from Istanbul
original post 9th October 2010

If you ask me, British boys are fairly genderless, especially around the age of 4 or 5. Wielding guns, yes, but also holding their mum’s hand and dancing in that floaty, formless way that kids do: a kind of swirling. My brother used to do it a lot. It seems British boys take their male role models from other boys more than from men.

Yesterday I watched three little Turkish boys at a community arts project in Cihangir, Istanbul. They were dancing; they loved dancing, to a noisy band with a man playing a plastic trumpet. But their dancing certainly wasn’t swirly and formless – it was TURKISH MAN DANCING. That kind of thrusting arms out to the beat bobbing that you see men dancing to beside the buskers on Istiklal Caddesi at midnight. (You never see women dancing to buskers, and the little girls here weren’t looking very enthusiastic either) Round and Round in circles they went, arm-thrusting, with serious faces whilst proud mothers gazed lovingly on. I couldn’t help wondering how long it would be before they are leering, “Çok güzel, very preety lady” at newly arrived travellers, but perhaps I am mixing up two unrelated parts of machismo Turkish culture. The dancing certainly was innocent.

Where does the womanising come from and can you relate it to dance? The parallel between a womanising dance and a womanising man is surely only made through the continuation of traditional values.

But one questions the society where the girls don’t dance, even at that age.

And it’s not only in dancing that this dominant male role model is evident. Boys bickering on the street, especially in the poorer areas, throw up their hands in classic, “I can’t believe this!” tired-old-men gestures. One boy of about 8 turned to his assailant, gave a disgusted shrug and spat on the ground as he walked away. It doesn’t seem to be very playful or innocent. Tempers are a hot ticket for Turks, especially the men, and they’re proud of it.

Despite all this – which I naturally didn’t consider until after the event – this is very cute, and definitely enjoyable.

On my first step to becoming a local I’ve managed to configure my computer to be able to use youtube. Perhaps I will start watching offensive videos about Ataturk soon (but one step at a time eh).

Kebabs are still junk food, by the way.