Gender and Society in Turkey
Male-female relations remain an area of some tension in Turkish society. The conflict between traditional and modern values and between patterns of socialization within the family and at school affect the social relationships that both men and women establish. Even among modernized urban dwellers, family loyalty, family obligations, and family honor remain strong considerations. Thus, even though Turks professing to have modern values may define the "ideal" family as one in which equality exists between spouses, wives who actually attempt to establish themselves as equal partners usually meet with resistance from their husbands.
Among more traditional families, both men and women generally expect husbands to be dominant, especially with respect to matters involving household interactions with the public; wives are expected to be obedient. Even in traditional families, however, wives may not accept passive roles, and their efforts to assert themselves can come up against strong disapproval.
The conflicting tensions of traditional and modern values also influence social relations outside the family. The mass media and modern education popularize ideas such as social equality, openness between spouses, romantic love, and platonic friendships between the sexes, concepts that men and women with traditional values find objectionable but that their adolescent children may find appealing. Furthermore, whereas some young women have been readopting headscarves and modest dress to demonstrate their commitment to Islam, others have been attracted to the latest Western fashions in clothes and cosmetics, which traditionalists perceive as evidence of a general decline in female morality.
Men and women generally constitute largely separate subsocieties, each with its own values, attitudes, and perceptions of the other. Even among modernized urbanites, gender roles constrain social relations. For example, friendships between men and women who are unrelated generally are not acceptable. Among elite youth, men and women do meet socially and dating is fashionable, but parents try to monitor such relationships and discourage their daughters from becoming involved with any man unless marriage is contemplated. Among more traditional families, dating would ruin the reputation of a young woman and dishonor her family.