'Self-Turkified'

The gendered discourses that maintain spatial boundaries are not specific to Galatasaray and Fenerbahqe fans in Vienna. Almut Sulzle, for example, emphasises that women in football fan cultures are often the constructionists as well as the victims in maintaining male dominance (2011, p. 357). Sexism in football is still a widespread issue in most countries (cf. for Germany: Dietze 2012; Behn and Schwenzer 2006; Hagel et al. 2005; cf. for Turkey: Erhart 2011). The crucial thing about Merves narration is, however, that in this case, sexist incidents are seen as specific to a ‘Turkish culture’.

Also, Mehmet’s, Sedat’s and Merve’s further lines of argument reveal that the problems they encounter are very similar to the ones of other football fans around the world regarding the question of how fans want to create football spaces: Yes or no to drinking? Yes or no to swearing? Yes or no to wearing national emblems? Being inclusive or exclusive et cetera? Likewise, Merve sometimes struggles to find her place in a male- dominated popular culture, as many female fans do elsewhere (cf. Sulzle 2011; Regev and Rapoport 2013; Nuhrat 2013b).

However, all three of them use essentialising and culturalising stereotypes to underline their arguments. Mehmet and Sedat, for example, said that women felt uncomfortable when there was swearing because it ‘has to do with culture’. Arguing with the help of terms like ‘culture’ is easy and complicated at the same time. Firstly, if one argues using ‘culture’ one does not have to specify what one means by it. Also, both Mehmet and Sedat make it clear that I cannot understand because I am not part of the same ‘culture’. Via this othering practice between them and me, they can rest their case without further discussion and I mutely agreed to it. Instead of asking what they meant by ‘culture’ I simply did not say anything and thereby co-constructed and supported this kind of ‘self- Turkifying’ practice.

Merve also used culturalising narratives to underline her argument of why women cannot go to certain pubs and coffee places. Her image of Turkish men as reckless and disrespectful towards women creates and maintains gender roles without any further necessary discussion because, as she claimed, ‘Turkish men are like that’. The crucial thing about what Merve tells, though, is that she acts in a different way. She knows and has heard all these comments about coffee houses before and what behaviour or response from women is expected and reproduces these arguments but, in fact, she acts differently. In line with this, she gives a different perspective on Sedat’s and Mehmet’s arguments about swearing. When I ask her about the ‘no-swearing-policy’ in the fan club she responds in a surprised manner:

Nina: Okay. Do you use swear words?

Merve: No.

Nina: No?

Merve: Not at all, no.

Nina: You’re very strict about that?

Merve: (laughs) Exactly, I hold back [ich halte mich zuruck immer]. Yes,

it comes, but- no I don’t say- [...]

Nina: I understand, because swearing is forbidden in the fan club, right?

Merve: Aha. But it’s not.

Nina: It’s not like that?

Merve: No. (laughs)

Nina: No? (laughs)

Merve: No, it’s not. Well, he [Sedat or Mehmet] said that, he left it up to me, he said, Merve should we, should the girls and boys swear [schimpfen] or not? Should it be allowed to drink beer or not? I said, no, no swearing and so on. For a couple of times it was okay. After the third time everybody started swearing. There are also small children like my brother and my sister. The small kids of my [female] friends are also there. There are some people that do not like swearing at all. Yes.[1]

Merve did not regard her role in the club as a passive in-need-of-protection woman. On the contrary, she considered herself as someone who Mehmet and Sedat turned to for advice and for important fan club decisions. Also, the ‘no-swearing-policy’ does not seem as strict as Mehmet and Sedat explained it to me. Consequently, the prohibition to swear is most likely part of a social expectation but can differ much from reality. None of the three explicitly said ‘I do not want to swear.’ It is either the children or the women that are used as a ‘pretext’ to follow a social expectation - a third actor is implied. Mehmet and Sedat in particular, could not say that they themselves do not want to swear (regardless of whether they meant it or not) because swearing is an important part of the construction of masculinity. And since this football space also follows a ‘male grammar’ (Sulzle 2011, p. 349), keeping up masculinities is central to the fan practices.

In her narration Merve mirrors what is probably socially expected of her but her actions are not congruent with that. What she tells me does strongly refer to what we can call the controlling image of the ‘civilised woman’ (cf. Nuhrat 2013b). A ‘civilised woman’ is the ideal picture or the

‘ideal type’[2] of a woman who, contrary to the less civilised man, does not swear. A ‘civilised woman’ would usually not watch football, either. Here, the image has already been stretched. Merve does not follow the gender roles that she co-creates. She watches football, she most probably swears and she fights paternalisms on different levels in different ways - sometimes less, sometimes more. She has strongly internalised her father’s (and probably her mother’s) discourses about Turkish men that determine her narratives about football places in Vienna. She argues, however, with her mother about the places she wants to go to and goes anyway. Her strongest objection against paternalism is when she leaves the fan club because Mehmet and Sedat try to interfere with other parts of her life.

Furthermore, Merve has a strong commitment towards the empowerment of women in society and especially in the football context. At the end of the interview, when I asked her if she wants to add something about herself and football, she responded:

Merve: Well, not about me, but I want girls to watch matches, so they don’t stay at home. If they say, yes, I am a real fan, then they should watch. They shouldn’t give up.

Nina: Because they are not allowed-

Merve: By their parents, by their mother or father.

Nina: Okay, maybe we can talk about this again. I observe, for example,

a lot of girls that watch football in the fan pub wearing their Fenerbahpe shirts-

Merve: That’s great, yes. [...] It’s happening more and more. In some pubs, like this one, it’s public and girls can come and boys come. But in the real coffee houses, just boys go there, only men go there, women cannot, girls cannot watch there. And it also depends on the parents. If they say no, you won’t go there, there are many men, there are many boys, you cannot go there. But it has changed lately anyway. I see many girls.

Nina: Is it a recent development?

Merve: Yes, exactly.

Nina: What do you think, why it’s happening?

Merve: It’s because some girls become free. They are not always forced to

stay at home all the time. Yes. And some parents realise then, okay, you can go there. Or when they accompany their daughter or their son once, then they see what it’s like here and say, okay, you can go there to watch the match.26

The interview section does not only reveal her wish for female agency in the Viennese Turkish football space and beyond, it also reflects on the way in which she dealt with the conflicts and what she had to go through to be able to become a football fan. She perceives the limitations and boundaries also for other women and girls quite strongly but at the same time she takes her younger sister, and younger female friends to different football places in Vienna. On the one hand, she perpetuates boundaries and limitations by her narrations but on the other hand she crosses these borders on a daily basis and likewise empowers and enhances the agency of other women and girls.

  • [1] Interview Merve, 21 years old, female, Fenerbah^e fan, 13 November 2013, Fenerbah^e Pub, Vienna, afternoon.
  • [2] Max Weber originally developed the concept of ideal types to facilitate sociological analysis. Byemphasising its constructive and constructed character, he understands ideal types as a centralsociological method to understand, interpret and explain social action. The researcher constructs anideal type to illustrate ‘general rules’ of human action in a society or field he or she researches. Anideal type can be ‘rational’ and ‘irrational’. It mirrors the ideal construct of how actions should be.It is not intended to reflect the average picture of reality (Weber 1980 [1921], pp. 1-11).
 
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