IN A PUBLIC address at a celebration marking the end of Ramadan (the Muslim holy month of fasting), The Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Bulent Arinc, recommended that women refrain from laughing in public. And he was serious.
Following these remarks, hundreds of Turkish women took to Twitter and social media sharing photos laughing off the ridiculous statement. Naturally. And with their unapologetic smiles beaming, you could almost hear their mocking amusement through the photos. Bringing even more attention to the matter was Harry Potter franchise sweetheart– and newly named U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador– Emma Watson, who tweeted a photo of her chuckling at the news. And how could she, or anyone for that matter, not? It’s sort of like when someone asks you “does this smell bad?” you almost instinctively nose-dive in for the test. Proving himself even more out of touch, Arinc made the sweeping remark that women are “spending hours on the phone to swap recipes.” As a women who indulges in the convenience of eating out and store bought sushi, how insulting. And, who talks on the phone anymore?
Elaborating on this humorless statesman’s no-laughing dream, he suggested that women who do not conceal their joy in public are “morally corrupt.” He’d prefer women keep “symbol of chastity,” as their default status update, if you will. But since when has laughter become synonymous with sexual deviance? If he were to have requested, “no sneezing in public,” based on the urban myth that sneezing is a distant cousin of an orgasm, this stuffy logic might have been slightly more logical.
But laughter has been proven to be the best medicine. It’s science. Engaging in a good belly laugh not only reduces stress levels, but also burns calories and can aid in preventing heart disease. There’s even a type of yoga called “Laughter Yoga,” with an endorsement from the Centers For Diseases Control (CDC), that’s proving to have massive benefits — from keeping the immune system strong to easing depression. And unlike other pleasurable bodily reactions (ahem, yes, orgasm), when it comes to laughter, your body can’t tell if you’re faking it. So you’ll still receive all of the health benefits, even if your laughter is slightly gratuitous. And no one will ever know.
Historically speaking, these comments aren’t that surprising coming from Turkish leaders. The country has always erred on the side of extreme cultural and religious conservatism with a known epidemic of domestic violence, which is nothing to laugh at. But at the moment, flippant comments about how women are supposed to behave continue to run rampant in the U.S.
Just last week on the Fox talk show “Outnumbered,” Geraldo Rivera spouted caveman-like comments, espousing generalizations like, although more women “are increasingly working” men are still the breadwinners, and the standout factor that women bring to marriage is “their youth.” Surrounded by four, obviously working, female hosts, Rivera was in hot water. Last month on an ESPN morning show, anchor Stephen A. Smith defended Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s recent charge of physical assault for punching his fiancée unconscious. Granted Rivera and Smith aren’t politicians, and Smith wrote a thesis-like apology through a parade of tweets, it doesn’t excuse these irresponsible, borderline misogynistic comments.
Maybe when public figures, or anyone for that matter, feel the need to inject female stereotypes into conversations, laughing it off will eventually send a message: the more serious your misogyny, the more we’re going to laugh about it. And one day we’ll be laughing our healthy asses all the way to the bank.