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The Istanbul Contract, #MeToo Movement, and the Medusa-Perseus Statue

17 Ekim 2020 - 14:58


What will be the outcome of the American elections?

What is the value of Merkel’s Euro?

In what direction is the value of the American dollar headed?

What will be the price of an ounce of gold?

Will Turkey hold an early election?

Will Fenerbahçe win the championship?

And a few other questions…

The same old questions and cliché answers, commentaries repeated like a broken record…

They’ve all started to taste a bit stale.

Today let’s try opening our sails together to different seas!

If you’ll permit I’d like to approach today’s analysis from a different perspective providing historical background and making the connection to today’s bleeding social wounds.

Do you remember Medusa?

You know the ugly gorgon  Medusa with snakes for hair.

Anyone who looks in her eyes is turned to stone.

Onlookers remember!

There’s a bronze statue sculpted by Benvenuto Cellini in Florence’s central piazza.

After severing Medusa’s head Perseus holds it aloft by its’ snake hair using his left hand while his right hand holds a sword pointing downward.

A completely macho pose, Perseus’ body language wreaks “I’ve uprooted an evil by its’ roots”.

As with any plan there’s always a plan within a plan…

The sculptor’s sponsor and statue financier was the leader of Florence’s Medici family (recognized as the founder of modern banking).

In short, the male character is comprised of two dominant factors; sexuality and financial power, both at one time must have’s in the life of the city where the Renaissance began.

According to mythology; Poseidon (you know the god of the seas) rapes the virgin Medusa in the Goddess Athena’s temple. Athena turns Medusa into a witch to preserve the honor of her sanctuary and proclaims that anyone looking into the eyes of Medusa will be turned to stone. The half-god Perseus in his quest for legitimacy shows off by chopping off Medusa’s head. This is the legend behind the statue.

Let’s return to our time…

“Hold on a minute! Someone might ask ‘Wasn’t Medusa the one who was raped?’. The prejudice represented by that question wasn’t overcome for 500 years.

10 years ago another statue carrying a message 360 degrees-opposed to the one expressed by the great Florentine Renaissance statue was sculpted by an Argentine artist (of Italian extraction).

The new statue is the diametrical opposite of the one in Florence.

This time it is Medusa holding the severed head of Perseus in her right hand while holding the downward pointing sword in her left hand.

The facial expression is deep and sharp.

The body language is both expressive of the settling of emotional accounts and a soulful sadness. The gaze of the eyes seems to pierce the ground.

The statue is both head turning and very impactful for it is said that “if a work of beauty was produced by an Italian then a commentary upon it was most likely produced by another Italian”.

Towards #MeToo Movement

The statue’s images began to spread through social media and go viral.

During those days the #MeToo Movement against sexual assault, violence, and rape adopted the statue as a symbol.

An Italian sculpture’s statement summarizes the sentiment well: ‘The prejudiced attitude which states “If you are raped the fault is yours. You ought to be punished” is the basis of the mythological tale.’

Do you remember the infamous Director?

The Hollywood cliché stating that “the road to fame runs through a director’s bed” was given a new meaning by the Harvey Weinstein scandal which came to light after many years of silence. Several women filed harassment complaints leading him to be convicted and receive a severe prison sentence.

A second scandal followed in quick succession. It came to light that the banker Epstein’s predilection for underage girls may have been known by his many close associates who visited him at his properties among whom were politicians, members of the royal family, and other famous male personalities.

Many sex crime related legal prosecutions took place resulting in conviction. Epstein committed suicide in prison to escape his fate. An assortment of conspiracy theories followed.


Now hold tight!

The New York municipal authority acquired the statue mentioned above, which has become a symbol of the “Violence Against Women” social movement, and placed it in a park located directly in front of the court house where many of the sexual harassment cases have been tried.

Visitors to the court are greeted by the Medusa statue, approximately 2.5 meters in height, holding the severed head of Perseus.

Now let’s visit  our situation in Turkey:

Violence against women is a topic which is continuously discussed and on the social agenda.

Not a day goes by without an incident.

Although easy to do it does not seem correct to blame the problem on a lack of education or ignorance.

When we look closely we see that widespread violence against women throughout all social strata and professions ranging from artists to politicians, from CEOs to business owners. Like a virus it has found refuge within the societal DNA.


I’m not so naive as to think that a “nude” statue which has inspired this analysis might serve as a symbol of Turkey’s social structural change. We began this article with a naval  expression concerning the opening of sails to different seas, so let us continue with a similar aphorism.

For hundreds of years male dominance has been buttressed through culture, the legends spawned from that culture, and the bureaucracies that have used those legends to justify their control building a wall around them.

It appears that the tide has begun to erode the 500 year old structure. The ebb and flow waters are changing in women’s favor and the high tide appears to have passed. But a just solution is far away.


In my view we have been handed a good platform with which to put an end to violence against women.

The ‘Istanbul Contract” presents an excellent opportunity.

Although some may consider the following connection of mine  farfetched this may provide a model to better understand and interpret the foundational principle of secularism which has been misinterpreted by many since the founding of the Turkish Republic.

Secularism in its’ most basic sense is, an equidistance focal point from all religions and it is not anti-religious. It is a neutral stance.

Secularism is a solution to the problem of violence against women since it represents an opportunity to institute a neutral stance toward all genders and change the culture, the legal structure, and societal perceptions.

The Istanbul Contract could serve as a societal inflection point in regard to women’s rights and provide an influential example on par with the Magna Carta. Geographic location of Turkey at cross roads of many cultures has endowed Turkish woman with creative talent. This endowment may give Turkish women a chance at equality of opportunity. Let’s hope building of a new legal infrastructure starts with laying one stone at a time.

Translation: Deniz Mehmed


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