Featured UCLA Feminist: Asli Bilgili

Asli Bilgili, a first-year international student from Turkey studying cognitive science and business economics, defines feminism as, “realizing that you don’t have to act the way society wants you to act.” She claims her feminist awakening occurred around three years ago after she heard about a Turkish government official saying that women should not laugh in public. Asli remembers thinking, “it’s not [his] fucking business.” At the time, this absurd comment highlighted the ways in which women are controlled and objectified both in Turkey and elsewhere, sparking Asli’s ongoing passion for feminism. 

Feminist ideas were present in Asli’s life from a young age. Asli describes her mother as an avid feminist who clashed with her more traditional grandmother at times throughout her childhood. She recalls that at one point her grandmother told her that she “looked good washing dishes,” to which her mother responded negatively. This experience caused her to question societal expectations from an early age, demonstrating the conflicting ideas about what women should be.  

Asli’s experiences at UCLA have strengthened her feminist ideals. Though Los Angeles promotes itself as a highly progressive city, she still feels there remains a collective subconscious expectation that women conform to certain societal norms. She explains, “this school promotes feminism […] but there’s still this notion that girls should look a certain way.” 

For Asli, feminism is very important on an individual level. She recalls a time in her life when her behavior and opinions were shaped largely by expectations from men, which was not a healthy mindset for her. These expectations were often impossible to meet, such as the expectation that women be sexually experienced but simultaneously “pure.” Asli has since worked to present herself in ways that make her happy, arriving for our interview with a leather jacket and a freshly minted tattoo. Furthermore, she enjoys expressing feminism in the form of poetry. Below is one of her poems that she believes reflects her current mindset:

I’m not the dicks I suck

The houses I go

I am not who didn’t love me

I am not the people who left so early

I may be so many things but just not the one you see

I am not my hands

Not my mouth 

Not my face

I was so unloved by him

And he was so loved by me

Just as I don’t belong to places which make the sun rise

I’m not my friend’s ex’s mistress

I am neither fun

Nor serious

I am as I am

I am not how far I am away

And how close to home

You can tell

Not seeing those islands doesn’t make me less human too

I am as virgin as I am commanded

And as easy as I am wanted to be

So this is for you

Maybe brother everything perishes

But my sisterhood

When Asli thinks about the future of feminism, she sees the need for structural change. Though some improvements have been made, she claims that discrimination is not going away, but rather “just changing its shape.” Asli notes that one necessary step to fight global inequality should be to reform (or replace entirely) the United Nations (UN), noting the rape and sexual assault problem amongst UN peacekeepers. She also argues that all people should make an effort to combat their own personal prejudice when they can. Asli hopes to see a future in which people are no longer objectified, and all people can “sit at the same table.”

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