Now and then it happens to me: I end up in a living room full of women. Last night I found myself in such a situation again: eight women between the ages of 17 and 54, and they were doing all the women’s things you can think of. One was knitting something for a baby. Another asked the others which bag would go best with the outfit she planned to wear on Saturday. Another one filed her nails, two others were talking recipes, to which yet another contributed by saying she was trying to lose weight – ‘look at this fat on my belly!’. And together they were all watching ‘Love and Punishment’, one of the more or less million soap operas on the air. I managed for about half an hour, then I took off – not my cup of tea, so to speak.
It made me think of an article I read years ago in a Dutch magazine. It was about a woman in my hometown in the Netherlands, Utrecht, who had made it her goal in life to get Turkish women in the city to spend more time outdoors. She – and I’m not making this up – would go to Turkish tea houses at night, and explain to the men how they could make the tea house more attractive for women visitors. A nice table-cloth and flowers on the table, a better women’s toilet (or just ‘a women’s toilet’), that sort of thing. The men would in general look at her with blank eyes, which she found not so inspiring if I remember well, and then return to their tea and backgammon game.
I found the woman’s efforts ridiculous at the time, but I couldn’t really define why, since I didn’t know anything about Turkey, about the customs, the culture. Now that I know a bit more, I think: poor men. They have two possibilities at night: the tea house, or work. Home is not an option. Home is occupied by women, and there men are just not an issue: they are not talked about, they are not supposed to join in, they are only supposed to be looking their women deep in the eyes on the TV screen (and kissing them ultra passionately on the forehead). Would the women ever consider making home more attractive to male visitors? I bet not.