Turks argue co-ed dorms

Just as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was crossing off deal with anti-government protestsfrom his to-do list, another battle began.

Next on his list is dealing with student protests Ð concerning the issue of co-ed housing on the nations college campuses.

The outrage began when Erdogan made a speech declaring that he planned to eliminate mixed-sex housing on university campuses.

His reasoning behind the course of action is that mixed-sex housing is against traditional Turkish values.

In his speech Mr. Erdogan explained that his government is responsible for everybody’s children Who knows whatever happens there [in mixed-sex student houses]. ItÕs all messed up, anything can happen.Ó

The social media scene exploded as students heard of the new policy.

Thousands of angry tweets were directed at the prime minister, all using the hashtag We Are Girls And Boys Staying in The Same House.Ó

Government officials were outraged by the new policy as well, especially opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu of the Republican PeopleÕs Party.

In a speech to his parliamentary group, he said, this voyeuristic mentality cannot bring democracy or laicism to Turkey.

This is no small issue for Turkey, and it is one that speaks to a larger trend of the government enforcing more traditional policies.

Last June there were violent protests over the efforts to limit alcohol consumption and the intentions of building a mosque in Istanbul, which left six dead.

The movement to eliminate mixed-sex housing further indicates a trend towards reinforcing gender inequality.

While it is true that co-ed dormitories do entail risks, in my opinion there are few university policies that are that powerful in working towards gender equality.

Before going to universities, if students did not grow up with a sibling of the opposite sex, it is common to have stereotypes of that opposite sex which may be completely false.

However, when living together in university housing, there is an opportunity to gain a greater understanding and acceptance of the differences between the two sexes.

Furthermore, having co-ed dormitories sends a clear message that both sexes are equal. You live together, eat together, party together and form friendships.

In doing so, the archaic model of gendered space breaks down because women and men share the space and the environment.

For women in particular, it reinforces the mindset that while they live in a world that is still operating under a masculine lens, they can achieve power and position in a given environment. Plus, for entering the workforce they are better prepared for negotiating and interacting with men.

Inversely, male university students living with female students gain a greater understanding of communicating with women, and a view of what the future will hopefully look like Ð a world where there is equal representation of men and women in all areas of society.

Although there are regressive forces at play in Turkey at the moment, if students can fight the new housing policy there will be hope for the next generation of students.