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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tommy's Experience

...What I found most illuminating were the discussions we had on three main terms: feminism, modernity, and gender.  There are few things, we found, that bring stronger reactions than the idea of feminism and being a feminist.  In Turkey, feminism has become a negative word filled with negative connotations.  The discussion began with the women wearing headscarves in the café at Fatih.  They talked extensively about where they locate the ideas of feminism.  I would characterize their beliefs on women’s rights as progressive, but they were not about to claim to be feminists.  Nazife Sisman said that she agrees with many facets of feminism, like their calls for equality of men and women, but again would not identify with the movement.  Both the girls from Fatih and Sisman are more devout Muslims than the students from Sabanci that we met, but even they were against being considered feminists.  The women at Fatih characterized it as anti-Islamic because it denied some male/female roles that are inherent in their family units.  Sisman told us that the term was tantamount to loose sexual values.  But Hale Sirin, one of the very secular students from Sabanci, also felt uncomfortable with the term.  These three groups of women—young Muslim women, young secular women, and an older Muslim woman—all would be considered unconventional 50 years ago, but today, through modernization and liberalization of a country that has held women back, they are exceptional.  Only elite Islamists seem to wear the veil for overt political purposes (White 228).   I think that feminism as an ideology or movement has been snuffed out in Turkey, with women instead looking for a less militant or aggressive form of social equality through things like religion, education, and democratic institutions.  The women of the Gulen Women’s Platform said this best: they see feminism as blaming men for everything that is wrong in their lives, when they instead are looking for better and more constructive ways to reach for more equality.  But the basic ideas of feminism hold for Islamists.  They believe that the headscarf allows them to have an “active public life alongside men” because it acts as a shield” (Çinar 76).  And self-described Islamist feminists fight for rights every day.  On the ground though, generally speaking, feminism has a negative connotation (Arat 2010, 881)...  

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