Merve: Reproducing and Breaking the Code

In order to discuss another person’s perspective on the swearing practices, I will look at one of the women in this group and how she responded to narratives and discourses like these. Merve is 21 years old and works at a child-care centre. She is a Fenerbahqe fan, was born and raised in Vienna, and has a younger brother and a younger sister who are also Fenerbahqe fans. She lives with her parents and takes their opinion seriously even though she sometimes has to argue to do things like going out to football pubs. When I met her, she was still a member of the then recently established ‘Fan Club for Young Fenerbah^e fans in Vienna’ (Young Fenerbah^e Fan Club). The first time I met Merve was at a meeting point for the fan club when I was invited to join them for a charity event for sick children.[1] Mehmet and Sedat considered Merve to be an important part of the organising team and a central person in the club though again from a gendered perspective:

Sedat: [Merve] is part of it right from the beginning. She is, one could say, the boss of the girls. She is the one who looks after the girls. She is simply what Mehmet abi is for us, Merve abla is for the girls. Well, she is just Mehmet abla for the girls. She is exactly like Mehmet abi, she does everything for the club. She is available 24 hours. For the girls she is like a sister, for some even a mother. That’s not only for the girls, also for me, for example. I can talk to her for 24 hours if I want to.[2]

Sedat describes Merve as a selflessly caring ‘mother figure’ which is part of the strong family narrative in the club. When I had joined the group for the trip to the charity event, I experienced her as the one who was looking after the younger girls and boys and who was co-organising the whole trip. Several months after the interview with Mehmet and Sedat, I accidentally ran into Merve in the Fenerbah^e Pub when Fenerbah^e was playing Galatasaray.[3] I was surprised to see her there because the most important derby for a Fenerbah^e fan was taking place and it was probably wildly celebrated in the Young Fenerbah^e Fan Club. So I went to her table and asked her where the fan club for young Fenerbah^e fans was watching the match today. She simply responded: ‘Never again!’ I was stunned and asked her whether she was willing to meet and talk about what had happened, to which she agreed.

For the interview, Merve and I met at the Fenerbah^e Pub shortly after. She feels comfortable in that place because she goes there often and knows Emre, the owner, very well. In the interview, when we started talking about the fan club, Merve told me that she was really hurt and disappointed about what had happened. She reported an immense group pressure in the Young Fenerbah^e Fan Club. After a while members of the club got angry when she met with some of her other friends without inviting the people of the fan club. She did not mention names at the beginning but later referred to Mehmet and Sedat when expressing her disappointment about the recent events. Merve told me that the conflict culminated in the exclusion of her by disabling various communication possibilities such as ‘defriending’ her on Facebook.

Merve: He deleted me [on Facebook]. Sedat. I talked to him for 24 hours on the phone. Well, not call- texting and such things. I told him everything about me, so did he. And just recently I noticed that he blocked me on the phone as well.17

It is not important whether her version of the conflict is the ‘right’ version. There is usually no such thing as one true perspective of a conflict. The crucial thing about the breaking with the club is that Merve links it to her own empowerment. In her narration about the conflict, she is on the one hand the victim because she underlines how unfairly they treated her. On the other hand, although she is hurt that she is now avoided by people she considered to be her friends, she was not willing to blindly follow all the rules of the club organisers. This is how she shows what makes her a powerful person who knows where her limits are. She loved that the club was ‘like a real family’, but not for the price of her freedom.

Merve: Yes, it’s sad. Really, I used to go there for a year or so, since last summer until a couple of months ago I went there often. I had fights with my mother. She said, “No, you won’t go there because there are many boys. Girls, what are girls doing watching matches?”

I said, “Mum, yes, I don’t go there for the boys, I go to watch the match, I go for Fenerbahpe.” She responded that I could also go to the Fenerbahpe Pub and watch there. I said, “Yes, I will do that, too, but.”

Nina: What does your mother think is better about the Fenerbahpe Pub?

There are boys here as well.

Merve: Yes, there are boys here as well, but she knows Emre [bar owner], knows his mother, father and so on. This is why she says “I trust Emre, you can go there, you can do everything”, she always says. Because he is like a brother.[4]

Merve explains that it is also sad that she quit the fan club because she had to fight to be able to participate in it at the beginning. Arguments with her mother also included questions of why she, as a girl, wanted to watch football in the first place. Her mother accepts the Fenerbahqe Pub, though, because she knows the owner. This is how Merve explained a pre-conflict with the fan club to underline how much she had fought to be able to be part of the club and to highlight her worse disappointment about how it ended. At the same time, different perceptions about football places in Vienna become visible. These perceptions became even more obvious when we started talking about other football places in Vienna and its clientele.

Nina: Your father, did he watch [the matches] somewhere in Vienna?

Merve: Yes, he goes to coffee houses, where everywhere, where mostly

men are and I can’t go there either because there are only men.

Nina: Yes, why not?

Merve: Well, for us Turks it is not possible, when there is a girl and grown-up men, that’s not possible. It’s also, how can I tell you — it’s somehow traditional. Yes. You can go with your friends, he doesn’t say anything, when I go with my boy-friends [Jungs- Freunde],[5] or with girl-friends [Madchen-Freunde] somewhere or here [in the Fenerbahpe Pub], he doesn’t say anything. But when there are men, then he says, better don’t go there. Well, when I am the only girl, I should rather not.

Nina: What would happen if you went there? Because I am thinking

about going there.

Merve: No, I would say, no. You should rather not go, no don’t go.

Nina: No? Okay.

Merve: Well, with Turkish men it’s like, they are very, how can I put it, they immediately want, they immediately think badly. They would say, Turks, they could do everything with you.

Nina: Ah okay. So they wouldn’t respect me?

Merve: They wouldn’t respect me either, no matter if they knew my

father, they wouldn’t. And then [there are] always these comments, why girls watch matches and that they should rather sit at home, cook, and if they go to school, they should go to school.20

Merve’s description of men who think they could do ‘everything’ to a woman is at the same time very unspecific and paints a powerful, terrifying picture. Strikingly, in her narrations Merve differentiates between men and boys and between women and girls. The people she communicates with and regularly watches football with, including herself, are ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ although many of them are in their twenties. When she talks about men or grown-ups, she refers mostly to the men that sit in coffee houses. Boys are connoted positively and thus stand for openness to women in general and particularly to female fans. Men on the other hand are connoted very negatively. In her description, men are the ones that act in a degrading way towards women and girls and do not accept their interest in football. Even worse: in Merve’s narration men are described as dangerous to women, as an actual threat to a woman’s integrity. The crucial thing about this distinction is also that men are explicitly ethnicised whereas boys are not, at least not directly. In her narration, the controlling image of the ‘Turkish macho man’ becomes very specific. Here, this highly essentialising narrative particularly also (re) produces gendered boundaries regarding football places in Vienna.

The ‘old-fashioned coffee house’ is part of the controlling image of the ‘Turkish macho man’. It is the spatial incarnation of it. Narratives about these places are powerful as we have seen in Merve’s description about the men that would think they could ‘do everything’ to a woman if she went there. Ayla, who is 25 years old and a regular visitor of the Fenerbah^e Pub, experiences many Viennese Turkish football places — similarly to Merve — as male-dominated environments. This results, however, in somewhat different actions and opinions.

Ayla: It is Turkish coffee houses, I may say, there are lots in Vienna, but

more those coffee houses where men can be among themselves. Of course, there are by now enough cafes where girls can sit together with boys. But these are most of the times cafes where they don’t show much football. Well, there have been, for example, lots of hookah cafes in the last four or five years maybe. They show football, but only the important matches.21

In her narration, Ayla also experiences certain coffee houses as places that are not open to women. She, however, frames it more positively as ‘where men can be among themselves’. In her view, these places offer freedom to men from women. But later she heavily criticises them when she refers to her younger brother. This is also when, in her case, the symbol of the ‘old- fashioned coffee houses’ becomes relevant. In the following interview section, she compares the Fenerbah^e Pub to men-only coffee houses.

Ayla: Well, we go there to watch the matches in Y. district where the two

of us met in the X. street, because I like the atmosphere there, it’s nice there it’s a coffee house where boys and girls sit together. [...] There is the owner [Emre], for example, yes. He is also a great Fenerbahpe fan, he shows for example Galatasaray and Bejiktaj matches, too. He also shows games of the national team, he is not only a Fenerbahpe specialist. And that again is a sign for us [herself and her friends] that they are no hooligans. We can go there. Because there are some cafes where only the matches of specific clubs are shown. It depends on the owner and when only young people are going there and they are, my brother he is just 19 and [he was] 17, 18 when he went to this cafe, where only Fenerbahfe matches were shown, it was one of these hookah places, a small one, he started talking in a different way about the others and I really didn’t like that. It’s simply these coffee houses that make you look at things one-sidedly and I don’t like that. For example, there are kids in puberty, they are growing up right now and are of an age when you learn a lot of new things, I don’t like to send my brother there, I prefer taking him with me and that he watches with me.22

In the Fenerbahqe Pub she appreciates not only that it is an open place for men and women but especially that it is not a ‘fanatic’ place. She defines a ‘non-fanatic place’ by its openness to all different fan groups and the owners’ policy of showing all different kinds of matches, also the ones of the rival. She was afraid that her brother would become a fanatic as well. The main difference from Merve’s, Sedat’s and Mehmet’s arguments is that she does not directly culturalise and ethnicise people, practices or places in her arguments. She does, however, indirectly relate to the ‘Turkish macho man’ in her critique of ‘old-fashioned coffee houses’ but mostly she relates to a broader picture of intolerant football fanatics that take the game too seriously.

When I told Emre, the bar owner of the Fenerbahqe Pub, about my experiences at another Fenerbahqe fan club in Vienna, I was mentioning that there were only men in the fan club and that I did not feel very comfortable at the beginning. Emre then explained to me that there are two kinds of coffee houses in Vienna: the ones where only men go who then also swear and coffee houses like his. Traditionally men would go to the former to play, for example, backgammon. He further explained that women would not like if there was swearing and therefore they go to coffee houses like his where women are explicitly welcome. Coffee houses like his are rarer, though. When I responded that women do swear, too, he did not really answer to it. He said that in a coffee house like his he can say that people should be quiet and that they should not swear, but an owner of a men’s coffee house with hookahs would be looked at and asked ‘what do you mean, no swearing?’ He further told me that in Istanbul there are many coffee houses that are mixed gender-wise and that in Istanbul everything is different and Turks there are not like the ones in Vienna.23

Merve, Emre and also Mehmet, Sedat and Ayla perceive football places in Vienna as an extremely gendered environment. When Merve talks about football places, she seems to accept the limitations that come along with them. This includes an extremely negative and somewhat terrifying image of Turkish men. The ‘Turkish macho man’ is a controlling image that maintains boundaries to which not only men but women likewise feel the need to refer to. The crucial thing about Merve’s narrative is that it is part of a sexist discourse towards both women and men that co-creates a dichotomy of the ‘Turkish macho man’ and the ‘in-need-of-protection woman’. Whereas the former is heavily ethnicised by being directed at Turkish men only, in Merve’s narration the latter applies for all women. The controlling image of the ‘Turkish macho man’ is part of a powerful discourse that manifests male dominance and keeps up spatial boundaries for women and for men. Ironically, the discourse is reproduced by women such as Merve as well. As Paul Scheibelhofer underlined, controlling images are not only used and reproduced by the ones that want to oppress (2011, pp. 162-3).

  • [1] Fieldnote from 1 June 2013, charity event, Vienna, with people of the Young Fenerbah^e FanClub, during the day.
  • [2] Interview Mehmet and Sedat, 27 years old and 18 years old, male and male, Fenerbah^e fan andFenerbah^e fan, 3 June 2013, Mehmet’s house, Vienna, afternoon/evening.
  • [3] Fieldnote from 20 November, Fenerbah^e Pub, Vienna, with Ayla and her friends and people inpub.
  • [4] Interview Merve, 21 years old, female, Fenerbah^e fan, 13 November 2013, Fenerbah^e Pub,Vienna, afternoon.
  • [5] Merve does not mean boyfriends but friends that she considers to be still boys and not grown-upmen yet.
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