Trespassing Journal

The Role of Kadın Gazetesi in Women’s Movement of Turkey and its Relation with Demokrat Parti

Melike Güngör

[Abstract]-[pdf]

The aim of this study is to analyze the journal known as Kadın Gazetesi (Woman Journal-KG) published between 1947 and 1979, with as total of 1,125 issues. The journal covered a wide range of issues such as motherhood, ideal wifehood and household matters; political issues in relation to daily debates; employment and education for women; charitable organizations, associations, fashion, beauty, shopping, militarism, and soldiery. Kadın Gazetesi was published in Istanbul for 32 years with the motto: ‘The Weekly Social Political Woman Newspaper’. They expressed their aims just like this, with the signature of ‘Founders’:

The Reforms of the Republic have given our women a place among the advanced womanhood of the world. By means of the qualifications based on the blood and the soul of Turkish women, this change was quickly realized and successfully concluded. Therefore KG does not want to involve with the previous issues of Turkish womanhood. Briefly, it doesn’t need to work on the equality between women and men. We embrace the scientific and artistic movements as well as the ideas which are beneficial for the homeland, family and the development of womanhood. Kadın Gazetesi always has open doors for ideas, observations and the thought of Turkish women. We give a place in our pages to our most popular women writers, doctors, lawyers and teachers. A reader can discover all kinds of social, literal abilities as well as knowledge of our womanhood and news about womanly issues from all over the world in Kadın Gazetesi. We aim to be a resource and a harbor for women’s emotions and compassion which are the most significant part of the society. ‘Men make houses, women make homes.’ Social, economic and cultural cases in the country always require agility and the sensitivity of women. Thus we begin publication to serve the ideas, observations, tendencies and demands of our womanhood (1:1).

The first edition of the journal was published on May 1, 1947 with a newsstand price of 25 kuruş. In the first years of publication the journal consisted of 10-12 papers until it was reduced to 5-6 papers. Content included essays, columns, comics, stories, anecdotes, weekly news, and interviews. Generally in the cover, there would be a headline regarding the top issue of the week, such as national holidays as well as the breaking news of the week. Headlines were written in large font and generally in everyday language. The journal was published in black and white just the ‘Kadın’ part of the title was written in red. On the first page, there were the beginnings of the essays which would continue inside. Also a big picture was used under the headline, for example, in the first issue they placed the portrait of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

During publication the magazine’s editorial board consisted of women. The first writers of the magazine were İffet Halim Oruz, Hasena Ilgaz, Emel Gürler, Feyhan Elbi, Füruzan Eksat, Münevver Ayaşlı, and Nimet Selen. At that time, the popular writers and poets such as Halide Nusret Zorlutuna and Şükufe Nihal attended the magazine’s writers' group. Women writing in the journal generally came from the middle class and grew up during the national struggle and war. With regard to these characteristics, those women were able to get education and qualified enough to be fully employed.

In 1947, two woman journals were published and they were the first ones which had women as both founders and editors. The first one was Kadın Gazetesi and the other was Güngör Gazetesi, which defined itself as ‘A Social Family Newspaper’. İffet Halim Oruz, the owner and head writer of the Kadın Gazetesi, was popularly known for her work in charity associations. She also was a significant figure for women's movements as she had a large group of women in her network. Because her mother had been involved in Hukuk- u Nisvan Cemiyeti, İffet Halim was familiar with the women’s movement in Turkey since her childhood. Moreover, she was one of the first woman journalists in Turkey. İffet Halim had a significant role in the journal and wrote many essays, especially about political debates on current issues in her articles entitled “Kadın Gözüyle” (Woman’s Point of View) along all of the years. İffet Halim’s story “İstifçi”(Stacker) was also published in part of the journal. In addition to that, Füruzan R. Eksat wrote articles featured as “Dertler/Düşünceler” (Problems/Thoughts) covering issues about social life with a candid everyday language. The journal changed its name into ‘Kadın’ in 1965 and then evolved into a magazine concerned merely with topics such as fashion, cinema and news about popular artists.

In 1955, the journal became the formal publication of the Türk Kadınlar Birliği (Turkish Women Association- TKB). Yet, it is significant that the Turkish Women Association had an important role in Turkish women's history. Founded in 1924, the association aimed at improving women’s education and status in the society. Especially, as they assisted impoverished families, women and children, the association’s main efforts focused on increasing the number of female deputies in the parliament. Nezihe Muhiddin was one the founders of the union and her experiences allow us to understand the dominant approach towards women’s movements in Turkish political history. Her experience dates back to the last years of the Ottoman Empire, during which period the journal entitled Hanımlara Mahsus Gazete (The Women’s Own Newspaper) was published. Popular among women, this journal played an important role enabling women to create public debate as the journal frequently featured readers’ letters by which women readers had an opportunity to share their ideas, experiences, and lives. One of its most significant issues covered the topic of polygamy, which by the second constitutional period of the Ottoman era was a popular issue debated in newspapers (Kadınlar ve Siyasal Toplumsal Hayat 197). Fatma Aliye, the first female novelist in Turkey, had a leading role in the Women’s Own Newspaper, and firmly rejected polygamy just like other writers of the journal. For these writers, Islam had never approved polygamy and those interpretations which advocated polygamy as a stipulation of Islam were misguided thoughts. Fatma Aliye strictly resisted these false interpretations by arguing Islam could be compatible with gender equality. She idealized ‘Asr-I Saadet’ which resulted in her being labeled as a powerful conservative (Akşit 85). Women’s Own Newspaper had a significant role in regards to the history of the women’s movement because it did not necessarily put extra emphasis on the notions of ideal motherhood and wifehood. Indeed, women in the journal tended to examine their status by comparison with men’s social positions (Çakır 28).

The intent of Nezihe Muhiddin was to protest the lack of women’s political rights in 1923. In response to the negative reaction against the women’s parliamentary membership, Muhiddin and many women from all over the Anatolia decided to establish Kadınlar Halk Fırkası (Women People Party). This demand, however, was declined by the government and women were persuaded into changing the party’s regulation and into transforming it to an association in 1924. After demands for women’s rights to vote and to be elected were removed from the program, the association was founded with the name of Turkish Women Association (Kırkpınar 39). During the following years, the association was not completely supported by the government. Finally, in 1935 Turkish Women Association abolished itself with the chief of the association Latife Bekir announcing that the existence of the union became unnecessary, since equality between men and women had already been constituted. It is frequently said that ideological pressure of Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican People Party-CHP) had an influence on that decision (Kırkpınar 39). Women were granted their rights to vote and to be elected in local elections in 1930 and then in general elections in 1934. From the government’s perspective, granting women with political rights was enough to achieve equality between women and men.

The Government of Demokrat Parti

Demokrat Parti (Democratic Party, DP) was established by those members who had left the Republican People Party (CHP). After a struggle of four years, the Democratic Party came to power in 1946. Celal Bayar was elected as the president and Adnan Menderes acted as both the prime minister and party leader.

Scholars highlight different dynamics when explaining the underlying causes that lead to the powerful rise of the Democratic Party. One idea originates from the entrenched social discontent about post-war conditions. The discontent grew among people due to the economic and social measures taken by the single party government during the Second World War (Eroğul 85-86). Zürcher, on the other hand, explains people’s discontent in a different way. In his account, the significant factor was that the governance of İsmet İnönü had already lost the support of Young Turks who had been the basic pillar of the Kemalist movement (Zürcher300). Main reasons for the discontent among people could be listed as following: soaring inflation during the war, the capital tax (applied to only non-Muslims) and the soil products tax. These measures put an economic burden specifically on people engaged in agriculture and trade. It is obvious that the Democratic Party would successfully draw on the people’s discontent when competing against the single party government.

In the first part of the Democratic Party’s program, there was criticism about the Republican’s actions and the second part addressed the goals of the party. These goals were “to improve the living standards of citizens, to increase the employment rate, to decrease expenditures, to secure tax equity, to support private entrepreneurs, to privatize public enterprises ‘except those which occupy as public service and concern with main industry’ with the aim of attracting foreign enterprises, to legalize the right to strike (only if these wouldn’t break the economic and social coherence), to abolish anti-democratic acts of law and to oppress communists.”(Eroğul 99). Especially policies intended to improve the economy underlined that DP intended to liberalize the statist economy. During their governance, the Democratic Party paid attention to the agricultural development by expanding farm lands and also directing unemployed people to these lands. Moreover, they increased the level of mechanisation in agriculture and created new facilities for transportation and storage of agricultural production. DP prioritized agricultural investments and tried to assuage the peasants about industrial development. As promised, the number of tractors increased to 43.000 in 1955 while it was nearly1000 in 1946. That raise was corresponding with the broadening of cultivated areas, which increased at the rate of almost 50% from 1946 to 1950 (Keyder 162). Although workers’ economic status did not change in the DP government, it seems that rural support had been significant for the Democratic Party.

Some features that were predominant during the term of Democratic Party shaping political arena and social habits have endured in the later years of Turkish political life as well. The form of this political tradition taken by the Democratic Party and later on by other centre-right parties actually has quite shapeless figure due to the fact that, this figure was derived from the ambiguous principle which synthesized tradition with modern references.

With the entrance of the Democratic Party to the political scene, Turkey’s political arena polarized. Especially when the Democratic Party was in the opposition, they criticized the single party government because of failing to achieve and maintain principles of the Reform. Menderes mentioned that the Republican regime had become only a form, which had lost its soul because the national will had not been manifested yet. Moreover, after the 1950 election, Menderes clearly announced that the Republic, which means sovereignty of the nation, would be just founded (“Adnan Menderes” 486). In these kinds of speeches, the main opposition against CHP was constructed on the basis of maintaining continuity with Mustafa Kemal’s reforms and also the legacy of the national will. As in the slogan “Yeter, Söz Milletindir” (Enough! The nation has the word!) of the Democratic Party, party members radically defended unconditional sovereignty of the nation against the authoritarian regime and political tutelage of the single party government. Moreover, with this discourse, DP members and especially Menderes came to the fore by standing against bureaucracy. This speech explicitly reflects his opinion about bureaucracy: “Once upon a time, when the Ottoman Empire is said, just as it meant that the chamber and the sultan’s household troops, beneficiaries for commerce and gentries in provinces; in the system of CHP we experienced that the enormous status nearly became a state over the years. The first result of this type of state mentality was the broadening of the public servant staff and so placing educated citizens under command of the authority. Therefore they also tried to nationalize the economic life. In this way as far as numerous people could have been tied to the power with all these people have” (Timur 40). After all, Menderes explicitly singled out the bureaucracy, as the leading actor of the authoritarian policy, which was dominant during the single party government.

DP also criticized the single party government for being elitist, drawing attention to the powerful hegemony of bureaucrats who actually formed the ideological essence of Kemalism. Thus, DP presented itself as a part of the nation objecting to the bureaucratic elites’ position. The goal of improving people’s educational credentials was set to catch up with the Western civilization. To achieve this goal, they situated modern ideals into society from relationship to artistic tastes, from education to social relations over the whole social, cultural accumulation (Demirel 493). The modernization project moved by means of Western enlightenment ideals (positivism, order and progress) in favour of cultural transformation in the society. Thus, ideological aims should be supplemented with cultural practices, which provide to construct the national identity around the nation-state (Keyman 76). The ‘acceptable’ citizens could be created in this way; which is determined by code of behaviours such as patriotism, self-sacrifice, education, being tied to national values (Üstel 322). Similarly, in a social organization which resembles family, indeed seems like a virtual family of people nobody has to demand a right more than their shares (Şerifsoy 198).

Nevertheless, it should not be assumed that DP did not follow authoritarian or conservative policy. In fact, both DP and Menderes have become the most studied issues in the political history of Turkey and were criticized by those who had supported them due to liberal demands. Although Menderes was opposed to the single party government by advocating the liberalization policies such as the protection of fundamental rights and freedom, justification of private property against expropriation, and supporting national will against the elite-led regime during DP governance, he was alienated from the liberal-democratic discourse over the years. Indeed, this was seen as the main reason for the political fall of Menderes (“Adnan Menderes” 486). More importantly, there is a crucial conflict with conservatism and progressivism. Yet, these exist in an ideological synthesis with the efforts of Ziya Gökalp who is one of the significant ideologists of Kemalism. The synthesis of the Western civilization and native culture was based on the assumption that there is not a contradiction between them; on the contrary, they could be articulated to reinforce each other. Gökalp came up with a concept of ‘national culture’ which, according to him, was the guarantee of national identity (Göle 67). When Gökalp objected to both Islamism and imitating Westernization, he advocated the idea of the national culture and that the national culture could be conserved and changed. Only when Turkish culture protected its own values would Turkey be able to catch up with the advanced civilizations and become Westernized (Göle 67). According to the synthesis, the concept of culture remains stable without changing under effect of material changes (Taşkın 82). Moreover, “while culture becomes prominent with that function, tradition which generates and produces itself on its own in the past regressed; and it (tradition) is situated inside of the culture as an area of intervention” (Taşkın 40).

Actually, these two parties were not different from each other on various issues, especially with regards to women’s status. For instance, in DP congress in Konya two members of the parliament demanded Sharia and polygamy instead of the Civic Law (Tatlı 52). Another proposal was about a demand for the dismissal of female civil servants, unless these women were poor. Some male members of the parliament offered that female civil servants could be dismissed because of their inefficiency (Tatlı 52). As a response to this, the Woman Journal published an essay protesting the masculinist discussions in the assembly, announcing that this constitutes an illegitimate interference to the rights of women (Tatlı 123). Also, the number of female deputies during DP period was a hotly-debated issue among women activists that the Woman Journal frequently complained about the political parties’ insensitivity about women in politics. While women constituted 4,5% of the parliament in the period 1935-39 (“Türkiye'de Kadın Milletvekillerinin Değişen Siyasal Rolleri” 252); between 1946 and 1950 it decreased to 1,9%. It continued decreasing until 1960 (“Türkiye'de Kadın Milletvekillerinin Değişen Siyasal Rolleri” 257). Although change was not so dramatic, it precisely demonstrates the obvious disregard to the political project of increasing the numbers of female deputies.

The debate between tradition and modernity, the ground of political conflicts between CHP and DP, was not something new. Indeed, this dispute had existed since the Westernization efforts in the period of Ottoman Empire. Yet, the Democratic Party government did something new by using the synthesis between modernity and tradition to gain the political consent of the people. In other terms, the discourse of DP, which depended upon sameness with the nation, was a convincing construction rather than being a fact (Taşkın 82). In the meantime, DP claimed that Kemalism failed to reach the level of contemporary civilization because of İnönü and that DP is the political actor who would accomplish the uncompleted project by the economic development (Taşkın 85). In addition, xenophobia, cultural racism, the nostalgic past, and a model of citizenship based on the idea of hypervigilancy to protect national values are other determinant elements persisting in other centre right parties since the Democratic Party (Türk Sağının Üç Hali 27-30). These political characteristics overlap with the hegemonic right-wing tendency which prioritizes the state instead of the individual. However, the Turkish modernization project engaged with the idea of progress in relation to the Western civilization, avoided changes of progression. Thus, modernizing steps of the Reforms in Turkey conforms to the principles of authoritativeness to struggle with these changes rather than the Western ideal of democracy (Köker 107-108). This is why the Democratic Party diverged from liberal democracy. The fear of the disrupting the State seems to be the vital element of the political culture in Turkey.

Political Approach of Kadın Gazetesi

It is crucial to examine the historical heritage of the nation building process that was inherited by Democratic Party. Changing the political regime from empire to republic required structural alterations. As Gökalp, the ideologist of the Turkish nationalism, regarded the family as a constituent of the nation, Turkish family became a locus of new changes with a new political party coming to power.

As most of writers studying the relationship between nationalism and women emphasize that the foundation and reunion process of a nation-state is experienced differently for men and women (Walby 35). Yuval Davis categorizes women’s participation into building of a nation-state and firstly as mothers, biological reproducers of the nation. Secondly, she conceptualizes the cultural transfer in the society, which gives women significant roles, especially for raising the children of the nation. Also, serving the military and citizenship are other ways of participating in the making of the nation (Yuval-Davis 54-60). Similarly, Najmabadi theorizes metaphorical meanings of the homeland. With regard to those men who are eager to protect their homeland in war, mothers are under threat of foreign occupants or abstractly western ideals, which aims to degenerate essential values of society with reference to religious stories and customs in Iran. Thus motherland needs the help of male 'citizenship' because the motherland has meanings both as a beloved and as a mother. She conceptualizes the changing meanings of homeland with women's roles in the light of modernity. In her account, in modernity a motherland has become both an object which is gravitated to the interests of men so need to be protected by them (Najmabadi 134). In this imagination, women are generally illustrated as mothers under threat of modernity and secondly as symbols signifying the new order’s values. The second role signals the borders of the cultural essence of nations, where women should remain as protectors of these national values (Cariyeler Bacılar Yurttaşlar 17). In this point of view, the position of the ‘new woman’ was strictly determined with national, traditional, modernist values. Furthermore, the tension between being unchastely and archaic, old-fashioned elicited a friction leading to unrest in regards to women (Kadıoğlu 96). On the other hand, by means of those values new woman appeared as a posture of new order in Turkey. In other words, the woman question was not only about women, rather emerged as an area of political struggle reflecting the general political climate in the society (Cariyeler Bacılar Yurttaşlar 17). It was significant in two different ways: one based on emancipation of women and the other is the limitation of cultural signs. First, when steps towards Westernization were taken in the Ottoman Empire, the aim was to undo backwardness with reforming women’s status in the society. Women were seen under the yoke of Sultan and religious rules, so if the Republic progressed by means of Western ideals firstly women could have been salvaged. Thus, creating norms of ‘new woman’ and ‘new man’ was the essential part of the Reform. Jayawerdana claims that women have quite important roles especially in periods of resistance against colonialism or foundation of late time modernity just like Third World countries. During those processes feminism blends with nationalism under effect of nationalist reactions (Jayawardena 7-8). Women and men of nation-states are called for national duties and at the same time new perceptions on womanhood and manhood emerge. This process is called ‘state feminism, which refers to gender policies conducted with the cultural policies of the State (Durakbaşa 79). More clearly, female members’ position in the assembly after they were bestowed political rights in 1934 gives us a perspective about political position of women. Although women made up of almost 3% of the assembly actively participated into debates; 64% of women were kept being passive observers in the meetings during the period 1935-1957 (KA-DER; “Türkiye'de Kadın Milletvekillerinin Değişen Siyasal Rolleri” 250). This is why Tekeli claims that women’s existence was symbolic when they for the first time took seats in the parliament (Kadınlar ve Siyasal Toplumsal Hayat 222). In other words, due to the state’s support for women’s rights, gender was transformed into a political instrument (Hatem 78). The abolition of Turkish Woman Association in 1935 under the pressure of the single party government is another fact that illustrates what ‘state feminism’ is. Indeed, until this time, the organization had continued its workings with the favour of the government’s permission (Zihnioğlu 258). Accordingly, the dominant opinion among the political elite was that gender equality had been ensured by means of political and civic rights of women. Indirectly, it means that there was no need for a women’s movement in Turkey and if we consider it with the synergy of feminism with nationalism we might understand why the period 1940-1980 is called as a ‘dead period’ with regards to the women’s movement in Turkey (“Birinci ve İkinci Dalga Feminist Hareketlerin Karşılaştırmalı İncelemesi” 337). Firstly, state feminism based on the national struggle in Turkey meant that women’s organizations would sustain their workings only if they remained dependent on the state. And secondly, because of the intimate link between feminism and nationalism, over the years the women’s movement in Turkey embraced conservative demands about women’s status under effect of the right-wing parties’ policies. The political shift in the 1980s hardly enabled women to create their own political agenda.

Serpil Sancar claims that in the period from 1945 to 1965 conservative and reformist norms were compromised especially for gender regime. The dominant discourse rooted in the ideal family was no longer ambiguous. Rather, the ideal family was described in detail and the middle-class, educated people seemed to be settled with this definition. This ideal family was a middle-class one, living urban areas (Sancar 234). Therefore, class based distinctions became sharply visible, in contrast to the popular opinion that the Republic is a classless society.

Because of the agreement between conservatives and reformists on women’s social status, Sancar defines the period 1945-1960 as conservative modernity (Sancar232). In line with this, the didactic approach warning people against the risks of modernity, especially with regard to women’s status, become more widespread after the 1940s. During these dead years, the women’s movement focused primarily on the issues of political representation of women and charity organizations.

Examining the Woman Journal against this background sheds light on the gender dynamics of the period. There are a number of essays on the historical narratives expressing Turkish culture’s excess regarding the status of women in society. In these essays, it was argued that gender equality was the vital dimension of historical Turkish culture. In an essay entitled “Turkish Woman in the History” the writer mentions that in Turkish civilizations, women were precious and highly respected. The writes adds that women participated in social life as much as the most sacred duty of motherhood allow them to do. In another essay, Tahir Kutsi Makal writes about how Turkish women were illustrated in epics (Makal). In Zübeyde Mengüç’s column entitled ‘War and Woman’ she emphasized the position of women in wars during the Turkish history. Indeed, in the national struggle of Turkey women also worked with heart and soul together with men. Moreover, in the Ottoman Empire and in the Seljuk Empire women took part in wars at the side of their husbands (“Harp ve Kadın”). Similarly, the writer using the nickname ‘Ayaşlı’ cited ‘Fatma Hatun’, who set Rhodos on fire to help Turks invade Rhodos, in order to demonstrate heroic efforts of Turkish women. Fatma Hatun did not release any information when captured by Rhodians, and didn’t reveal the Turks’ plans and she was hanged. It is clearly alleged that Fatma Hatun is the symbol of sacrifice and sainthood of Turkish women ('Ayaşlı'). In addition, the journal frequently mentioned physical features of Turkish women throughout the history. In an article entitled ‘Types of Beautiful Women in Turks’ the writer draws on Arabic and Persian resources to illustrate Turkish women’s beauty. Also, it is said that in the Dada Gorgud Epic, Turkish women are illustrated as tall, slim-waisted women with blue, hazel, and green eyes; with brown and red hair. Consequently, the writer mentions an epic about Oghuz Khan who had quite beautiful daughters, whom he could not spare with anyone. So he prayed God to take them along itself (“Yurt Savunmasında Kadının Rolü-2”). In these narratives, Turkish women’s position and physical appearance are attributed to historical ‘facts’. In this way, on the one hand, these pieces dignify women’s existence in an essentialist way; on the other hand, they legitimize these opinions about the nation with reference to historical resources.

The ‘new family’ occupied a central place in the foundation of the new social order in relation with the Republican regime. Marriage, family life, and childcare were the most frequently addressed issues in the Woman Journal. İffet Halim’s article in the first issue directly calls for mothers of the nation and urge them to raise children, who would serve their countries in the future.

Şükufe Nihal explains women’s position in relation with biological and natural characteristics of women:

There is neither a person nor a civilized society to resist these demands (motherhood as the first duty of women, along with staying at home, and avoiding divorce) Even if they could, what kind of rational person could consider opposing the nation. Above all, women are mothers. Thus they need a house. How a woman could compete with a man while she is holding her baby in her arms? (“Sakat Cemiyet”).

In another article, Şükufe Nihal argued that since the family expects so much sacrifice and effort, fragile people should not attempt to marry. Nihal underlined that her aim is not to demolish the institution of family, but rather to strengthen it (“Sakat Cemiyet”). Similarly, Nagehan Orbay suggested that women care about their families and houses for their happiness (Orbay). There were also many essays focusing on the conflicts between couples and divorce, which writers of Woman Journal usually linked with the type of personalities who avoid their families, were fascinated by luxury, joy, and shopping and therefore waste their families’ resources. In other words, the journal believes excessiveness of people’s behavior could damage their family life. Yet, in some cases the measures determining the excessiveness could be quite ambiguous. In fact, there was an interview with the artist of the city theatre, İ. Galip, and in this interview the journal seemed to lay the blame on moral corruption, absence of good education about marriage, child-care, women’s behaviors towards husbands for the rising divorce rates. Readers were generally encouraged to be good mothers to their children for the future of the country.

The column entitled ‘Health Recommendations’ usually gave advice on women’s health issues. In one of these essays, the writer urges women to be careful about their daughters’ choices of husbands. The essay advises women to be aware of their daughters’ expectation about marriage and to guide them about their relationships with the consultation of family and friends (“Kız Analarına Bazı Öğütler-3”).

The journal also advised women to help their husbands and children, to care for their beauty, and not to be wasteful and moody so that women sustain their marriage in peace. Relationships between men and women were a highly popular topic in the journal, in which writers mostly gave some advices on happy marriage and some secrets to happiness. The characteristics attributed to men and women were illustrated in a detailed way:

Dominant qualification of men is chivalry. And women’s is compassion. There is no doubt that the hearts’ of women are more delicate and soft. Naturally women are sensitive. Women are affected by dramatic facts more than men. People who help the indigent, patients, and orphans in peacetime and who care for the wounded, orphans, widows’ in wartime are women. Women are inherently merciful and self-sacrificing (“Türk Kadınlarından Beklediklerimiz -1”).

The dominant tone of the Woman Journal was frequently didactic, elaborating on what the ideal woman is like. There are a number of essays advising woman against laughing loudly, and against speaking in a complicated way with foreign words. With these critiques, writers point out the risk of alienation from national values, which leads women to appear ‘European’. The prevalent discontent is about those who frequently go shopping, play cards, drink alcohol, and speak Turkish improperly. The National woman was superior to both the traditional woman and the Western woman. (“Analar, Bacılar, Orospular: Türk Milliyetçi-Muhafazakar Söyleminde Kadın” 276).

Written by Tarhan Toker, an essay lists the characteristics of the ideal mothers. According to Toker, women walking around the street and playing cards could not be ideal mothers in the eyes of Atatürk. He adds:

[…] this homeland requires mothers who are deeply attached to their houses, husbands, children, society and are dependent to the Turkish family and national values, who are well-informed, virtuous and able to educate their children. We need to increase the number of mothers who breastfeed children by herself, make food, and put children to sleep; mother-women, who are the lights of their houses, organizers in houses (“İdeal Anne”).

On the other hand, the popular opinion which equalizes progress with education; anticipates that backwardness principally derives from ignorance. Thus, education and upbringing emerge as the main tools of communal development. At this point, women in the journal emphasized the significance of education just like the administrative cadre of the Reform who regarded themselves as responsible for the education of the nation. Thus, they constituted an essential component in the relationship between education and women. According to this perception, mothers as biological producers of the nation should be well-informed about many issues, especially about childcare. To this aim, the journal advised their readers to teach their girls housework (“Kızlarımız Ev İşlerine Alıştırmalıyız”). Mothers were encouraged to be tolerant to their children’s requests. The journal regarded women to be cultural carriers of national values and safeguards of traditions, so in numerous essays, writers encouraged women to teach Turkish traditional customs to their children.

Ideal mothers were expected to engage in the domestic economy. Thus, wasting personal assets was almost equal to wasting the public money. Because women were seen to be more inclined to shopping than men, the journal urged them to spend their money rationally. Especially significant was the issue of ‘nylon-socks’. At that time, nylon socks were made of less durable material in comparison to today.The journal frequently complained about the socks and warn women against increasing wasting arising from the consumption of nylon-socks. Indeed, in one issue they called for the government to set up a council that would determine a standard quality for these socks (“İpek Çoraplar”). Thus, women who could restrain their expenses seemed ideal from the perspective of the journal.

The Woman Journal frequently organized charity campaigns in some regions damaged by natural disasters, such as earthquakes and floods. İffet Halim especially took part in groups, which gave aid to these regions. The journal, for instance, featured the news of women’s aid campaign for people who suffered a flood disaster in Adana. The news relayed incidents where women acted bravely in the flood area, praising them as heroes (“Var Olsun Türk Anaları”). Children living in the streets were another subject of charity activities. Şükufe Nihal emphasized the necessity of legal protection for them and called parliamentarians for duty (“Sokak Çocuklarımızı Kurtarmalıyız”). The association called ‘Friends of Children’ which regularly organized meetings for donations and arranged a shelter where the children could be educated and dwell in by the contributions of wealthy people (“Çocuk Dostları”). The campaign was organized with Çocuk Esirgeme Kurumu (The Institution of Child Welfare) (“Çocuk Esirgeme Kurumu'nun Çalışmaları”) and they also enhanced facilities of institutions for children.

The journal enthusiastically supported the increase in women’s employment rates, yet the fear about family and children was not resolved. They gave employed women advice about caring for their familial responsibilities. Generally, writers prioritized motherhood and wifehood to employment. Indeed, Şükufe Nihal mentions that although women had gained the rights to work, in some cases, social obstacles could prevent women to work outside (“Sakat Cemiyet”). Moreover, İffet Halim responded to the discussion in a high school, which was about whether women could be employed or not. For her, women gained their right to work during the Republic and indeed first female students had begun their education in Darülfünun with the Constitutional Period in the Ottoman Empire. As a consequence, İffet Halim claimed that the discussion about employment of women was unnecessary and unsuitable for enlightened youths (“Bunlar Nasıl Münazara Konusu?”). Another significant essay about employment was written by Melek Erbilen and entitled, ‘Opposition to Feminism’. Erbilen conveyed a dialogue between herself and a friend who strictly advocated women not to work. As a response, the writer tried to convince her friend saying that burdens of working could not be laid only on men, especially in a developing country like Turkey (“Feminizm Aleyhtarlığı”).

Another significant vision of the journal was to raise the number of women deputies. The journal included some statistical data on woman in the parliament during election periods. More importantly, they appealed to political parties to raise the number of women candidates during election periods. The Woman Journal underlines the significance of women’s rights to be elected and criticized political party leaders who disregarded gender equality in parliament. Indeed, the journal criticized CHP for betraying Mustafa Kemal’s reforms, and for neglecting women’s political and social status in the country. In one issue, the article run a heading that reads “15 years ago 17 women parliamentarians, after 15 years just 6 candidates: Compared with 1935, the single party deteriorated in the way of reforms” (“Halide Edip Adıvar”). In the journal, women candidates were featured with the aim of improving women’s position in politics. In some columns, the authors advocated women’s presence in politics drawing on essentialist characteristics associated with womanhood such as compassion and sensibility. The authors in the journal put effort in informing readers of women in politics and push the political parties towards more women in politics.

In Lieu of a Conclusion: Reasons for the Fading of Women’s Movement in Turkey in Relation with the Democratic Party

It is significant to demonstrate the continuity between the single party and the Democratic Party. In this case, especially in the period between 1947 and 1950 these two parties took after each other regarding economic policies. Moreover, CHP tried to influence people through steps such as, adding religion courses into curriculum, transforming village institutions into the vocational high schools, and moderating the law of land reform. The motivation underlying these changes was to change the negative impression of the single-party government. Yet, the most important factor seems to be the synthesis between modernism and conservatism embodied on the image of women (Sancar 232).

The distinction between the traditional and the modern has existed in Turkey since the Tanzimat and because modernization was visualized by means of women’s bodies, clothes, lifestyles, attitude; social norms, and rules constructed on them. So the conflict between progressivism and conservatism has been a long one in Turkey.

As Berktay claims when modernization triggered a shift in the society, it did not precisely articulate this shift. On the contrary, the stability of the process of nation building was justified with reference to historical facts such as historical Turkish societies in the Central Asia (Cariyeler Bacılar Yurttaşlar 167). These references were recurrent in the Woman Journal and were especially used to demonstrate that there was not any contradiction between the traditions of Turkish identity and new nation-state identity of the Republic of Turkey. The bind that ties with the national history is based on the ‘Turkish History Thesis’, which claims that Turks contributed to civilisation long before the Ottoman Empire and even before their acceptance of Islam (End of the Empire: Islam, Nationalism and Women in Turkey 40). In this way CHP tried to emphasize the historical persistence of social acquisitions in the Reforms. In DP period, it was still the most debated issue, because the main conflict between the CHP and DP was surrounded by the question of who betrayed to the Reforms of the Republic. Moreover, the woman question was the main theoretical ground on which parties discussed these essential issues. In this period, the number of women deputies did not rise with the Democratic Party; indeed the rate for female deputies was 0.6% in 1950 and 1.3% in 1957.

Nevertheless, the Woman Journal tended to blame the single party government (women deputies rate: 1935: 4.6%; 1943: 3.7%) rather than criticize the Democratic Party for its low rates. This might be related to the anger towards the single party regime which was almost identified with bureaucratic state. On the other hand, we might say that the Democratic Party was able to gain people’s support by mobilizing this anger successfully.

The period after women were granted political rights in 1934 is significant with regard to the women’s movement in Turkey. Because enthusiasm experienced with these rights was replaced with passivity. As it is seen in the case of abolition of Turkish Woman Association the idea that gender equality was ensured and women organizations had become unnecessary was widely accepted. Actually it was state feminism, which put this opinion forward. When İffet Halim was criticizing Turkish Woman Association she clearly asserted that “the foundation of Turkish Woman Association was the right decision, but the association would not be the child of the Republic because of wrongdoing” (Zihnioğlu 224). Feminism supported by formal institutions promoted the idea that there was no need for women rights. For instance, in 1957 the Woman Journal published the headline: “That it could not be considered a government which is made up of only women members”. The journal opposed to the project of a woman’s party. Moreover, the journal frequently declared that their main aim was not suffragist because it was a political issue of the past, because gender equality was achieved and biological differences between men and women would remain as they have always been (“Türkiye'de Modernleşme Projesi ve Kadınlar” 105). In other words; the political rights bestowed to women seemed sufficient, that women did not have to struggle for political status. It is the significant historical difference from the early years of the Republic, because women and men were called for the national struggle. As Yuval-Davis claims, during the war period women and men might be given different duties. When Turkish women were called for duty the main goal was to arrange the social dynamics of the newly-established regime. And when those were achieved, women were told to return. In other words, when we look at the women’s movement from the last years of the Empire and even to the DP government, it is obvious that women were actually sent back to their homes. In other words, ‘the women revolution could return home’ (Sancar 61-64). This fact is stated by many writers through different concepts. When analyzing the Algerian war of independence, Joane Nagel points out that although many women participated in military action; after the independence, Algerian women had to return their homes (83). Similarly, when the Turkish Woman Association refrained from nominating candidates in the 1927 election, they justified their decision by claiming the government exceedingly bestowed all rights that women deserve (Kılıç 349). Şirin Tekeli argues that this decision was a ‘delusion that wins through’ which women withdrew by falsely believing that their goals were achieved. For a long time, the new elite women of the Republic believed that the gender equality was secured by Mustafa Kemal (“Birinci ve İkinci Dalga Feminist Hareketlerin Karşılaştırmalı İncelemesi” 338). That kind of regression affected women’s movement negatively, because it created a delusion about the justification which made them strictly depended to government’s policy.

The Woman Journal illustrates how women were relegated to ‘cultural sphere’ instead of public sphere, with the essays advising for clean, well-kept, fashionable and decorative houses in which women could cook modern and healthy dishes for their children, fulfill their husbands expectations, and finally work for charity activities for the sake of national interest (Sancar 203). Women have generally been used to demonstrate ideal images of civilized Turkey. Tekeli mentions that women were bestowed political rights in a context where dictators and autocratic governances were in power almost all over the Europe. Mustafa Kemal run the risk of being criticized for being a dictator just like Mussolini, Hitler. So granting women political rights functioned as a strategy to showcase Turkey as a democratic country (“Tek Parti Döneminde Kadın Hareketi Bastırıldı” 96).

Furthermore, another recurrent issue of the journal, charity activities, is seen as relevant to the popular conflict between progressivism and conservatism. Democratic Party argued that the economic recession resulted from the irresponsibility of the single-party government. Although the war badly affected all countries’ economic situation, after wartime agricultural production started to increase (Boratav 86). In other words, these economic changes were so dependent on the world economy that it is impossible to attribute success or failure to a single government’s economic policy. For that matter, Tanıl Bora argues that Menderes used the contextual benevolence, which is the rapid economic growth in the post-war period (“Adnan Menderes” 494).

On the other hand, the Democratic Party was successful by employing this discourse and successfully manipulated economic success to gain the political support of the majority. The developmentalist discourse which followed the saving principle of the post-war era could install optimism and hope to the market in line with increasing wealth (“Adnan Menderes” 491). After 1954, however, the economic growth slowed down and the majority’s support for the DP, which had been given due to economical optimism, began to erode. Indeed, constructed difference between DP and CHP in terms of economic philosophy might be an exaggerated fact supported by Menderes’ speeches. After 1954, policies that tended to support a section of the public sector might still be regarded as liberal statism (“Adnan Menderes” 492). Keyder justifies this period just like this: by means of developmentalism and the freedom of markets, a free field developed which had previously been controlled by the State. But this free field could not be bridged with civil society. More importantly, the ambition to become rich with opportunism which became an economic rule led to instability (Keyder115).

At the same time, after 1930s -the first wave of feminism- charity movements became widespread among women in Turkey as well as the entire world. The associations forenamed in the Woman Journal- the Friends of Children, the Charity Association, the Protection of Barmaids Association, and the Protection of Women Association- formed part of those organizations which established with the aim of helping especially for indigent women and children. Similarly, over time the Woman Journal completely addressed to charity activities instead of the political issues.

This could be interpreted in a wide variety of ways. Firstly, we might say the Woman Journal actually try to help the country’s economy by performing charity work. As in the national struggle in Turkey, the economic difficulties might be considered as opportunities to cultivate the social solidarity. Yet, the discourse encouraging people to help each other might also highlight distinctions in the society. As frequently mentioned in the literature, since the Ottoman Empire, there have been a distinction between women in Istanbul and Anatolian women and this distinction was deepened due to opportunities provided by the Republic. In other words, principles of the Republican Reform could not pervade in every part of Turkey equally. In respect to this, there are two different opinions. The first one underlines the power of Islamic tradition and groups of conservative people to block reforms in rural areas. The second one points out to the weakness of both industrial working class and bourgeoisie (Z. F. Arat 52). But the dominant discourse of the Reform glossed over this inequality, especially among women by constructing Anatolian women superior than women in Istanbul. Nevertheless, Anatolian women or women from the lower classes were to be educated to raise sufficient children for the nation. For this, women from middle and upper classes ruling charity organizations were expected to direct their efforts to help these women. Becoming member of charity organizations was regarded as the main duties of educated women. Thirdly, when we look at historical trajectory of women’s movements in the world, charity workings are generally seen as politically irrelevant and as ‘a bourgeois activity’. Even so, “running charitable organizations required women to employ particular skills and engage in public sphere” (Fleischmann 103). Yet, in the case of Turkey, late modernization led to a form of citizenship highlighting duties and responsibilities, instead of rights. Finally, we could assume that women’s participation in these organizations would create opportunity for building contacts between women in the upper-middle class and lower classes. From this aspect, it might be claimed that “elite women regarded the social welfare arena” (Fleischmann 103), as one where women could advanced their political demands. Their activities generally focused on charity campaigns for disadvantaged groups such as children, mothers, impoverished families, orphans and disaster victims. But actually they did not go beyond finding individualistic solutions and failed to struggle for holistic political projects. In this system, legal regulations and guarantees seemed like subsidiary compromises for social security, which expressed the effort to place family into the center of the political order. By this way, the family was considered as the main object which social policies directed to. In other words, the family household and the nuclear family centered on the measurement of the welfare.

For these reasons, when Kandiyoti characterized the women’s movement in Turkey, especially the one before the 1980s, as “emancipated, but unliberated” (Cariyeler Bacılar Yurttaşlar 78), she emphasized that Turkey could not benefit from its political potential because of autocracy on feminism. In fact, although İffet Halim was one of the popular figures in women’s movement, she clearly states that Turkish Women Association made a mistake by working for suffrage ideals just like French, German women (Zihnioğlu 224-5). Similarly, with regards to their expressions, the Woman Journal was also on the side supporting to confining women’s emancipation to the achievements of the Kemalist Reform. According to Kemalism and the journal, the society was whole and gender-integrated. Furthermore, when the Democratic Party tried to influence people with democratic ideals, it apparently did not work towards the women’s social emancipation. In the Democratic Party’s period, perceptions about women seemed to find a middle ground and women’s place ‘at home’ emerged as the dominant discourse constructed by essays in newspapers and magazines. The exaggerated importance attributed to motherhood, wifehood and home ensured that the women organizations did not engage in the political arena. Thus, the Woman Journal exclusively addressed issues such as fashion, decoration, movies, and child-care. Apparently, this fact is the reason of Kemalist approach towards women’s equality that even women were already equal with men on the basis of principles. Yet, on the other hand, these principles created and strengthened the differences between men and women. These are the main reasons why the period 1930-1980 called as a ‘dead’ hiatus.

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Suggested Citation bibtex

Güngör, Melike. “The Role of Kadın Gazetesi in Women’s Movement of Turkey and its Relation with Demokrat Parti.” Trespassing Journal: an online journal of trespassing art, science, and philosophy 5 (Fall 2015). Web. ISSN: 2147-2734

Melike Güngör was born in 1988 in İzmir. She graduated from the Department of Political Science and Public Administration in Ankara University. She is working on her MA thesis in the Middle East Technical University. Her academic interests include gender politics, woman history and gender movements in the World.