coverage and public discourse concerning the sex scandal that brought down CHP leader Deniz Baykal, Nesrin Baytok is a full-fledged parliamentarian and long-time meber of the CHP. The Turkish media's general treatment of Baytok and portrayal of Baykal as the "victim" in the sex scandal has garnered criticism from some Turks concerned that the incident could hinder Turkish women from entering politics and does a disservice to gender equality and the treatment of sex when it enters politics. From Hurriyet Daily News:
While the man involved in the scandal, Deniz Baykal, has become a hero-victim since resigning as leader of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, the woman has been perceived as “the bad one,” according to activists. They said such discrimination is just because Baykal is a male, whereas parliamentary deputy Nesrin Baytok, alleged to be the woman in the video, is a female.

“We are strongly against the media’s treatment of the female deputy figure,” said Çiğdem Aydın, the chairwoman of the Association for Women’s Support and Education, or KADER.

Assuming a woman achieves such a high post by using her sexuality is neither just nor ethical, said Aydın, adding that she was very uncomfortable with the way the female figure has been treated in the media and in public debates.

“This wrong perception could ‘kill’ any future attempt by females to be involved in politics,” she said, adding that the prevalent attitude among the media, politicians and intellectuals is a stark indicator of how desperate the position of women in Turkish politics and society is.

The video in question, alleged to show Baykal and his then-secretary Baytok, was broadcast on the Internet on May 6 and led to Baykal’s resignation four days later. On the same day, Baytok made a brief statement to the press in which she said she would not resign, but did not offer any explanations. Since then, her only comments have been in an interview printed in the daily Akşam on Thursday, in which she said the video is part of a conspiracy and that her family has been very supportive.

“I’ve spent 20 years to come this far. I’m not giving up now,” she told the daily.

Among the critical voices against Baytok and her stance as a woman in politics, Sevilay Yükselir said the scandal was a kind of “reward” for Baytok.

Writing in her Friday column in the daily Sabah, Yükselir said Baytok was being paid back for not having allowed other potential politicians to take posts and for misusing her position.

Yükselir wrote the column in response to three female columnists in various newspapers who defended Baytok and said Baykal was not the only victim, but that Baytok was as well.

According to Pınar İlkkaracan, a human rights activist and psychologist, exploiting a female’s sexuality to humiliate her in public is common in Muslim societies. She also expressed concern for the way the woman’s figure was attacked so badly and that the male was brought to the center of attention.

“This was just because Baytok is a female and Baykal is a male,” she said.

İlkkaracan also said the discrimination by politicians, the media and intellectuals against the woman figure was more than evident. “We can easily notice how well-known people shared their sorrow with Baykal publicly, whereas Baytok was obliged to hide in silence due to the public offenses against her."

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