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What We Do To Feel Like We Belong: Pushing Hairlines Beyond Feminism, Comfort and Closed Doors

I am a proud and fervent feminist. But I have done some things that would go against the more traditional grains of feminism and I am about to explain how and why.

I live in a traditional remote Anatolian town called Kars. It is a town that was featured in Orhan Pamuk’s novel SNOW, in which a writer (KA) visits Kars in winter to report on women committing suicides because they are not allowed to wear headscarves in school. This story is fictional. Kars is actually not that conservative. But I am more reserved here than I am in most places. I wear baggy clothes. I keep my eyes averted when I walk the streets. I flaunt a wedding ring. I am cautious about male guests. In public I am remarkably guarded for the spirit-exploding-from-the-inside-kind-of-person that I feel I am.

But behind closed doors my world, my body, my thoughts are ripe for the picking: by women. I recently saw the full potential of this when I uttered the following four words: My. Lover. Is. Visiting. (more…)

Starting At the Street, How Do We Make the World Safer for Women?

If Turkey continues on its current peace-in-the-neighborhood trajectory – think, Mr. Rogers meets improved relations between Turkey’s regional countries and its ethnic Kurdish minority – living in Turkey may very well be the safest it has been in over 30 years. The economy is stable and growing and somehow Turkey has managed to be friends with Israel while impressing the rest of the Middle East with its edgy sitcoms. It is a marvelous feat that even the village conspiracy theorists can’t quite wrap their heads around.

But as it is worldwide, there is still one group that regardless will look over their shoulders when they walk down the road: women.  After witnessing gross sexual assault scandals from my former homes in the US to Europe to Japan – more and more I am convinced that neither religion, economic status, nor geography are great indicators for whether or not women live in fear of sexual assault or harassment. This kind of discomfort is everywhere and it can happen to anyone.

I am writing about Turkey and my experiences here because this is where I live and it is what I know. I am writing because the more horror and humiliation I live through, the more civility and bravery I experience, the more I think I have a small handle on what I can do to confront this enormous injustice that all of us face in one way or another.

Let’s start with a few stories from the last few weeks.


How the Powerful Bow: to the Hajis, Plates, and Boots with the Fur

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I feel comfortable.

Sitting in boarding lounge 101 for the morning flight to Kars, I am listening to loud remixed music and pounding away a grant application on my keyboard. I am coming off of two months back in Istanbul, the US, and Europe where a computer and a pair of earphones are my office no matter where I am. They require no roots other than outlets and extension cords.

I feel exposed.

I look up and see a line of old women shrouded in white veils, their white skirts and white shirts are tucked into white vests and white shawls. Their eyes are a grey murky color of old and they pour searchingly and judgingly into mine. I imagine what I must look like to them, a human wrapped in white cords of capitalism instead of white fabrics of Allah. Reminder: I am not in a world of my sleek Apple products. (more…)

Explorer’s Journal: Surviving Mountain Storms Trains You for Rising Above Corruption


Phrase from Field: Slouching against mountain wool-stuffed pillows, a man donning a track suit and perfectly trained British English recounts how a life of survival and fickle weather patterns in the yaylas has prepared him for survival in the cut-throat corruption of Batumi oil ports and the tyrannical nepotism of politics. Read the rest of this entry

Thank You Dad for Teaching Me To Love Books – The Start of My Story

Considering I have now permanently moved to a town without a single dedicated bookstore, it’s ironic that the trigger for this entire honey adventure was one beautiful children’s book. The book came from a crumpled nameless bookstore on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The bookstore had a guard dog with grey dreadlocks, and when it stood on its hind-legs it was twice my height. The basement of the bookstore had scarlet and gold scraps of leather scattered in piles of stars on the floor, and the walls shook from the 2, 4, and 6 trains shuddering on their tracks nearby. The book was a gift from my father, and the bookstore was his hideout. He was a famous book and print collector, and his midnight hobby was finding, buying, and rebinding valuable books. He was a self-appointed book-saving vigilante, and this was his secret layer. Read the rest of this entry


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