In August, women's rights activists filed a legal complaint against Turkey's deputy prime minister, Bulent Arinc, for proclaiming that decent women don't laugh out loud in public.
How odd that Mr. Arinc concerns himself with a woman's laugh when the Middle East is awash in horrific violence, thousands of homeless refugees and bands of warring men killing and raping their way across the land.
Why is he concerned with so trifling a matter as a woman's loud laugh?
I think a major reason that men demand total control of women in some societies is that men fear women. Men need to dominate women because they're afraid that, actually, women are more powerful than they are. Women not only create babies but they possess a sexuality that can overwhelm men with desire. Men fear being enslaved by Vagina Power, or let's call it "Gini power," to make the concept less anxiety provoking.
Gini Power is intrinsic to women and is illustrated in many stories where a man accidentally sees a naked woman, goes crazy with desire, and changes his life. In the Bible, for example, King David spies the dripping-wet, nude Bathsheba and, in his lust, he must possess her so he kills her warrior husband by sending him into the thick of battle. Bathsheba did nothing but take a bath and her intrinsic Gini Power caused King David to displease God. (It doesn't seem that God was all that angry. He made their child, King Solomon, the wisest of Biblical kings.) However, after David married her, Bathsheba did use her conscious Gini power to get David to proclaim their son, Solomon, king, instead of his rightful heir and oldest son, Adonijaw. When women obtain power over men in bed, it's called manipulative or selfish. When men obtain power over women by demeaning or abusing them, it's called life in many parts of the world.
For centuries, men fought their dependency on women by various methods. They preached that women were secondary to men in everything. Even personhood came late for women. The Greek scholar, Aristotle (384 - 322 BC) stated that ensoulment occurred 40 days after conception for male fetuses and 90 days after conception for female fetuses. Ensoulment meant the fetus was a human being from that moment and not just a group of cells.
Another male strategy was to declare the mind nobler than the body. Scholars, clerics, and philosophers insisted that men sitting around discussing theology and the meaning of life were more admirable than men lying around with women having sex.
For centuries, Western culture and literature symbolized women as earthy, base creatures who were beneath men (both in intellect and in bed.) Men were symbolized as having "higher" spiritual concerns. Essentially, men blamed women, and their Gini Power, for seducing them away from "worthy" pursuits, like copying manuscripts in drafty scriboriums, and for luring them into the horizontal sins of bed.
An example of this struggle between man's goodness and women's evil occurs in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. God realizes that His first human creation, a man named Adam, needs a "helpmate."
So God creates a woman, Eve, out of Adam's rib to keep him company. She's fooled by a snake who tells her she'll have God's wisdom if she eats fruit from a forbidden tree. She wants knowledge so she eats the fruit. Adam also eats the fruit and blames Eve for tempting him. Woman's sin: seeking knowledge. Man's sin: listening to his wife.
Women were considered temptresses who must be controlled. Men must be shielded from their Gini Power. How? Some men built high-walled monasteries to separate themselves from distracting women. It didn't work that well. Monks snuck out to pursue women and monasteries were expensive.
Cheaper and more effective ways to limit Gini Power were devised. Rules seizing control of women's sexuality were internalized into the culture by psychological brain washing. Women needed to be ashamed of their Gini Power.
Men clamped women's sexuality under tight male control. First, a giant reversal was required. Instead of acknowledging women's power, men preached that women were powerless, inferior creatures. They were created to be subservient and needed men's "guidance" and protection.
Men were to be the actors on the stage of life and women were to be their clapping audience. Women weren't educated or permitted to equal or surpass men in any area. Genders were kept separate, and women's bodies were covered in dark, heavy fabrics so they couldn't possibly... Couldn't what? Use their Gini Power to excite and control men.
Why would women accept this notion of being an inferior gender? That is the question. The answer: God commanded it.
Men wrote society's sexual rules and ascribed them to God. They taught that God made women "naturally" less worthy than men. However, God's rules differed from place to place. For example, European missionaries made female islanders cover their bare breasts because breasts excited their God. Strangely, breasts didn't excite the gods of the South Pacific because breasts were used for nursing and not for sexual arousal.
Generally, women were taught that their inferiority came from God and not from men's writings. In the worst case, of course, if the "God-given-differences" approach didn't work to control a woman, she could always be beaten, shamed, or stoned to death.
It may seem a small thing that Turkish women filed an action against the deputy prime minister for proclaiming that "decent" women don't laugh aloud in public, but their complaint is important. It shows that they are alert to further infringements on their freedom and question, "Who are you, sir, to limit us, even to the level of a laugh?"
These brave Turkish women stood up in a country where females live under constant danger for non-conformity. They risked their personal safety and joined other women demanding freedom from old restrictions. It isn't a small thing they did... not like laughing an indecent laugh.