Seminar: Women in Turkey, three decades of change

On Wednesday, 21 November 2012, at 3 to 4.30 pm, Dialog Forum and the Institute for Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies co-organized an afternoon seminar at Copenhagen University on Turkish women and the change they have gone through over the last 30 years, by the American author, Katharine Branning.

Katharine Branning is an independent scholar in the field of art history, and moreover has a long history of engagement with and observation of Turkish society. She has recently published a book in which she reflects upon some of her many cultural encounters with people in Turkey. The book is entitled ‘Yes, I Would Love Another Glass of Tea: An American Woman’s Letters to Turkey’ (Blue Dome Press, 2010)

She has experienced Turkey since 1978. She began to travel to Turkey every year since she was a young art history student in Paris, spending nearly a month each year in the country, and not in the areas known to most westerners. She went primarily to central and eastern Turkey, which were relatively remote areas back in the 70’s.

In her lecture, she compared Turkish women not only throughout the last thirty years but also with the times of Lady Mary Montagu who wrote Embassy letters to Britain 250 years ago as the wife of British Ambassador to Turkey in Istanbul. Besides she also provided a detailed diachronic evolvement of women’s status, rights and image since the times of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk to the times of current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

She summarized that ‘Turkish women share the same life components with every woman on the planet. Their lives revolve around family, emotional life, spirituality, health/fitness, beauty/fashion and hobbies; However, They struggle, just as women in USA do, with the same ideals of independence and choices in life, the possibility of a life defined – or not – by marriage and children, self-respect, equality (social, political, economical, sexual), fairness with men and equal opportunities.’

Deducting from her travels and experience with them, Katharine Branning gave 5 observations of Turkish women, which differed them from the women of any other countries:
• Turkish women busted her prejudices of Muslim women that are mostly stereotyped as submissive and without choice.
• The sisterhood of Turkish women
• The leadership in the family and bonding in family-hood
• Turkish women’s femininity
• And their immense kindness to others


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