New modern identity for Turkish women in Turkish press 1934-1937

Picture: Istanbul in the 1930s by unknown, Wikimedia commons

The new article by Esra Ercan Bilgiç of Istanbul Bilgi University used critical discourse analysis to study the framing of women in newspapers during a period, 1934-1937, in the Kemalist era, which started in 1923.

In 1934 the Turkish press had organized itself along Republican, Kemalist principles, after the new Press Law in 1931. Three newspapers were studied: Cumhuriyet (The Republic), Akşam (The Night), and Son Posta (The Last Post). Keywords containing “woman/women” and “Turkish” were chosen for analysis, for a total of 80 articles.

Emancipation from above, and the image of women

There was a dichotomic, binary opposition between the modern woman the press sought to present, and the older Ottoman view of women – or the Orientalist perception of that view. These opposites were made salient in the studied articles. 

A critical note to the endeavor is that it can be seen that the modernized status is granted, as if from above, by the Kemalist party to women, who are in a passive-receiver role of the rights. Thus, emancipation occurs as a state-led endeavor in the newspaper discourse studied, with attention to women in traditionally male endeavors and thus the public realm.

When it comes to physical appearance and behavior, emphasis was placed on making Turkish women, in beauty, ‘on par’ with American women, with particular attention paid in arguing against disparaging foreign commentaries on Turkish women. 

Newspapers instrumental in creating a new identity

The careful attention to framing, and the historical context outside suggests that the Republican ruling cadre was well aware of the significance of the framing of women and its effects on the society and foreign observers. 

The main function of the new identity created for women was temporal: the articles show how Turkey was making its place in the passing of time, from past to modernity clear through the representations, and constructing a clear opposition between the past and the present.

The study “The Image of Turkish Women as the Antithesis of the Ottoman Past: Representations of Women in the Newspapers of the Early Republican Era” was published in International Journal of Communication (open access)
Picture: Istanbul in the 1930s by unknown, Wikimedia commons

Give us feedback