Masculinity Versus Masculinity? Going to Salzburg I

Emre, the owner of the Fenerbah^e Pub, had told some people of the travel group that I would be joining them and assured me that they would be looking out for me. I did not find out whom he had asked to look out for me but one of Emre’s contact persons was most likely the official organiser of the trip. He approached me several times during the trip to ask me whether everything was alright. This was important because I thereby received an official legitimisation to join the group. But, already before the first encounter with the official organiser I had been ‘adopted’ by a group of four very different men whom I had never met before. One of them was in his twenties (Demir), one in his thirties (Birol) and two in their forties (Metin2 and Ayhan). All four of them either have their own businesses or are employed in a factory or company. Two of them were Fenerbah^e fans (Demir and Ayhan) and two of them were Galatasaray fans (Metin and Birol). Conversations took place mostly in German when I was present. If discussions or announcements in the bus were in Turkish one of the four men almost always translated for me. Two further external conditions are important to contextualise the following fieldnote sections of the trip: it was a very hot Austrian summer day and it was Ramadan.

I have been excited all day and I had to go back to my office to get my Fenerbahqe shirt that I had forgotten there. Emre had recommended wearing it. I am getting a strange feeling now because I am afraid to be on the road with men only. Indeed, I dress accordingly. Although it is hot summer outside I am wearing long black linen pants and the loose-cut Fenerbahqe shirt. I do not know what I am thinking, why I am I doing that. I probably want to appear as unfeminine as possible in what I assume will be a bus full of men. I start wondering whether I would do the same in a bus full of Dortmund fans. I conclude that I would do the same. The agglomeration of masculinity is what is enforcing my prejudices.

I leave home in time to be at the meeting point at 1:30 p.m. by tram. Some stops before the meeting point a couple of Fenerbahqe fans with jerseys hop on. I am a little afraid that I will just be standing there on my own all the time. At the stop where I get off I try to take the bull by the horn and approach some people with Fenerbahqe shirts at the intersection who do not seem to know the right direction to go. I ask them whether they want to go to Salzburg, too. Two girls. They just look at me wonderingly. A middle-aged man with grey hair who is not wearing a Fenerbahqe jersey responds instead. He is standing right next to a slightly younger man in a shirt of the Turkish national team. He approaches me and tells me that he is also going to Salzburg and that the fan club should be just around the corner. [...] We keep on talking on our way to the fan club. Initially we addressed each other formally [Siezen] but quickly changed to a first-name basis [Duzen].

We keep on walking. In front of the fan club are many Fenerbahqe fans standing outside. Also girls, women, and kids are there, I am relieved to see. Why am I so keen to not only go with men? [.] We enter the fan club building and I am nervous because the last time I have been here I felt unwelcome. The man with the grey hair introduces himself as Metin and then he introduces me to the organiser of the whole event who welcomes me in a friendly manner.[1]

The first thing that is important to mention here are my prejudices towards men and football and mostly also, even though I deny it in my fieldnotes, towards Turkish male football fans. This is partly due to the dominant discourses in Germany and Austria about Turkish machismo (cf. Scheibelhofer 2011) and also due to my first visit to the fan club a couple of months before this event. Back then I was the only woman in the fan club and I felt very uncomfortable although nobody gave me a ‘real’ reason to.[2] What happened next again shows my one-sided way of looking at male (Turkish) football fans.

Birol [Metin’s friend in the jersey of the Turkish national team] meets some people that he knows from work and shows them pictures of things that he has been baking. I have to smile a little because this situation is somehow unexpected and does not really fit the picture of football masculinity that I observe elsewhere or that I somehow expect. He tells the group that he has totally discovered that baking is for him and that he cannot cook, but baking is totally easy. He shows more of his delicious creations. I tell him that all of it looks very tasty. Ayhan, whose name I do not yet know at this time, interposes, that Birol is a ‘dream man’ [Traummann, Mr. Right] — with an ironic undertone.[1]

Meeting a Fenerbah^e fan on a trip to a football match that shows pictures of his pastries to his friend left me stunned. It did not fit my learned code of a ‘typical’ football fan. Right from the beginning two controlling images accompanied me on my trip to Salzburg and formed my prejudices and presuppositions: ‘the male macho football fan’ and ‘the Turkish macho man’. These two controlling images have a lot in common. Both are sexualised and carry an almost ‘barbaric’ notion of men and include being disrespectful against women (cf. discussions about masculinities in football and about ethnicised masculinities: Kreisky and Spitaler 2006; Sulzle 2011; Scheibelhofer 2011). These orientalising[4] attributions, in this case, amalgamate to the ethnicised controlling image of the ‘Turkish male macho fan’. How powerful this image is was shown to me quite plainly when I sat in the bus with my ‘unfeminine’ clothes to appear as much as an asexual person as possible and, contrary to my expectations, was warmly welcomed observing those allegedly ‘Turkish male macho fans’ exchanging recipes. My prejudices and presuppositions could not have become more obvious than in this situation. Most people in this group of men looked at Birol’s pictures with fascination, except for Ayhan who did not appreciate that men were baking and that other men were looking at pastries. Consequently, he commented on it ironically. This mismatch of seemingly opposing masculinities almost turned into a bigger conflict later on the bus where we sat in a group of five people, including me:

We go to the bus. Ayhan lets me go in first and I go upstairs. It is a doubledecker bus. I am looking for a corner where our little group would fit. Ayhan sits down next to me. Metin and Birol take the seats directly behind us. Ayhan’s friend Demir sits down next to us. He wears a Chicago Bulls cap and is maybe in his early twenties and generally dressed in a very cool way. Fenerbahpe shirt included. He talks nonsense all the time and is unbelievably funny. I like him right from the beginning. [...] He asks Birol to show the pictures of the baked goods again. He says that he would like to have them for his Facebook page because everybody is posting pictures of fasting food [Fastenessen] in the evening at the moment. Ayhan quickly adds that it is not appropriate that people do that. He tells me that it is Ramadan and adds that I hopefully know what Ramadan is. I affirm. Demir and Birol continue to show pictures when Ayhan makes fun about the ‘pizza baker’ [Pizzabacker, Demir works in a pizzeria] and the ‘sugar baker’ [Zuckerbacker] exchanging recipes. He says something in Turkish that I translate in my head as ‘why don’t you go to the girls in the back of the bus?’. Both Demir and Birol look at him appalled. Birol tells me that it is a good thing that I did not understand that he said we should go to the girls to exchange recipes with them. Both are upset. They say that this was a total macho statement [Machospruch] made by a typical Turkish macho. The atmosphere stays good anyway and both continue exchanging ideas for recipes about calzone. [...]7

When Birol and Demir again started talking about their culinary creations, Ayhan felt the need to comment deprecatingly. Birol and Demir were both very angry about Ayhan’s comment and immediately showed openly that they did not comply with Ayhan’s views and behaviour. In this situation, it was very important to them to make sure that I understood that they did not agree with what Ayhan was saying. They knew that I was there to observe and to write about the trip in my research. Accordingly, they were very aware and consequently careful about what kind of picture they wanted me to produce about them. This picture was definitely not the one that Ayhan was generating at that moment in the bus. Birol even translated Ayhan’s harsh comment, which Ayhan most probably said in Turkish so I would not understand (most of the time he was speaking German). Birol thereby included me into the discussion and had the chance to show me a diverse picture of masculinities and most importantly could distinguish himself from the ‘Turkish macho man’.

As we could see in this example, the ‘Turkish macho man’ is a powerful recurring discursive controlling image that people refer to and/or try to distance themselves from. More importantly, all of us were aware of this controlling image so we could relate to it. This underlines the hegemony of the discourses that evolve around this image. Another important point about the controlling images of the ‘Turkish macho man’ and the ‘Turkish male macho fan’ is that they do not necessarily mean the same thing to different people. Birol can only guess what my interpretation of this image is and I can only guess about what his definition looks like. However, as diverse as their picture of masculinities might be, all of them somehow agreed that to be associated with women in this matter was an insult.

Another important aspect of this conversation was brought up again by Ayhan. He underlined that he did not appreciate the whole discussion about pictures of baked goods because he considers it wrong to put pictures of ‘fasting food’ on Facebook. Next to the aforementioned controlling image of the ‘Turkish male macho fan’ a second stereotypical construction and controlling image particularly impacts the conversation between Ayhan and me: the ‘ignorant Austrian/German’. By asking me whether I (hopefully!) know what Ramadan is, he was more or less directly ‘testing’ whether I am one of those ‘ignorant people’ that do not know anything about important religious holidays in Islam. The interaction between Ayhan and me can be understood as Ayhan testing how I relate to the controlling image of the ‘ignorant Austrian/German’. I tried to pass these tests because I did not want to comply with this image. This left me in a defensive position in these interactions. In the next section these tests continue but the focus slightly changes. Interestingly, he kept testing me throughout the whole trip about my knowledge about Turkey and also about Islam but not once about my football fandom or my knowledge about Galatasaray and Fenerbah^e. He mostly perceived me as a non-Turkish/German person/woman.

  • [1] Fieldnote from 31 July 2013, fan bus from Vienna to Salzburg stadium, with Metin and hisfriends, Fan Club, Young Fenerbah^e Fan Club, more than 14 hours.
  • [2] Fielnote from 14 February 2013, Fan Club and Fenerbah^e Pub, Vienna, with Mesut and peoplein pub, BATE Borissow vs. Fenerbah^e (Europa League).
  • [3] Fieldnote from 31 July 2013, fan bus from Vienna to Salzburg stadium, with Metin and hisfriends, Fan Club, Young Fenerbah^e Fan Club, more than 14 hours.
  • [4] Regarding the overwhelming use of orientalising practices as part of othering practices in footballfandom performances see Chap. 4.
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