Why is it that so many staunch, anti-western, sexist ‘traditionalists’ with excessive political and financial power (e.g. Modi, Erdogan, Saudi royalty, Chinese communists etc.) do not apply the same ‘standards’ in their own personal lives? For example, if they are so anti-western, anti-feminist and anti-capitalist, why do so many of them send their children to the best private boarding schools and universities in the UK and US? Because it’s ‘do as I say, not as I do.’
The Turkish President and his Deputy are classic examples of this phenomenon. On Monday, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, made headlines by announcing at a summit on women and justice in Istanbul that women are not equal to men “because it goes against the laws of nature”. As Alev Scott wrote in The Guardian, such ‘appalling sexism is impossible to laugh off‘:
According to Erdoğan, Islam is a girl’s best friend. “Our religion has given women the calling of motherhood … feminists cannot understand that.” Warming to his subject, Erdoğan described how believers, including himself, “kiss their mothers’ feet” because they “smell of heaven”. This weird fetishising of mothers had as much place in reality as his reasons why women cannot work as men do: “Their delicate frames are not suited to it.”
Here was the evil genius of the speech: Erdoğan made this last remark while deploring the way women in rural Anatolia do much of the manual labour while their husbands “play cards in the local coffee house”. He immediately had the sympathy of his listeners – it is true, this happens and it is wrong. It does not mean that women are not equal to men and cannot work as men do, but Erdoğan’s supporters will brandish the broken-backed farm women as evidence of his deep understanding of the trials of womankind.
While fewer than a third of women are officially employed in Turkey, many others work unregistered on farms or in factories, and many families could not survive without this second income. According to Erdoğan, however, women should stick to being mothers. In 2008 he advised women to have “at least” three children and preferably five, for the sake of the economy; in 2012 he tried to outlaw abortion.
Perhaps he is unaware that the more children a couple has, the more expensive family life becomes, especially in an increasingly urbanised Turkey. Motherhood becomes less about having one’s heavenly smelling feet kissed and more about the strains of impoverished domesticity.
To add even further insult to injury, Erdogan does not even apply his sexist, anti-western views to his own personal life. His daughter had an extremely expensive education at the best universities in the US and UK.
A long-time headscarf ban in Turkish universities, lifted only a few months ago, prevented Ms Erdogan from studying in her home country. With the financial help of Remzi Gur, a wealthy textile entrepreneur and a friend of the Erdogan family, Ms Erdogan went to the United States and to the United Kingdom to study political science and graduated from the London School of Economics in 2008.
In ‘communist’ China, for example, there’s an increasing trend for super rich parents to send their kids overseas to get an elitist education, no matter what the cost. A Chinese Luxury Consumer White Paper, published in 2012, found that 85% of families worth at least $1 million said they’d send their kids abroad to study. To the chagrin of many Brits, an elite British or US education has become a commodity for the super rich and powerful.
The problem is that too many schools are now irretrievably plugged into what Ms Wallis calls a ‘dependence on the international gravy train of the global elite’.
Many country boarding schools cannot revert to their traditional role of offering a spartan but solid education to the children of rectors (though a surprising number of bursaries for the clergy can still be found on school websites). Health and safety burdens, rising teacher salaries and pension contributions, and the facilities arms race, have combined to push fees permanently beyond the reach of the indigenous middle classes.
Meanwhile, European integration, globalisation, and the rise of the BRIC economies provide a ready new pool of parents ready to plug the gap, and the balance has permanently shifted.
According to a recent report by the Financial Times:
Pupils from Hong Kong and mainland China now account for nearly a third of all overseas children at British boarding schools, and the numbers are growing steadily.
Isn’t it time we woke up to such double standards and hypocrisy and realised that what these people really mean when they attack the goals and achievements of liberal feminism, western culture and capitalism is ‘it is bad for you the plebians, but not for us the elite’.