From “our pious sisters” to open misogyny: understanding the dialectic relationship between gender and the Muslim populist discourse in Turkey:

Mehmet Omay, SUNY Binghamton University

A political discourse plays a significant role in populist movements. Populist discourse is constructed on a "us vs. "them" dichotomy, which separates society between the people, and the corrupted elites. A gender discourse is a part of the "us vs. them" idea, whereas certain women are praised for being part of the "us." For this reason, populist movements construct gender discourses that praise women's equality and remind them of their "traditional" roles at the same time. Therefore, the equality discourse goes hand in hand with misogynistic images that underline women's "traditional" duties of being good wives and mothers. In this paper, I investigate the hybrid gender imagery within the populist discourse. Turkey is one of the countries where gender imagery plays a significant role in populist discourse. The ruling Justice and Development Party is an Islamist party that uses a Muslim populist discourse to attract the masses. I argue that, like other populist movements, the gender discourse of the JDP uses hybrid imagery, which unites both praising and misogyny. The praising part is related to the hijabed women's political struggle who have been an active part of the party's formation and political success. Within Turkey, the hijab has been a political battle between the secular state and the Islamist women, and its use was prohibited in public spaces. The Muslim women and their struggle to recognize the hijab in public spaces constituted a positive image for the Muslim populist discourse. The misogynistic discourse of the JDP is about disciplining all women's behavior in both public and private spaces. Within such a discourse, specific actions are promiscuous, immoral and make women forget their "traditional" duties of being good wives and mothers. These images circulate through the media by the president's, party members, and MP's public speeches.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 45. Women's Movement