14th January 2014 Istanbul, Turkey
Violence against women, Kusursuzlar and can IKEA do good?
I recently enjoyed the new Turkish film Kusursuzlar (“The Impeccable Ones”). The film shows how two adult sisters respond differently to a traumatic event, the details of which are revealed as the film progresses. It makes gruelling viewing, but has some fine comedy moments – especially featuring the male neighbour who may or may not be a romantic interest for one or other of the sisters. Good on sibling rivalry, too.
Kusursuzlar is not optimistic about the state of gender relations in Turkey. But, as writer Emine Yildirim said in a post-film discussion, gender issues are universal.
I was reminded of the film when I visited the giant, packed IKEA store in Umraniye on the Asian side of Istanbul. In the bedroom section, advertising panels depict happy couples – often in, or on, a bed – in what appear to be loving and equality-based relationships of the type which the heroines of the film are having little success in securing.
This raises a question: can the depiction of a certain way of life, including gender relationships, by a multinational company – or, for example, Hollywood – influence the way people behave?
On a separate but related issue, it is striking that most of the goods sold in IKEA stores, including their names (great link – Ed), are identical, even though the countries they are sold in vary. IKEA itself is conscious that their products may be different from what people are used to. In the UK in 1996 they ran a controversial campaign called “Chuck out your chintz”.
Talking of Hollywood, the actress Angelina Jolie has taken a leading role in supporting the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative launched by British Foreign Secretary William Hague in 2012. The UK has long championed projects in Turkey to support the rights of women, including work with the Government and NGOs to prevent domestic violence. Recent examples include helping an NGO, KAMER, to deliver workshops to women in rural communities about how to report domestic violence; and support for the international day for the elimination of violence against women.
These are tough, important issues in any country. The images in Kusursuzlar are a powerful reminder of why we all need to keep trying to make things better.