The Representation Of Women In The Early Republic Of Turkey

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The Representation of Women in the Early Republic of Turkey


The aim of this research paper is to show the changing role of women (gender) through the history of modernization (Westernization) in early Turkish Republic. While doing this, I will examine the life and pioneering role of Halide Edip Adivar known as “ideal Turkish women” within the modernization process as a marvellous example. To show the alteration of the Turkish women's role and place, I will, also, discuss how Halide Edip represented her female characters in some of her works. (The history of sexuality, gender, modernization, constructing women identities, constructing Turkish nation, the role of gender on the construction of Turkish nation etc. will be the key words).

The Representation of Women in the Early Republic of Turkey


Beginning from the 1980s, contemporary Turkish feminist scholars critically re-examined major discursive tools, such as women's emancipation and state feminism. These tools were used effectively by the official ideology in Turkey in the making of the "republican woman" as a nationally constructed icon during the 1930s. The majority of this work however has focused primarily on elite women's experience of "emancipation." The transformation of their material and visual culture became a prime marker of modernization leaving class aspects overlooked. Likewise, the social history of modern architecture in Turkey has predominantly been told as the story of the well-off.


The majority of feminist scholarship on early twentieth century Turkey however, has focused primarily on elite women's experience of "emancipation" whereas class aspects have been overlooked. The transformation of their material and visual culture became a prime marker of modernization. As Ruth A. Miller has much deliberately argued in “Rights, Reproduction, Sexuality, and Citizenship in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey,” the majority of Turkish feminist critique in the 1980s and 1990s “operated in a largely classical-juridical model” identifying “progressive” and “backward” policies developed by the secular state toward women. According to Miller, “as a result of this scholarship, the issue at stake again became to what extent the liberal state had lived up to its rhetoric of equality and rights, rather than the nature of the rhetoric itself.”

The emphasis on power relations prompts consideration of class issues, which remained largely omitted in studies of gender and feminism on the early republic. It also sets off the following question: how did Turkish women, in their real socio-spatial geography, and from within a variety of class positions, consume the project of their “emancipation”?

Griselda Pollock has argued in “Vision and Difference” that gender and class are historical simultaneities and mutually inflecting. As much as being influential and pioneering however, scholarly research on the history of feminist organizations whose members were elite women dominated the discursive field both in the Middle-East and Turkey. For instance, in 19th century Istanbul, women's magazines, including those published by feminists, such as Kadinlar Dunyasi, targeted predominantly Muslim, ethnically Turkish, upper-class and educated women. According to Yavuz Selim Karakisla, the female authors in these magazines ...
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