Biker man is the bare form of violence of uncouth men who see themselves entitled to behave as if they are the only living beings on the streets.

Julien Pacaud, Still Life

A Turkish man, borned into and burdened by a heavy load −even if he does not personally experience it− walks the streets, performing the contemporary version of masculinity, rather successfully. Aged experiences and fossilized learned behavior of fifteen years coupled with that heavy burden surely entitles him to a self-proclaimed pride to claim that “I am here (this is me who is here )” and thereby to not letting anyone who is trying to move in a different direction or in a different pace on the narrow pavements pass by, to not moving aside even if you are waiting in front of him, to shoulder you to jump the bus queue, to spread his legs wide-open on public transportation seats, to loudly ride his motorcycle, in full speed and in the opposite direction, straight into a group of pedestrians who are trying to cross the street where drivers seem to be unaware of traffic lights. And if you happen to lift your hand up against all these, at best, this man will rip out a mouthful of gibberish meaning “elite!”; but most probably, he will resort to swearing, cursing, and violence.

Well, I aimed for an introduction, but it seems like there are no more words to write.

When we want to exemplify the systemic power relations between men and women, we traditionally happen to mention the following examples: seeing no harm in being hard on women’s heels at night, in being the first and the only person to take the floor in a meeting, in equating flirting with insisting, in mansplaining, in giving people unsolicited advice, in correcting people, in having never heard of notions such as hesitation or considering others. We are not only talking about abuse, rape, murder, in other words, naked violence; we are also talking about the everyday that is suffused with power relations. We provide examples from streets and public spaces to draw attention to these forms of power relations. Today, these examples proliferate and multiply; bikers being one of the novel forms!

The years long Turkish history, and top of it, today’s AKP (Justice and Development Party) period, war, violence, oppression, hate and domination, offer ample examples as to the ways in which male domination, which the women who live in Turkey in 2016 encounter, changes. This is, of course, a very intricate matter. Nonetheless I would like to talk briefly about the image of this recent form of male existence, pumped by power, wandering the streets.

Recently, the ways in which people treat and relate to each other, respond to different ideas, and express different power positions in society have been gradually radicalized. A state of war, within and outside the borders of the country, rendered it possible for every kind of domination to take on extreme forms. I am not only talking about what is going on in Syria or in Kurdish cities when I say a state of war. I am also referring to the elections, July 15, the state of emergency, justification of violence, expulsions, and the shrinking, narrowing, and destruction of lives. When it comes to patriarchy, a system powerfully operating in Turkey, the consequences of what has been going on have become extremely blatant and naked. I am not solely talking about the display of the corpse of a woman by extreme nationalists, the man who burnt to death a trans woman, or an on-duty police officer writing swear words on a mirror with lipstick. There may be people who idolize such moves, and possibly there are many others who see them as extreme acts which do not have a place in their everyday or symbolic worlds. However, in the end, violence is learned, internalized, and multiplied. This system, which has been spiraling since 2015, finds itself expressed in the everyday life in the form of an attitude that “is entitled to everything and feels justified” and a “hateful and revengeful” body language which has made a virtue and a duty out of not listening to what the other person says. Moreover, this is a form that ends in bare violence. This form does not always manifest itself on the extreme end, but it always carries with it the risk of going extreme.

Motorcycles have been around for some time now; they are not news. They were always signifying a certain lifestyle and maybe even more. In recent years, due to the diversification of their use, particularly in the service sector, and the fact that they are less troublesome than other vehicles, particularly in cities like Istanbul, many people such as public personnel, private sector employees, and individuals at different social positions (striking majority of these people are men) started to get and use motorcycles. I am talking about this change. I am also referring to those bikers who park every hour of every day in the most crowded and busy locations in front of the houses, workplaces, on the pavements, around the tables in the streets and traffic lights, amidst pedestrians. I am not writing to defame everyone who owns or uses a motorcycle, I am referring to a form of domination.

“Man riding a motorcycle” may be one of the best examples of the contemporary male figure in Turkey. I must clarify why I am saying Turkey repeatedly: it is possible to observe the streets and the behaviors in traffic to analyze a country’s current politics; just like any other social phenomenon, streets and traffic are also sources of information. Therefore, “biker man” can be assessed and interpreted differently in another context. For instance, in a country where people also ride bicycles, experiences would be different. Or, even though it is shocking to see that some jobs are still being identified as male jobs in 2000’s, the experiences would be different in a country where there are as many women bikers as men. As 2016 ends, the dominant man in Turkey rules the roost, does not move to left or right, stands stills, is always right, never steps back, is very sensitive when it comes to his values, can be provoked any moment, can hate, can yell, can pick up a fight, can be violence, can torture, can kill. Try to picture this: the biker is the one who demands the way on a narrow urban pavement where three compressed pedestrians try to walk. The biker is the one who appears from the opposite direction while you struggle to pass when the light turns green. The biker is the one who brags about the noise his motorcycle makes. The biker is the one that the bus driver warns you about saying, “be careful while getting off, there might be a biker on your right”. The biker is the one who can leave his motorcycle anywhere he likes without the fear of his vehicle being towed. The biker is the one who can enter ‘no-traffic’ zones. The biker is the one who will not hit the brakes and instead crush you to avoid falling off his motorcycle. In a city where the traffic and urban life is so chaotic, why on earth would anyone allow a vehicle that would make things even worse? All this seems surreal; however, they are indeed very real in a country where this form of human existence scores points. Biker man is the bare form of violence of uncouth men who see themselves entitled to behave as if they are the only living beings on the streets. He sees himself legitimate, he seems himself in power. He badgers others and imposes himself through a public presence which does not leave any room of movement for others and shouts a self-proclaimed “these streets, avenues, pavements are mine!” Just like the spectrum I tried to portray above, it takes on different forms depending on the moment and context. Our country, which lacks the necessary verbal or written rules of cohabitation, makes his life easier. He profits from, feeds on, grows, and reproduces in these times when every experience is loaded with tension and violence.

Still, I am hopeful that, as we walk this bleak and grim country and world, if we do not feel paralyzed and collapse, this existence that strikes out at us will peter out.

For the original in Turkish / Yazının Türkçesi için

Translator: İpek Tabur

Proof-reader: Müge Karahan


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