Blogger of the Week: Şenay Özdemir

A Dutch-Turkish journalist, women’s rights advocate and mother of one, Şenay Özdemir has published op-eds in newspapers around the world on topics ranging from feminist politics to virginity among older brides. In Europe, she’s a familiar face on television and magazines.

Özdemir, 41, is the founder of another monthly woman’s magazine – SEN. The publication was aimed at young women in the Netherlands who, like herself, have Mediterranean backgrounds and must find their place in a liberal, post-religious European world. With using the term ‘Mediterranean’ for her magazine target group – which was at that time only used for Italian, Spanish or French people – she surprised many when the magazine’s target group also included young Muslim women in other countries around the Mediterranean Sea.

“It’s so natural for me to be the Blogger of the Week since we are colleagues,” Özdemir says of her by being recognized by shades. “We are both founders of a magazine … a special magazine for women to have their voices heard. And it’s a beautiful thing that women on two continents have found each other to share their knowledge and strengthen each other.”

Özdemir’s work has been profiled in many Dutch and European magazines, as well as the International Herald Tribune, the New York Times, Foreign Policy and Austin American Statesman. She was guest editor in chief of Dutch magazines such as Viva and Intermediair.

From December 2008, Özdemir worked for the University of Texas, Austin, where she was invited to be a visiting lecturer at the School for Journalism. In June 2009, she published her first novel, “De Harsclub (The Waxclub)” – the first Turkish “chicklit” in Europe, touted as the Mediterranean version of “Sex and the City.” She is currently working on my second novel, “Letters from Budapest,” the story of an American/Hungarian woman finding her roots in Budapest in the 1940s.

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Every woman has voice

Şenay Özdemir
Special for shades Magazine

No, it’s not a coincidence that I am writing a blog for shades Magazine. I discovered this new magazine and, as a founder myself, I fully support shades.

I wouldn’t have much to say if it wasn’t for almost 20 years, young girls and women emailed me with their questions and problems. This all began when I started working as a TV host for the National Dutch Television. I am sure people in general and women in particular always need role models. And women just want to talk and share their experiences. That’s why I started writing a question-and-answer column that tackled a wide range of topics, from guidance on birth control practices, to helping a depressed friend, to how to request a salary increase or try to achieve a proper divorce, when they finally decided to split. In a kind of “Dear Abby” column, I offered advice to young women.

“It was an endeavor that sought to bring modern, secularized culture to the lives of young women, supporting their emancipation without demeaning their religion or their heritage … and it worked,” wrote Forbes  about my magazine this summer.

With my years of knowledge and experience, and as a single parent myself, I am constantly aware of my role in this society. This year I am actively tutoring two women with their career. In Dutch we have a saying: het bloed kruipt waar het niet gaan kan. It simply means that I will always advocate an independent life for every girl/woman.

Life has smiled at me; I have had many opportunities and I took every chance I was given. It’s my duty to share my knowledge and expertise with the next generation.

I loved living in the U.S., which gave me the opportunity to get to know the American perspective of women and media. There are commonalities between Western Europe and America, but also a lot of differences. Interesting for me to find out whether I can share my knowledge with my feminist peers in America. Media, multicultural society, religion, emancipation and empowerment are topics of my special interest.

But I think the most important thing for me is to have women’s voices heard. It doesn’t matter which culture or status they belong to. Women worldwide have to be part of the conversation – whether it’s political, social or economic. Society can’t develop without female perspective. That’s why women need to speak out more.

And that’s the reason why I started SEN – to give them a platform. I will use any opportunity to have woman’s perspective to be heard. Whether it’s an open letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal where I give it to him for not featuring one single woman in their “What is Moderate Islam?” piece or a letter to the mayor of Rotterdam (South Holland) for not using one female perspective in the yearly publication about creativity in the city in the future. Then my fingers itch to grab my laptop and write them immediately.

I think my pen (keyboard) is my sword. And I think it would make a big difference if it would be every woman’s. Most of the issues and problems in the world have been seen/written/discussed from the male perspective. It’s time to set that straight.

Learn and read more about Şenay Özdemir at senay.nl, senayozdemir.blogspot.com or follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/senaytweets.

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