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Counterpatriarchal Pleasures of Muslim Turkish Women: A Feminist Ethnography of Rural Women Watching Daytime Television

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This article examines the intersection of patriarchal hegemony, television viewing, domestic power relations and individual agency in the daily lives of rural Turkish women. More specifically, it analyzes the reception of daytime American soap operas by women in the Black Sea Region of Turkey. Employing an interdisciplinary methodology that combines ethnography, textual analysis and transnational feminist theory, this study investigates how women’s media experiences allow them to resist their traditional roles assigned by Islamic patriarchies.

Among the major questions addressed are, “In what ways does soap viewership reflect the appropriation of anti-patriarchal modes of knowledge? How do soap operas allow women to question local gender norms? How, for example, does viewer identification with a female soap opera character committing adultery disrupt traditional gender norms, in which an act of adultery may lead to an honor killing?”

Turkish women’s viewership habits as well as their pleasures from the anti-traditional plots contribute to the creation of a resistive female sphere. This study illustrates the multiple levels through which this female forum is socially constructed. I argue that women’s viewing pleasures and the actualization of a powerful female homosociality furnish the structural conditions under which alternative forms of meaning can gain a public momentum. Although respondents’ diverse uses of soap operas do not represent the formation of organized feminist protest, they, nevertheless, reflect these women’s dissatisfaction with the status quo. As such, soap viewership allows women to challenge traditional norms of gender and sexuality in the villages where this study was conducted.

Affiliations: 1: Clark University, Email:


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