Women’s Rights and Issues

Photo(s) of the Week


Regarding these photos: This last Wednesday was the “Republic Day” holiday (Happy 91st Birthday Turkey!) commemorating the founding of the Turkish Republic. It is a day where one will see flags and pictures of Mustafa Kemal EVERYWHERE. In the first photo,there was to be a firework show near the Bosporus Bridge, but there had been a large accident at a coal mine in the country the day before, so in solidarity, the fireworks were cancelled.

Response to Last Weeks Replies

I was glad to see many of you were able to connect some of your own favorite foods and customs to what was discussed here! Many of you noticed that some of the traditions are very similar between countries. Even something as seemingly insignificant as a superstition can help tell a story about one’s culture, you don’t even necessarily have to believe in it!

This Week’s Topic

One question I frequently get is because of Turkey’s mix of “east-west” culture is how women are treated and perceived in present themselves in society. In general, there is no easy answer to this, but I will try and shed some light on this issue.

Because of Turkey’s Islamic belief system, there is traditionally a huge emphasis put on women to appear with honor and modesty, especially in public. During the Ottoman period, regulations were spelled out on how women should dress, conduct themselves in life, and for married women especially this had special implications. Women traditionally wore some kind of head covering. There are many different kinds of coverings that exist even today in societies, An illustration here may help to distinguish them here.


It is noteworthy to point out that muslim cultures are not to only ones that have a practice of wearing head coverings: In Russia and other Slavic countries, among Christian-Arab cultures, and others, women have traditionally worn these. Sometimes it may have religious backgrounds, but it was also practical for rural workers on farms (to keep out the sun and dust for example).

When the Mustafa Kemal created the Turkish Republic, he wanted to make his new country more “European”, and thus discouraged women from wearing most forms of head scarves, and afterwards became illegal for women in the public sector to wear them at work (government employees, lawyers, judges, teachers, and other bureaucrats) as well as students. It was believed that religious signs of expression should be a personal matter.

However, in the 1980’s there began to be a more popular movement to allow these expressions in certain parts of life. More and more students challenged this rule by wearing scarves to state-owned universities. Over time, it began to become a more acceptable sight for most women.

Last year, 4 women elected to the Turkish Parliament were allowed to wear headscarves in the chambers
Last year, 4 women elected to the Turkish Parliament were allowed to wear headscarves in the chambers

Today, according to a recent survey, a majority of women in the country wear some kind head covering. But interestingly enough, a majority also agree that it is up for the woman herself to choose what she wishes to wear.


At the heart of the controversy here is the fact that the current Turkish Constitution puts a great emphasis on a separation and distance on religious expression. Those who follow the practices of Ataturk believe that if religion is not controlled, it will slowly lead to more radical ideas that could destabilize the country. There is also the fear among them that the current government is pro-islamic and is asking for more rights for just Sunni Muslims but not others. Those wishing for more freedom of religious expression say it is unfair for the state to tell them what they can and can’t wear. It’s an interesting topic and is currently very hot in Turkey!

A good friend of mine at my university, Renan, who also chooses to wear the scarf (and I would say is pretty liberal) gave me an interesting bit to think about “You can only tell so much about a person from first appearance; some girls where clothes from H&M with “Juicy” written on it, some cover their heads. Until you get to know them personally, you can’t really know what kind of person they are”


Since the founding of the Republic, there has been a large emphasis to bring more people into public education, especially women. Turkey has a very large percentage of children who attend public elementary school, and because of this, a high literacy rate. Women are encouraged to attend school and universities if possible. At my university, I was fascinated to find out that more than 65% of the students were women! Because they have a high degree of university placement, women are being found more and more in higher paid positions in the workforce. However, like in the United States, these is still a discrepancy between women in men in some of the higher levels of work, both in terms of position and pay.

One last photo I will leave you with: Last year there was a major political demonstration in Istanbul. In the main square, Taksim, there were plans by the government to tear down a park to build a shopping mall. This resulted in tens of thousands of people, mostly young ones, protesting against the government’s actions. Many people from different backgrounds and walks of life (including women!) came to attend these protests that ultimately became a national event. You can read more about it by googling “Gezi Park Protests”. The photo below shows a bit of this unity the country felt.

Taksim square peaceful protests. Events of June 16, 2013.

So my questions to you this week are:

1. What did you enjoy most about this week’s post?

2. Why are women’s rights an important topic to discuss?

3. What is the importance of self-expression (think about how you express YOURSELF on a daily basis, whether through clothing, style, activities etc)


Our new cat Justin inaugerated his stay...notice the guilty look!
Our new cat Justin inaugurated his stay…notice the guilty look!

45 thoughts on “Women’s Rights and Issues”

  1. I thought the diagram of the different head coverings the women wore was very interesting because it shows that there was a lot of variety even though women were supposed to wear head coverings. Women’s rights are important to discuss because women don’t have as many rights as men. Self-expression is very important because it shows who you are and what you like to do. Don’t forget the cat photo. I gave my cat a puff ball the other night and it was very funny to watch him chase it up and down the hallway.

  2. I thought this was a very interesting post.I thought that the graph showing what people think about women wearing what they want in each country was especially interesting. Some of the countries that people might assume are less open are more accepting as a general group towards women wearing what they want. I believe women’s rights is an important thing to discuss because women are often treated differently then men in every part of lives, women are paid less for doing the same amount of work, women are under-represented in STEM, and women are still judged by what they are wearing in jobs where it does not matter. But there was a time where women could not vote ,could not hold positions of political power,and were not even allowed to own land. However because of people talking about women’s rights, things changed. So things can change now if people talk about women’s rights.
    I think self expression is important because if someone limits what you can or can’t wear it makes it that everyone else is going to look like you. Self expression is more than just wearing what you want to wear though, it is also about what you do, it might be that you stand up for what you think or it could be helping the underdog. Limiting peoples ability to do that is unfair. People should chose what they stand for, that is what self expression really is.

  3. I found it especially interesting how people actually thought that women should be arrested for wearing a face covering to school and/or work. Women’s rights are very important to discuss so everyone knows that in many parts of the world, women are given less rights than men. Self-expression is important because it allows people to be different and have different values and beliefs. A vital part of a free country is to have the ability to act differently from others.

  4. I enjoyed reading about the amount of people who believed that woman do or do not have the right to dress the way they wish. Woman’s rights are very important, because women, like men, have brilliant minds, but are unfortunately put to waste . The importance of self expression is what makes you unique, and tells everyone who you are.

  5. The thing I liked about this week’s post if learning how the citizens really changed Turkey through protests or other things. Women’s rights are important to discuss since there are still people who sometimes think women are inferior to men and should be given less rights, although not true, and has to be addressed. Self-expression is important since sometimes it gives others a first-impression, like if you were to show up to a formal party in jeans and a t-shirt. It might not be a good first-impression, but it’s a first-impression.

  6. The women rights topic is a really popular topic and I really enjoyed reading about it I think that self expression is really important and that women should have the right to wear what they want and be treated equally. Its interesting because I wear a hijab and I would hate to be discriminated and not be able to hold a state job because of how I choose to look and I’m glad that women are gaining more rights and I hope that one day women will not be judged or discriminated by what they choose to wear in turkey and everywhere else. I think that education plays a really big role in modern society and its great that turkey has a high literacy rate and that both women and men are going to universities and getting educated. My favorite things from this weeks post are the pictures especially the first picture with the light,it looks beautiful! also the cat picture,Justin is so adorable! Siamese cat?

  7. I enjoyed reading about how the women in turkey fought against the law and made it okay to wear the scarves around their head. Women rights are very important because there is still some people who think women should not be in as highly ranked positions as men. It”s not true but it should be addressed. Self-expression is very important because people need to be able to show who they are.

  8. I liked the graph that showed how different countries responded to women’s rights. This is an important thing to talk about because women are discriminated against every day. I appreciate that in the U.S, we can express how we feel and be different from one another.

  9. I liked learning that government allows personal religion(to some extent) It is important to talk about women’s rights because all people should be treated equal( again, to some extent) but gender shouldn’t be a reason to discriminate.( only vast age differences should be a reason to discriminate) Self expression is important because it tells other people who you are.

  10. Hello. I just liked that you did a topic on woman’s rights, because, being female, I am an advocate for women’s rights. Women’s rights are a very important subject because about half of the people in the world are women, so they are just as good as men. And self expression is important because it lets the world know who you are and what you stand for.

  11. I thought that the it was interesting how wearing head coverings was illegal in public jobs, but students fought that law until it was acceptable for a women to express herself by wearing a head covering. Women’s rights are an important topic to discuss because around half the world is women. Even though we are just as capable as men, some men don’t think so, and there is still a discrimination around women versus men. Self-expression is important because it allows you to partly control how other people think about/view you. You can show your beliefs, and things about you through self-expression.
    I like the adorable cat in the picture, but I don’t think the bird Justin just ate does.

  12. I think it was interesting to hear about the history of women covering their head, and how it was required and banned. I think women’s rights are an important topic because in the past women have been discriminated against, and they have only had about a hundred years (in America at least) of having equal rights with men. I think self-expression is important since it gives people freedom to be free from expectations and prosecution if they are different.

  13. I think the part about diversity even though all women were required or banned/discouraged from doing something, for example the different styles of head coverings or the modern diversity between women who still wear head coverings and the women who choose to wear Western clothing, even though neither determines the kind of person they are. Women’s rights are important because everybody should be considered as equals no matter who they are, what they do, or what they believe. Women, men, rich, poor, old, young, it shouldn’t matter. Self-expression is important because you should have the right to say what you like, do what you like, believe what you like, as long as no one is hurt or or has feelings hurt. It’s simple human rights.

  14. I like seeing the seven different head coverings women wear in the picture. I didn’t realize there was that much variety until I saw them all together at once. Women’s rights is a important topic because there’s no reason they should be treated differently than men. It shouldn’t matter what gender you are, your religion, or how much money you have. Everyone should be allowed an equal education and job-position. I guess it’s an ongoing issue.
    Self-expression is really important because it describes who you are. Imagine what the world would be like if no one had any distinguishing qualities. It would be a boring place.

  15. I liked the pictures from the beginning of the post. I think that women deserve just as much respect as men. I think that self expression one of the few things that shows who we really are.

  16. I was happy to see a cat photo again. :3 Heh.
    Anyways, I don’t know what was my favorite part. I’m glad that a majority of people in Turkey think women should get to have a say in their apparel. But only to a certain extent. I mean, in those stats, it’s barely past 50%. I don’t understand why they can’t just wear whatever the heck they want. I do get that the founder said head scarves were a big ‘no-no’ and everything, but that was a while ago. Cheers to whoever said “Rules were made to be broken.”
    Being one of the female gender myself, I think sexism isn’t right. But it’s not just because I’m a girl. I see no reason why members of a certain gender should have more rights than the other. But unfortunately, some people just don’t understand that concept. Or they simply don’t agree with it. But we were all made equal. And people need to be more aware of that.
    Self-expression is important because that’s how you express your true colors, your inside feelings, who you are. I personally express myself through fangirling. That gives people an idea of who I am, how I act, and what is important to me. It’s important to be you, because it feels right. You aren’t molding clay, so don’t let people shape you into the person they want you to be. Life is for you to be you, and only you.

  17. 1. It gave me a good perspective about the political situation in Turkey.

    2. Because women (and people in general) deserve to have rights and free choice.

    3. Wearing, doing, acting like you feel, but within reasonable cultural rules (In other words, I don’t care if you believe that you shouldn’t wear clothes on Monday, just… Wear clothes in public) and as long as it doesn’t negatively affect other people.

  18. I liked the illistarations of head coverings, I thought the differences were very interesting. Also how women make up 65% of students ate women! This is a big leap for equality. Also the diagram for votes on letting women chose what they want to wear was very cool, I think they should definitely be able to wear what they want. And I think women’s rights are important because they don’t have rights in very many countries. Also I believe no matter what stand they have (unless it is violating the law) our who they are they should be treated equally. I think no matter what you need to just be yourself, this is important for your identity and for your own enjoyment of life.

  19. women’s rights are really important religiously it is the persons choice to where hijaab my mom and sister wear it because it is there choice. What you choose to wear is your choice and express who you are for example I wear shorts everyday.

  20. I like how Turkey is doing a better job in 90 years of pushing women’s rights than America has in 240! Women’s rights should be treated with importance because so many people still degrade women as inferior to men, even in America. I think self-expression is pretty important because you can’t tell what kind of person you are if you don’t express yourself. Look at Portland!
    Go, return of the cat pictures!

  21. The most interesting thing about this post to me is probably the chart about what the percentage of people think that women should be able to choose their own clothing, I was very surprised that it was that low percentage of people that think they should be able too, only one country was over 50 percent. I think women’s rights are a very important topic to speak about because some people think women are low people, but they are also people and they should have the same rights as men. Self expression is important in society and I think everyone should be able too do it.

  22. I think it’s interesting that there are still people who think that women shouldn’t be allowed to choose what they want to wear. I think it’s really sad that out of all those countries, only one had more than 50 percent of people thought they should. I do think that women’s rights are an important part of discussion.
    Also, on the subject of expression, if people (cough,me,cough) can’t express themselves, how will other people know how awesome they are?

    1. Maxine
      It is quite a surprising fact, coming from our culture, to see a comparison like this. In certain parts of the world, factors like religious faith, oppressive governments, lack of access to education and tradition play a big part to some of these trends. While we can’t and shouldn’t disregard these things, encouraging people for more choices is an important factor! thanks for your input!

  23. This was a very interesting post for me, and i enjoyed learning about the education and religion. The only thing i found very bad was the fact that people were discriminated against even in that time. I am very against discrimination, even against animals, and find the idea abhorrent.

    1. Luke
      I agree, it is a shame when discrimination occurs. Understanding what is at the roots of discrimination is a good place to start with counter-acting it. Thanks for the comment!

  24. My favorite thing about the post wat the cat picture :3 (duhhhh). I think wemons rights are important because A) I’m a girl and B) everyone should have rights to do what they want. Lastly I think it’s a beautiful thing to be able to express yourself because it’s telling someone who you are as person in both language and appearance. It’s being able to show your individuality. Thanks!

  25. What I enjoyed most about this week’s post was section about women’s education. This is because in the past, countries have frowned upon women’s education. Now that the world is more globalized because of easy transportation like airplanes, and the Internet, more and more countries are allowing women to be educated.
    Women’s rights are an important topic to discuss because women, especially in the past, have been viewed as lesser beings than men. But really, we are all of the same species and are all human beings, so women should have rights as well as the men.
    Self-expression is important because we are all different. We have different interests and backgrounds and it is important to express our own individuality upon the world; to leave our mark.

  26. I thought that the graph about the percentages of people that thought women should not have certain rights was interesting. Women’s rights are just as important any issue today. Discrimination in any way is wrong, especially for some thing that we can’t help or change, like gender or race. It was kind of interesting to see the seven different ways women can wear, but there is only seven ways they can wear a head covering, and they have to cover their heads.

    1. Xander,
      It was interesting for me as well to see the different types and how they were called. Even though you can see all kinds in Turkey, it is most common to see the short version, but a good portion of the population doesnt even wear any covering at all. Thanks for your thoughts!

  27. My favorite part of the post was the graph because it was interesting to see what different countries’ think. Women’s rights are important to talk about because in a lot of countries they are mistreated. Self expression is important because if you want to be noticed ten you wear brighter clothes but if you don’t have a choice then that is sad.

  28. I thought that it was interesting how many different head coverings there were, and how some were much more concealing than others.
    Also, woman’s rights are an important topic to discuss, because it’s just the logical thing to do. A country who utilizes all of their citizens is going to be much more powerful than one who uses half of their citizens. also if everyone voted over if woman should be equal to men, it would probably end up winning, because all the woman would vote for it, and some men too. (Actually, probably a lot of men)
    And lastly, everyone deserves to express themselves, at least to a reasonable extent. I express myself through running, music, and just generally how I act in public. I think that’s the most prominent way you can express yourself.

    1. Lila,
      Thanks for your thoughts!
      I agree with you, if it were merely a matter of letting people decide, things could be very different. However there are very many elements of culture, both in our own and different places (like Turkey) that “set the bar” if you will about what is appropriate and normal. Welcome to the world of Sociology 🙂

  29. I enjoyed the cat photo the most! Women’s rights are an important issue because it is not only an issue of individuality but also it’s about fairness and equality. Those three topics are what I think the world struggles with the most. As far as self-expression goes…. SELF EXPRESSION IS MY LIFE. if I couldn’t express myself, I wouldn’t be myself.

    1. Fiona,
      I’m starting to get the idea that you really enjoy the cat photos :))
      You make an interesting point however; if women were given the same opportunities and liberties as their male counterparts, would there need to be a discussion on women’s rights? I also think it boils down to matters of equality for all. Great observation!

  30. I thought this was a very interesting post in general, especial the part where the students fought to have free expression and to be able to wear their head coverings to school and other public places. I thought that was cool because many people think that head coverings are something that are not choose out of free will and that they don’t like wearing them but in reality it is there own choice to express themselves like that. I think that free expression is a big part of our culture especially in this modern age and that restricting that is a violation of basic human rights.

  31. I think the best part of this weeks post is how women are finally starting to become equal to men. Not only in America, but all over the world and in Turkey too.
    Women’s rights are an important topic to discuss because everyone should understand that women are equal to men and should be treated the same way, not discriminated against because of their sex.
    I think that one of the best ways to express yourself is your behavior. How you act, what you do, what you say, and your opinion.

    1. Stuti
      It is a relief that after so long, women are started to be viewed in the same light as their male counterparts. This process is moving a bit slower in certain parts of the world but it is incredible to witness where it does actually take place! Thanks for the comments!

  32. I enjoyed learning about what the roles of Women are in the middle east. Specifically, what they can wear. In America, Girls can wear pretty much whatever they want. But there, there is some resistance. Not a lot, but still some. So they are important to discuss, because women shouldn’t be discriminated. I think the most important way to express yourself is the way you talk. When you talk, it shows attitude, selfless ness, etc.

  33. I thought the clothing and the culture was cool, and how Turkey was kinda different then out culture.
    It’s just like the golden rule with women’s rights. We should all have the same rights, not just based on our gender, which is pretty unfair.
    Self-expression is like shouting out yourself, to show what type of person you are to your friends and the people around you.

    Sorry I answered late! :3

  34. It’s really cool how we can accept woman’s as equal to men and everyone else and there are also many people who also believe they can do or dress up as whatever they want.

  35. I don’t get why they force women to wear certain clothes in other countries. why don’t they at least have fairly equal rights, where women can work and dress like men do?
    also, i like the cat. cool.

  36. I really enjoyed about this post the fact that kids, men and women are protesting women’s rights and I don’t see why women weren’t equal to men (well I do but it doesn’t make sense). Its good that most people have “come to their senses”.

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